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My favorite kind of books are ones where the setting matters. When I get lost in the pages of those books, I am transported to another place and time. Books like these have allowed me to travel the world and I hope to visit as many of these settings as possible in person. Because once you’ve explored the setting, the book comes alive in a new way. After reading Lilac Girls, I knew I needed to visit Ravensbrück Concentration Camp to help me more deeply understand the book.
Admittedly, it took me quite a while to process what it was like visiting Ravensbrück. Fortunately my visit was the only item on my itinerary for the day. I’m not sure I could have mustered up the energy for another tourist attraction after the visit. You can read countless books about World War II and learn all about it in school, but there is something about visiting the scene where these horrors took place, that takes your understanding of the Holocaust to a whole other level.
Ravensbrück was a concentration camp in northern Germany exclusively for women. The story of Ravensbrück is often overshadowed by the stories of more well-known concentration camps, but the atrocities that took place there during WWII were absolutely horrific. There was medical testing performed on the inmates and an estimated 50,000 women died at Ravensbrück.
Today, many of the original buildings are no longer standing in their original form. However, you are still able to see the German accommodations, some of the remaining inmate facilities and the gas chamber.
Situated on Lake Schwedt, I was struck by the tranquility of the lake in contrast to the horrors of the camp. I was also struck at how different the German accommodations were compared to the facilities of the inmates. As I walked through the camp thinking about the lives cut short by these horrors I was reminded of how important it is that we live our lives as full as we can in memory of those who aren’t able to do the same. It is so difficult to articulate the feelings associated with the horrific events of the Holocaust. So I wanted to share a few pictures in lieu of the words I could only attempt to articulate well.
Visiting Ravensbrück: How to Get There
I recommend staying in Berlin if you are planning on visiting Ravensbrück, as there are not really accommodations in Ravensbrück. I boarded the RE5 train from Berlin Gesundbrunnen, heading north towards Stralsund. The route sign might also mention Löwenberg, Fürstenberg, and/or Neustrelitz. You’ll then disembark at Fürstenberg (Havel) on Track 2. On the return trip you’ll board the train on Track 3 for Berlin.
Right next to the train station is a little cafe serving light fare if you’re looking for a snack. The cafe also rents bikes which you can use to get to the Memorial. I walked from the train station to Ravensbrück, but a bike would be much quicker! I found it helpful to download a Google map of the area to my phone before my trip as there were limited signs marking the way. Then I simply followed the roads from the train station to the Memorial.
Whether you’ve already visited Ravensbrück, are planning a trip, or just want to learn more about this particular concentration camp, I highly recommend Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. This is one of my top five favorite historical fictions book and the author is absolutely lovely.
Interested in visiting other European destinations? Here’s a look at my recommendations of what to do, see, eat, and read on your next European adventure.