On April 10, 100 women survivors of Nazi German atrocities attended a memorial service at the former Ravensbrück concentration camp in northern Germany.
Ravensbrück was a women's concentration camp during World War II, located in northern Germany, 90 km north of Berlin at a site near the village of Fürstenberg/Havel.
Between 1939 and 1945, over 130,000 female prisoners passed through the Ravensbrück camp system; only 40,000 survived. Although the inmates came from every country in German-occupied Europe, the largest single national group incarcerated in the camp consisted of Polish women.
Since 1942, medical experiments were conducted without consent, in order to test new medicines. Some experiments involved deliberate cutting into and infecting leg bones and muscles with virulent bacteria, cutting nerves, introducing substances like pieces of wood or glass into tissues, and fracturing bones. Others studied bone, muscle and nerve regeneration, and the possibility of transplanting bones from one person to another. Out of the 74 Polish victims, called Króliki, Kaninchen, Lapins or Rabbits by the experimenters, five died as a result of the experiments, six with unhealed wounds were executed and the rest survived due to the help of other inmates in the camp, but with permanent physical damage.
In order to survive, the women organized some underground education programs; among Polish women, various high school level classes were taught by experienced teachers.
German Education Minister Annette Schavan said the victims' ordeals were an everlasting warning, and said the terrible deeds of the past were part of German history and identity.
"Whoever wants to comprehend the suffering reaches the limits of human powers of imagination," Schavan said.
The President of the International Ravensbrueck Committee of survivors, Annette Chalut, remembered that the memories had to stay alive after the last survivors had died.
Schavan went to Ravensbrueck in place of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who changed her plans to attend the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.