NNinety kilometers north of Berlin, near Fürstenberg an der Havel, lies the Schwedtsee, and it almost looks like an idyll in the memories of those who experienced it as children during the “Third Reich” – albeit occasionally interrupted by ” Dog barking “and” afterwards strange sounds “from the other bank, which sounded” like screams “. “They are getting shaft now,” the children of Fürstenberg suspected at such a moment.
Even children of women who worked as guards in the Ravensbrück concentration camp built in 1939 think of the lake as a pretty playground. Life at this place of torture and murder had a lovely side for the SS personnel, who were housed in little houses. “We have to take note of this,” says Insa Eschebach, head of the Ravensbrück Memorial and Memorial, in the film “The Overseer”, shot by Gerburg Rohde-Dahl and Wladek Jurkow. Insa Eschebach, who is retiring at the end of this month, adds that women like the supervisor Johanna Langefeld, of whom the documentary tells, were convinced that they were doing “the right thing”.
She was never tried
Johanna Langefeld’s case is exceptional. Their work in Nazi concentration camps began in 1938 at Lichtenburg Castle in Saxony, whose prisoners came to Ravensbrück in 1939. In 1942 she was sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp for a few months before returning to Ravensbrück. Unlike Maria Mandl, who, like Langefeld, was in Lichtenburg and in the Ravensbrück women’s camp and then moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau as her successor, Langefeld was never convicted of a crime by a court and least of all – like “the beast” Mandl after the Krakauer Auschwitz trial – hanged.
Rather, Johanna Langefeld was removed from her post in 1943 and arrested by the Nazi regime, then suddenly released, only to be arrested again in Munich by the Americans who delivered her to Poland after the end of the war. And there she fled from the prison in Krakow on Christmas 1946, thanks to the support of some former prisoners in a top-secret aid operation. She did not return to the Federal Republic until 1957; she died in Augsburg in 1974, never affected by the German judiciary.
Historians such as Johannes Schwartz emphasize in the documentation, which is backed up with many silent recordings of the Ravensbrück memorial, and also identifies the difficulties in researching what formative role the supervisor Johanna Langefeld had in the camps and that she was involved in the crimes. The activities of the convinced National Socialist and anti-Semite Langefeld, who volunteered for service in women’s camps, are in no way downplayed. She also beat prisoners, she too, who is said to have been “disturbed” by the gassings during her time in Auschwitz, made selections that meant the gas chamber for the women concerned.
At the same time, the film is fascinated by the fact that Johanna Langefeld is said to have helped individual prisoners, especially from some survivors who are trying to get a differentiated picture based on their positive experiences with Langefeld. “In the position she had in the camp, she was probably doing bad things,” says Polish Joanna Penson. “We just had to distinguish between bad and bad in the warehouse. And as far as commanders and guards were concerned, there were the worst, the worse, and the sadists, the worst. ”In any case, she later had no doubt that“ we should stand up for her, because even if she did only a little bit of good she was so different from everyone else. ”After Langefeld was imprisoned in Krakow, Penson campaigned for her with a“ letter of defense ”that described Langefeld’s rescue of a girl, who was pursued as an eyewitness. Penson wanted to prevent the death penalty expected for Langefeld in a trial.
The film author Gerburg Rohde-Dahl, born in 1938, is so pondered in this conversation that Joanna Penson adds a “Do you understand me?” Rohde-Dahl nods politely, but her quiet yes is a very thoughtful one, followed by a pause. What is heard is as difficult to classify as it is difficult to understand when the child reports to a supervisor about childhood in a concentration camp. (In their long-term research, the authors did not find Langefeld’s son, but the daughter of a friend of mine who also lived on the site.)
After all: After the war, Langefeld confided to her prisoner secretary Margarete Buber-Neumann, who told about a reunion with Johanna Langefeld in her book “The Extinguished Flame” published in 1976, that she preferred to “at least for two years” Jail would have come “to pay for all past crimes.” However, Langefeld did not face the investigation authorities after moving from Poland to Germany in 1957 and instead worked very withdrawn as a seller.
The Overseer – The Johanna Langefeld Case runs at 10:45 p.m. in the first. From 8 August, the Ravensbrück memorial shows an exhibition about the guards at the camp, which also wants to put the fascination of the figure of the “SS guard” in popular culture up for discussion.