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Thesis on Female Prisoners in the Commandos of Gross-Rosen

The situation of female prisoners in the commandos of Concentration Camp Gross-Rosen is the subject of Andrea Rudorff’s doctoral thesis. For four days, the historian has been pursuing research in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS). “My visit has been worthwhile”, said Rudorff. “While I had known some documents already from other archives, I have also unearthed others that were new to me.”

The scholar examines the full range of life in the sub-camps from their history to the different ways of persecution, everyday life in the camps, exemplary biographies of the victims, the origin and conduct of the guard women, the evacuation of the camps and the prosecution faced by the perpetrators. “So far, no comprehensive book has been written especially on the situation of female prisoners in the sub-camps of Gross-Rosen”, reported Rudorff. “There has only been one brochure in Poland that has dealt with female detainees in the Gross Rosen subcamps. And Isabell Sprenger dedicated the topic a chapter in her monograph on Gross Rosen.”

In pursuit of her research, the historian visited numerous archives all over the world, used interviews of the Visual History Archives of the Shoa Foundation and talked to survivors in some countries herself. “As the commandos for women were not opened until 1944 and the women were often very young, I had the opportunity to meet survivors”, said Rudorff. When the war was drawing to a close, the female prisoners had to work above all in the armament industry in the more than 46 subcamps.

At the ITS archives, the historian studied individual fates, prisoner’s cards, inventory lists, transports and documents produced by the SS institute for hygiene. “I have managed to fill some knowledge blanks through the ITS, for instance regarding transports or the issue of prisoner numbers. This has allowed me a better understanding of events. The support I enjoyed was great”, said Berlin-resident Rudorff. She plans to finish her doctoral thesis which is overseen by the Center for Research on Antisemitism late this year.