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Annotated Bibliography for Wanda Poltawska

From Women in European History

1.) Eschebach, Insa. Ravensbrück : The Cell Building. Berlin : Metropol, 2005.

One of the most prominent symbols representing the deaths, tortures, horrors, and struggles of the victims and prisoners of Ravensbrück is the cell building, a crucial feature of the concentration camp system that ironically and directly merged life with death. Insa Eschebach’s book contains vital information on the prisoners held in the cell buildings, the conditions of their imprisonment within the cell building, varying types of cell buildings, and the multiple uses of the building. These aspects helped construct the ever-changing aura of the buildings, a location that could easily transform from a safe haven to one’s deathbed in a matter of minutes. The architectural typology and internal design of the Ravensbrück cell building featured in the book accompany Wanda Poltawska’s description of the building’s physical construction, allowing a clear depiction of the building’s structure, organization, and overall size/spacing.

2.) Jensen, Erik N. “The Pink Triangle and Political Consciousness: Gays, Lesbians, and the Memory of Nazi Persecution.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 11 (Jan. - Apr., 2002): pp. 319-349.

One of the groups of prisoners in the Ravensbrück concentration camp consisted of lesbians, women marked in the camp by the symbol of the pink triangle. Unfortunately, as this journal article acknowledges, very few individuals had written in the postwar period about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. This article pulls on the limited memoirs of gay concentration camp survivors in an attempt to create the framework for the larger collective memory of their experiences. In her memoir, Wanda Poltawska describes what she witnessed within the lesbian barrack, but her strict religious adherence to the Roman Catholic Church creates an obvious bias in her account. Her experiences within the lesbian barrack are crucial in understanding her memoir considering her enormous interest on the topics of sexuality and women. This article serves to accompany and deepen Poltawska's account concerning the lesbian population in concentration camps.

3.) Lipien, Ted. Wojtyla’s Women. Washington: O Books, 2008.

In this book, Lipien explores how Pope John Paul II’s relationships with women shaped his life, influenced his views on critical issues, and implemented changes within the Catholic Church. Wanda Poltawska was one of the most influential women in Wojtyla’s life as she collaborated with him on such topics as sexuality and contraception. Her experiences in Ravensbrück sparked an intensive interest in sex and religion, an interest that allowed her to continually offer Wojtyla professional advice on women and human sexuality. Considering Wanda Poltawska generally declines interviews, her influence on the views and decisions of Pope John Paul II reflect her own aims in investigating women and their sexuality, which also highlight her life after Ravensbrück in addition to the significance in her fulfilled promise of becoming a psychiatrist and guiding the younger generation in discovering their sexual identity.

4.) Machlejd, Wanda, ed. Experimental Operations on Prisoners of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Warsaw: Zachodnia Agencja Prasowa, 1960.

This book specifically focuses in on the unimaginable and criminal experiments performed on Polish women who were political prisoners in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The detailed chronicle of events pertaining to the experimental operations provides a better understanding of the progression and organization behind the malicious research Wanda Poltawska and other prisoners were subjected to. Victims’ depositions and medical statements emphasize the extensive violation of human rights and the war crimes performed by German physicians, who ruthlessly used the living camp prisoners as their human guinea pigs. In addition, the accounts given by the former women prisoners of Ravensbrück reiterate the physical agonies, emotional torments, and occurrences Wanda Poltawska describes in her memoir, highlighting the universalities and commonalities found in the medical experiments.

5.) Morrison, Jack G. Ravensbrück: Everyday Life in a Women’s Concentration Camp 1939-45. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000.

By examining a wide range of topics pertaining to Ravensbrück, Morrison attempts to recreate the dealings of the everyday life in this concentration camp. Considering Wanda Poltawska spends much of her memoir describing, illustrating, and capturing the everyday life she and other prisoners faced in the camp, it is essential to understand the extent of the Ravensbrück experience by examining such issues as social relationships, trauma processing, and survival tactics. Morrison presents in-depth information and analysis on topics and issues Poltawska mentions repeatedly, such as the separation of groups, the camp routine, and even the little pleasures enjoyed by the prisoners, all essential elements to the camp system and its upholding. This book also goes beyond the bounds of the Ravensbrück concentration camp by examining topics such as national socialism, anti-Jewish propaganda, and the SS administration, providing a historical sketch and context to the events that Wanda Poltawska and others faced in the concentration camp.

6.) The Women's Concentration Camp of Ravensbrück 1945-2005 : 60th Anniversary of Liberation. Fürstenberg/Havel: International Ravensbrück Committee, 2005.

Who are the women of Ravensbrück? This is the question that the International Ravensbrück Committee will not leave unanswered. This publication for the anniversary of liberation serves to commemorate the murdered and surviving women of the Ravensbrück camp by providing a brochure to help understand the significance of the site as well as to document the progress and conflicts involved in preserving the memorial site and museum. Although being based on historical events, this publication treks forward by exploring what should be done to prevent the return of any form of oppression, while still emphasizing the importance of recollection in order to create lasting impressions. In the postscript titled "Return To Ravensbrück," Wanda Poltawska articulates the personal release experienced in attending the unveiling of a memorial on the site of the former concentration camp, an event that guided her in eliminating instinctive fear. The anniversary publication presents valuable insight on the steps victims and others have taken and must continue to take after such traumatic events.

7.) Weindling, Paul. “Human Guinea Pigs And The Ethics Of Experimentation: The BMJ's Correspondent At The Nuremberg Medical Trial.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 313 (Dec. 7, 1996): pp. 1467-1470.

In this article, Paul Weindling notes and illustrates the controversial and sensitive issues involved in dealing with research results attained through the medical experimentation on human guinea pigs, as performed by German physicians. Many British scientists were determined to “rescue the records” of the German medical research, claiming that although the medical research was attained through the loss and destruction of human life, the information still contained long term scientific benefit. In addition to investigating the crimes behind the experiments, the Nuremberg Trials also had to debate the fate of the actual research records. Such an ethical issue, which was discussed well after the liberation of Ravensbrück, brings into the light the continued suffering and horrors victims of the concentration camp had to come to terms with, a situation exemplified in Wanda Poltawska’s own inability to sleep till the completion of her memoir.

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