The “rabbits” from Ravensbrück called themselves. After being tortured by the Nazis, they were treated in the United States

Dushka had to go to sleep for a moment, because she suddenly woke up with a terrible scream. He opens his eyes and sees that it is Wanda who is shouting in this way. Probably because the nurse was standing on it with a razor in her hand. But he tries to explain to the frightened girls that he just wants to shave his legs. Do you shave your legs before you die? This has not happened yet. Duśka has seen a lot here and is still surprised. The camp administration deceives women prisoners and crosses the border – we publish an excerpt from Martha Grzywacz’s book “Scars. A True Story of >> Rabbits << from Ravensbrück".

  • Martha Grzywacz tells the little-known story of women undergoing medical experiments at Ravensbrück for the first time and the unknown history of their post-war treatment in the United States.
  • “Doctors walk in rows and say something to each other. They don’t really look into the eyes of the prisoners, they look at their feet carefully. It’s a strange visual inspection, but that’s it.”
  • “>> I heard from my friends that my operation lasted ten minutes. (…) On July 28, I was completely washed in the hospital before the injection, and on August 1, 1942, before the operation, I washed my feet. He is still asleep, his leg is plastered over his groin, and Dushka sees a painted Roman on it.
  • “Before he goes to sleep, he has time to tell Siedlauski to put him to bed: ‘Wir sindoch keine Versuchskaninchen’ – we are not guinea pigs.” It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
  • You can find more extracts from books on the Onet.pl homepage

On September 23, 1941, four hundred young Polish resistance activists from the Lublin and Warsaw prisons arrived at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Newcomers must face the reality of the camp, hunger, pain, fear and death.

Some women are suitable for pseudo-medical experiments. Contrary to their will, they turned into guinea pigs in the hands of Nazi doctors and were subjected to experiments that endangered their lives and health. After regaining their freedom, the so-called “rabbits” (as other prisoners and camp leaders called them) were left alone with their years of memories and drama, and no one treated them or wanted to hear their stories.

“Scars. From Ravensbrück” The “true story” of rabbits is a shocking and painful account of Nazi atrocities and doctors in Hitler’s service. About the power of survival and the courage of prisoners to rebel. It is also a testament to the solidarity of women from different countries and the memory of an American philanthropist who decided to help the victims of post-war experiments to heal their physical and mental wounds.

Martha Grzywacz, Scars. The real story of Ravensbrück’s “rabbits”

– Do you know I was the first? We always argue with Wanda Wojtasik about this, because he claims to have gone before me, but he is not right. First they took me.

Wanda Kulczyk-Rosiewicz and Wanda “Duśka” Wojtasik-Półtawska – two women were operated on as the first and last two “rabbits” alive today (Wanda Kulczyk-Rosiewicz died on July 7, 2021, shortly before the end of this book)) . He was born in 1922 and 1921. Wanda Kulczyk – someone who came to Ravensbrück from Paviak for hitting Germany. Humble, calm, insecure, always standing outside, almost invisible in the background of other prisoners. Only years after the war will he decide that it is worth talking about Ravensbrück. He will meet with pupils, students, guests from Germany and everyone who wants to listen. Wanda Wojtasik – ZWZ activist from Lublin, broad, bright, very critical, twenty-three years after the war, she will publish her memoirs about Ravensbrück in her book “And I’m Afraid of Dreams”. guests at official anniversary celebrations.


“Scars. The True Story of Rabbits from Ravensbrück”, Martha Grzywacz

Photo: WAB Publishing

So Wanda Kulczyk remembers that day very well. On July 24, 1942, at the urging of the camp administration, they marched in front of the administration building, along with women from the September Sondertransport. They are also joined by a group of female prisoners from the second Lublin-Warsaw Sondertransport, which arrived in May 1942. Some of the conscripts managed to sleep only after the night shift, so they walked half-unconscious due to fatigue. But why? Optimists say they will send them to Switzerland. They do not know why there, but they heard. Pessimists say it is a mass execution.

Helena Hegier: “(…) When he called us for the first time, we were sure we would be executed. I was calm. We were not allowed to wear bras. And it was cold without a bra, so I found a few ropes, tied myself up, and it was warmer. I think to myself: if they take me to the crematorium, they will laugh at me. I quickly pulled the strings so they wouldn’t laugh at me when I died. I believe that a person has so much debt. Death was undeserved there, and it hurt me the most. ”

At this time, prisoners are ordered to form ranks and open their legs. In front of them stands a group of camp doctors: Gerhard Schiedlausky, Herta Oberheuser and Rolf Rosenthal. Also, some of the strangers who will learn their names later – one short, fat, reddish, with glasses – are Dr. Carl Gebhardt from Hohenlychen. The daughters of the “Sanatorium” commander, who takes care of the clinic’s gardens, know him. They stopped him several times and looked out the window, and when he returned from the front, they looked at the crippling accusations that he was struggling with his limitations in the square. In Hohenlychen, on Gebhardt’s advice, they get up, crawl, and throw their stumps to the side, confident in their energy and that tomorrow will be easier. The girls are surprised that there are so many of them here, because the German press writes only about the successes of their army, and the plane shot down in their news returns to such a base.

The second man, a tall blond man with water-colored eyes, is Gebhardt’s assistant, Dr. Fritz Fischer, a 30-year-old Berlin major with the rank of SS major. Oberaufseher’s Maria Mandl is in charge of logistics for the operation.

Doctors talk to each other and go down the lines. They do not actually face the eyes of the prisoners, but carefully study their feet. Strange exam, but it ends there. Women must return to the blocks. However, over the next few days, the authorities repeated these views, and at the end of July 28, ten prisoners were summoned to the district, and Dr. Rosenthal selected six people from this group. It is unknown why these six. For example, Zofiya Sokulska, known as “Dziuba”, a law student at the Catholic University of Lublin, dropped out of school because she was too thin.

The girls do not know the layout of the hospital rooms, so they are surprised to see a bath in one of the rooms. The water is pleasantly warm, you should use it, because they have almost forgotten what it is to wash properly. After the bath, Duśka Wojtasik is taken to the room. There are six beds with clean sheets, and they are all empty, so he chooses the first one on the right when he tells her to lie down. So it’s not a bullet in the head, it’s a lethal injection … One of the German nurses asks him if he’s sick. Sick? Duśka is angry. He is as healthy as an elephant! The nurse looks and Duska doesn’t understand why. Couldn’t he just say it was execution? He lies down and the clean sheets soothe him, he falls asleep, although he is still trying to observe his surroundings. After a while, he sees his friends entering the room. Next to him lay Maria Zielonka, then Maria Gnaś, Rozalia Gutek, Aniela Okoniewska and finally Wanda Kulczyk. Dushka had to go to sleep for a moment, because she suddenly woke up with a terrible scream. He opens his eyes and sees that it is Wanda who is shouting in this way. Probably because the nurse was standing on it with a razor in her hand. But he tries to explain to the frightened girls that he just wants to shave his legs. Do you shave your legs before you die? This has not happened yet. Duśka has seen a lot here and is still surprised. The camp administration goes too far in deceiving female prisoners. However, on the other hand, if it was really a question of execution, they probably would not have engaged in such a theater. What happens?

After shaving their legs, the nurse injects them with all the needles and the operating carriage is driven into the room and carried out by Wanda Kulczyk. The rest remains. They are silent and waiting.

Wanda Kulczyk: “At about 1 pm I was taken in a wheelchair and taken to the operating room. In front of the room I saw a man lying in a wheelchair, wrapped in a sheet around his neck, fainting (…) a doctor ran and started shouting at my sister that now when men operate He shouldn’t have brought me. That’s why they took me back to the ward. I was lying there until 16:00, they said come back. Block. “

One of the Ravensbrück prisoners

One of the Ravensbrück prisoners

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Collection Museum / WAB Publishing House

The German nurse doesn’t understand why her eyes widen when she sees him come in with her clothes on, and tells all six of them to leave the area. Thus, they dress awkwardly and return to the barracks with the support of the ward inmates. Their heads are spinning, their legs are tangled. They look drunk, but it’s more like morphine quenching.

“We knew it was morphine because we knew its effects,” said Wojtka Buraczyńska of the Warsaw Sondertransport. Wojtka and other friends thought they would not see those sent back to the area killed, so the joy was great. to see with them whether everything is in order, how they feel.

– When I slept, they took out the fifth stick, I will bite.

There can be no joke or serious biting, because girls have a hard time. During the evening call, Duśka, supported by Nina and Wojtka, faints. None of their six “chambers” will go to work that night. Wanda Kulczyk remembers being sent to a hospital the next day, but she still didn’t work because she felt weak.

On August 1, at nine o’clock in the morning, the whole procedure is repeated. With one small exception – no one tells them to return to the block after being injected with morphine.

Wanda Kulczyk: “On August 1, I was taken to the hospital again. There I was given the previous injections (…) I heard from my friends that the operation took ten minutes. (…) Before the injections. On August 1, 1942, I washed my groin legs during the operation. “

While Wanda is still asleep, her groin leg is taken to the hospital with a cast, and Dushka sees the number one painted Roman on it. After a few quarters of an hour, he is taken away. Before going to sleep, it’s time to say to Siedlausky, who goes to sleep: “Wir sind inc keine Versuchskaninchen” – we are not guinea pigs. It is unknown whether Schiedlausky is suitable for him, but the name will remain with them forever. Kaninchen – the “rabbits” – will soon speak of themselves as other prisoners and Ravensbrück camp officials called them.

See also: Katerina: It’s hard to hide in a wheelchair before the war

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