Liberation of Ravensbrück

On 30th April 1945, 75 years ago, the Soviet Army reached the gates of Ravensbrück, a concentration camp 90km north of Berlin which the Nazis had set up in 1939 to hold women prisoners of the Reich. By then about 132,000 women and children, and a small number of men, had passed through the camp. Nearly half that number perished there.

Among them was a number of female SOE agents who had been captured in France and transferred through the prison system to Ravensbrück. It was a work camp, not a death camp, supplying labour to several satellite camps, but such were the conditions in which the prisoners were kept many died of exhaustion, malnutrition and disease. Others were executed by direct decree from Berlin. Amongst these were members of the Corps:

Denise Bloch LdeH CdeG (Ambroise)
Executed January 1945 aged 29

Lilian Rolfe MBE CdeG (Nadine)
WAAF seconded to FANY
Executed January 1945 aged 30

Violette Szabo GC CdeG (Louise)
Executed January 1945 aged 23

Cecily LeFort CdeG (Alice)
WAAF seconded to FANY
Gassed February 1945 aged 44

Yvonne Rudellat MBE CdeG (Jacqueline)
Transferred to Bergen-Belsen, died of typhus April 1945 aged 48

Three of the female SOE agents and members of the Corps survived:

Yvonne Burney (as Basedon) MBE LdeH CdeG (Odette)

Odette Hallowes (as Sansom) GC MBE LdeH (Lise)

Eileen ‘Didi’ Nearne MBE CdeG (Rose)

In June 1993, when the fall of the Berlin Wall had made access to the camp possible, a plaque was dedicated to commemorate their courage and service.

 

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