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Chapter 10

The Women of Dachau

 

In as far as can be gleaned from official sources there were about seven thousand female prisoners in Dachau. More than likely there were a lot more, but we are still in the dark about the real figures.

 

There were approximately 4500 Jewish women, the largest group of women. After that followed the gypsy women, 350 total. The rest was, like with the men, a mishmash of mostly political prisoners from all European countries. Most of them had already been imprisoned for some time in the women's camp Ravensbrück, and were transported to Dachau from there.

 

The subcamp “München-Agfa Kamerawerk” was populated by mostly Dutch and Slovenian women. They were housed in an apartment building close to the factory. They manufactured parts for V-1 and V-2 rockets, as well as fuses for anti air grenades.

 

In an attempt to raise production, Agfa initiated a premium program: the more you produce, the more you get to eat. To start off, rations were lowered considerably. The women did not take it. What happened is unique on the history of concentration camps, the prisoners went on strike. The SS was baffled. If they had been men they would have had no trouble shooting down the whole bunch, but women?

 

A few of them were locked up in the bunker in Dachau, but they were set free after a few weeks. Then it turned out that it was not done in vain. The rations were increased and the premium program was scrapped.

 

The working conditions of the women were hardly better than the men's. Especially in the subcamps of Kaufering and Mühlsdorf a lot of women died as the result of the inhumane circumstances under which they lived and worked.

 

A separate and remarkable group of women were put to work in the camp whorehouse. They were called Puff and the idea to establish a whorehouse came from the brain of none less than Heinrich Himmler. He thought he could give troop morale an extra bump.

 

Women's bodies were also used in other ways in the camp, for instance the cold experiments of Doctor Rascher. Male prisoners who were totally under cooled by laying in an ice cold bath for hours, were sandwiched between two nude female prisoners to bring their temperature back to normal.

 

Thirty women were liberated by the American on April 1945. Two thousand were sent on a transport with an unknown destinations. Their lot is mostly unknown.

 

After the so called Röhm affair, the first German woman was executed in 1934. Many would follow.

 

About the “other” women in the camp a few things are known. In 1945 there were 62 Aufseherinnen, the female SS guards, who matched their male counterparts in cruelty. A few of them got married to SS Officers, who were housed close to the camp. Most of them never had to face a judge.

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