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Voices from Ravensbrück

About the archive

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In the spring of 1945 more than 21,000 former concentration camp prisoners came to the southern parts of Sweden through the Red Cross and Folke Bernadotte's so-called 'White Buses'. Zygmunt Łakociński, Polish lecturer at Lund University, and historian Sture Bolin, started a project that involved interviewing and documenting the experiences of the former prisoners. The Swedish government financed the project which was carried out between October 1945 and November 1946. The archive was sealed until 1995 when work began to make it available to researchers and to the public. The project was called Voices from Ravensbrück.

More about the archive

Survivors from German concentration camps arrived in Sweden during the spring of 1945. More than 21,000 individuals of different nationalities were brought to southern Sweden by the Bernadotte expedition's 'White Buses'. The survivors were later brought to one of the 150 camps that were set up in Sweden during that summer.

Zygmunt Łakociński (1905-1987), professor of the Polish language at Lund University, worked as an interpreter when the survivors arrived. Łakociński formed, in cooperation with Sture Bolin who later became senior professor of history, a committee dedicated to documenting the experiences of the former concentration camp prisoners.

Financial support was given by the Swedish government. The project which was titled the Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs' Polish Working Group in Lund started in October 1945. The interviews were carried out within one year. The financial support stopped in November 1946 and the working group was disbanded.

The material was kept at the Hoover institution, Stanford University, in the United States from 1949 to 1972. The archive was finally donated to Lund University Library by the heirs to Łakociński's estate in 2004.

The archive (mainly in Polish) consists of:

  1. 500 handwritten interviews from survivors, not only from Ravensbrück but around ten other concentration camps, prisons and labour camps.
  2. Material and objects that the prisoners brought with them to Sweden such as notes, diaries, poems, photographs, and drawings. Lists of prisoners' transports and different material concerning the concentration camps, like Block books (i.e. maps of the camps, lists of names of those who lived in the different houses) and transcripts of protocols from the Ravensbrück trial in Hamburg 1946-47.
  3. Lists of Polish citizens evacuated from German concentration camps and brought to Sweden by the Red Cross and the U.N.R.R.A.
  4. A large collection of cuttings from the years 1939 to around 1967, a collection of Polish exile press cuttings and a book collection about the origins of World War II.
  5. Documents concerning the work of the Polish Research Institute in Lund and the working group.

 

For more details see Paul Rudny's detailed presentation of the archive (pdf)

 

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