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With deep respect I dedicate this project to the Women of Ravensbrück who sought strength, comfort and spiritual survival in art - for themselves and for their companions. Their poems, drawings, miniatures and lovingly handmade objects - testimonies and gifts that have not been destroyed or lost - bring us closer to the individual fates of their creators and make us aware once more of a fundamental value of art: As an essential source of power to uplift a person, to express consolation and affirmation of life. This unwavering believe in art was expressed in a most poignant way by Dunya Breur, the daughter of the artist and resistance fighter Aat Breur, survivor of Ravensbrück:
The unsightly little things created for each other by prisoners in concentration camps, and that still exist, may seem trivial to some who look at them today: A pendant carved from a toothbrush handle, an embroidered handkerchief, a wallet hand-sewn from burlap, a booklet of verses and handwritten dedications, a small letter written on the back of a concentration camp form, a bumpy verse scribbled with a pencil stub on a torn piece of yellowed paper.
For all those who were not there, their value is probably not measurable. And the situation in which these gifts were created even less so. The hunger, the brutal behavior of the camp management towards the prisoners sometimes turned them into animals, at least into beings that seemed to have little humanity left in them. The women seemed to have forgotten their names, were only a number that the SS had imposed on them. In their mockery of the emaciated women wrapped in rags, who could fight for a piece of bread like street dogs, who would search for food in the garbage, the SS had invented the term "Schmuckstück" for them (piece of jewellery) - in allusion to "Dreckstück" (piece of shit).
To support each other in these circumstances had an invaluable significance. And in this sense, the women made gifts to each other. Art becomes a value that has long been forgotten in daily life. Art achieves its real value here: As an essential source of power to uplift a person, to express consolation and affirmation of life. (Dunya Breur)
My heartfelt thanks goes especially to Constanze Jaiser for giving me the opportunity to gain insight into her research, for providing texts, sound recordings, and materials, and for the intensive collaboration without which this art project would not have been possible.
In addition, I would like to thank all those who supported me in the realization, especially the team of the Ravensbrück Memorial for the use of the visual documents; Gerhard Haupt for his suggestions, constructive criticism and support in the production; Rebeccah Blum (1967 - 2020) for her sensitive translations of the poems into English. I would also like to thank the NAZ e.V. and Iris Wachsmuth.
The first publication of "Voices from Ravensbrück" was in the year 2000, supported by the Women's Research Program of the Berlin Senate, and by the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology, Montréal.
The elaboration of this new extended version was made possible in cooperation with the Regional Office for Education, Integration and Democracy (RAA) Mecklenburg-Vorpommern e. V., and supported by the Brandenburg State Agency for Civic Education as well as by funds of the Freudenberg Foundation within the framework of the project zeitlupe | Stadt.Geschichte & Erinnerung.
Pat Binder, Berlin, April 2021