University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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CHGS

  • Who Were They?

    Who Were They?

    About 132,000 women and children from 23 countries were imprisoned in Ravensbrück between 1939 and 1945.

    The prisoners were organized into categories, each with a distinctive colorcoded triangle, as well as by nationality. Political prisoners (including resistance fighters and Soviet prisonersofwar) wore red triangles; Jehovah's Witnesses wore purple triangles; "asocials" (including lesbians, prostitutes, and Gypsies) wore black triangles; and criminals (common criminals or those who broke Nazi imposed laws) wore green triangles. Jewish women wore yellow triangles, but if they were also political prisoners, they wore a red triangle and yellow triangle that formed a Star of David, or a yellow stripe on top of the red triangle. A letter within the triangle signified the prisoner's nationality. There was a separate adjacent camp that held about 20,000 men.

    Exact statistics are impossible to obtain, because the Nazis burned many records before they fled. The camp memorial's estimated figure of 132,000 includes about 48,500 Polish women, the largest national group imprisoned in the camp. There were 28,000 women from the Soviet Union, almost 24,000 from Germany and Austria, nearly 8,000 French women, and thousands from other countries in Europe. There were even British and American women imprisoned at the camp. Approximately 117,000 did not survive. While no exact records are available, an estimated twenty percent of the total population was Jewishmore than 20,000 women.

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    SS Propaganda photo of slave laborer at Ravensbrück. Courtesy of MGR/S8G

    Poster of identification badges. Archive of United Stotes Holocoust Memoriol Museum.

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