Nine women escape from death march 1945

GETUIGENVERHALEN.NL

 

Realisation project:

Ange Wieberdink Producties (©)

 

Timeframe: April 1945
Location: Buchenwald
Number of interviews: 2 (7 videos)

 

Thematic collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog

DANS: https://doi.org/10.17026/dans-xh3-89sw

 

Interviews can be seen via:

 

As part of this oral history project, interviews were held with women who managed to escape from the ‘death march’ from the Buchenwald concentration camp. Two Dutch women were interviewed extensively: Madelon Verstijnen in The Hague and Christine Bénedite in Paris. Both ended up in one of Buchenwald’s many sub-camps via Ravensbrück, the concentration camp for women. Most of the women were put to work in the nearby Hasag arms and ammunition factory.

 

On the night of 14 April 1945, the 5,000 or so women from the camp were herded onto the road in a column escorted by armed SS men. The Germans intended that as many people as possible would not survive the death march. Nine women managed to escape: two Dutch, six French and one Spanish woman. Their position is precarious. They are wearing the distinctive clothes of the concentration camp and are in enemy territory.  The Red Army approached from the east, the Allies advanced from the west bombing railway lines and bridges. The nine young women (between 19 and 25 years of age) decide to stay together no matter what, and to look for the American front.

 

The women talk about their wanderings and about their survival strategies: perseverance, solidarity, social intelligence, humour and a striking lack of cynicism. Their experiences provide a nuanced view of the Germans who shelter and feed the women. A night in a country house where Dutch NSB children were staying almost ended fatally.

The documentary ´Ontsnapt´ tells the moving story of the nine women by means of diary fragments and the account of Madelon Verstijnen and Christine Bénedite.