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Ravensbrück Nazi camp survivor archive to go online

Published tisdag 17 oktober 2017 kl 11.42
Project manager: Every single document is a unique testimony to the Holocaust.
(4:12 min)
Bilden visar första sidan på ett handskrivet intervjuprotokoll från januari 1946, som förvaras i Ravensbrückarkivet på Universitetsbiblioteket i Lund. Foto: Anna Bubenko/Sveriges Radio.
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The handwritten record of an interview from January 1946. Photo: Anna Bubenko/Sveriges Radio.
Bilden visar ett gravkors på Norra kyrkogården i Lund, över en av de tidigare koncentrationslägerfångar som dog kort efter ankomsten till Sverige 1945. Graven är namnlös. Foto: Anna Bubenko/Sveriges Radio.
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Several of the prisoners who were the most ill died shortly after arriving to Sweden are buried in Norra kyrkogården in Lund. Photo: Anna Bubenko/Sveriges Radio.

A digitised archive of testimonies of survivors of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, will be launched in Lund on October 20.

The digitised Ravensbrück archive is built around 514 interviews with Polish speaking survivors of Ravensbrück, Nazi Germany's concentration camp for women and children. 

The testimonies speak of systematic medical experiments, of slave labour in German factories, of prisoners being burnt alive in crematoria.

Swedish Radio's Anna Bubenko interviewed Håkan Håkansson, who has led the three year project to digitise and translate the interviews for Lund University library. You can listen to the interview above. 

He says it is difficult to overestimate the documents' importance.

"Every single document is a unique testimony to the Holocaust, and I do hope that right now, when almost all the survivors have died, we will see an increasing research on this – not just to keep the memory alive, but above all to actually understand what happened and how it happened – because we need that kind of knowledge."

The archive was created on the intiative of the late Zygmunt Lakocinski, a Polish lecturer at Lund University. He and his team of assistants received funding from the Swedish state to carry out 514 interviews of survivors who had been at the Ravensbrück concentration camp – although as inmates were often moved around, their testimonies also cover other camps such as Auschwitz.

"The ambition was to use these interviews, or the witness testimonies in the war trials, and they tried to make it as scientific as possible to make it stand up in court," Håkansson says. "They were really careful to do the interviews in an objective way."

Lund University Library receives so many requests for access to the archive, both from relatives of survivors and from researchers, that digitising it seemed logical. 

Other material donated by survivors, such as diaries, maps, and schedules of transportation between camps, has also been scanned.

Around half of the documents have already been translated into English, and Håkansson hopes that the translation work will be completed in 2019.

Håkansson says he hopes schools around the world will use the archive now that it is available free for all online.

"What we hope for now is to make it accessible in a way that it can be used by schools and younger peole who are just interested in learning more about the subject, because what they do in the interview material is to confront people with the actual voices of the survivors in a way which no other material does."

The archive will be opened at a ceremony at the main Lund University building on October 20, and will be available online here.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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