Date Thesis Awarded

6-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

History

Advisor

Tomasz Kamusella

Abstract

This dissertation reconstructs the experiences of a group of Polish women imprisoned in Ravensbrück, a Nazi concentration camp in northern Germany, during the Second World War. Arrested and incarcerated for their resistance activities, these seventy-four women were subjected to unconsented experimental operations ordered by Heinrich Himmler and performed by a group of Nazi doctors. By scrutinising prisoner testimony and contemporary documents which survived the war, in addition to engaging with secondary sources, it becomes evident that this group of Poles, known throughout the camp as the ‘Rabbits’, received widespread physical and emotional support from their fellow inmates. Their high survival rate, despite the brutal conditions and orders for execution, can be attributed in part to the relationships both amongst the ‘Rabbits’ themselves and with others in the camp, including their fellow inmates as well as some of their captors. Facing starvation, disease, and extermination, female prisoners defied national and class divisions and risked their lives to ensure the survival of the ‘Rabbits’. Driven by the desire to hold their perpetrators accountable and expose Nazi atrocities to the global public, the women of Ravensbrück demonstrate the power of uncommon connections in the context of the Nazi concentration camp system.

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