The later Uckermark Extermination Site (January–April 1945)
In January 1945, an extermination camp was built at the concentration camp and most of the girls held there were taken to the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Only 50–60 girls remained at Uckermark along with their wardens. They were separated from most of the site, staying in four remotely placed barracks with a straw-filled fence shielding them from the rest of the camp.
Ravensbrück camp prisoners were the first to be murdered in this extermination camp (also called youth camp [Jugendlager] by the Ravensbrück prisoners); later, women from other concentration camps were also killed there. In order to increase the death rate, they systematically and drastically worsened the living conditions in order to kill the women by starvation, illness, and cold exposure. Starting in February 1945, women and men were murdered in the new gas chamber. Many lives were also taken in the so-called sick bay [Krankenbaracke] using lethal injection.
Approximately 5,000 women were killed in the Uckermark extermination camp during the short period between January–April 1945.
How are you supposed to cope with survival when hundreds of people were perishing there every day?Irma Trksak in “Ich gebe dir einen Mantel, daß du ihn noch in Freiheit tragen kannst” Vienna 1987, 127 et seq.
The Ravensbrück Concentration Camp along with the Siemens Forced Labor Camp and the Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp and Later Extermination Site were liberated by the Red Army at the end of April 1945.
Usage of the Term “Extermination Camp”
For a while now, we in the Initiative for a Memorial at the Former Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp have been discussing the usage of the term Vernichtungslager or “extermination camp” to designate the time period between January and April 1945 at the site of the Uckermark Concentration Camp.
One frequent argument against the usage of that term is that it would be tantamount to equating the Uckermark Concentration Camp with extermination camps such as Belzec, Sobibor, and Auschwitz and to the events that occurred at those sites. By adding the word “later” (as in “and later extermination site”), we wanted to make the differences clear while also expressing the fact that the camp was converted into a site of mass murder shortly before the end of the war. The (scientific) criteria for designating this site an extermination camp are met for that time period, as people were being systematically instead of selectively murdered during those months. There are many survivors who have testified to that fact and who count it amongst their worst memories. We do not want to use a place name that minimizes or obscures what happened there during the months before the Liberation. On a tour through the Ravensbrück Memorial Site, the signpost “Stele 35” refers to the Uckermark camp as a “selection and death camp” [Selektions- und Sterbelager], and the English translation even reads “camp for dying prisoners.” However, in the months leading up to the end of the war, the camp did not become a hospice as that may imply – it became a site of targeted extermination. We are looking for a name that will clearly refer to the systematic and indiscriminate murder of those thousands of people, while still accounting for the objections discussed above. We are currently in the discussion process and would appreciate any input on the subject.
– Initiative for a Memorial at the Former Uckermark Youth Concentration Camp