About the Founding and the Activities of the International Ravensbrück Committee (IRC)

Cooperation among Ravensbrück women from many countries began in the immediate post-war period when they became witnesses at trials of Ravensbrück camp personnel. In 1948 former political prisoners from different countries met to make preparations for a museum and a memorial.

In November 1956, at a conference with participants from 13 countries, ideas for a museum and the first designs by artists were discussed. A call was made for international preparations for a Ravensbrück museum. The work was coordinated by a Provisional International Committee (1954 – 1959) leaded by Renèe Mirande-Laval, France. After the Memorial and the first museum were opened and the statue unveiled at Ravensbrück in 1959 this committee was no longer convened.

But activities began again after international camp committees were set up at other major Nazi concentration camps. On February 3 1965, at an organizational meeting of the IRC in Brussels, Belgium, it was decided to begin again with the work of the International Ravensbrück Committee (IRC). At a meeting commemorating the 20th anniversary of liberation, elections were held, a Basic Declaration was adopted and Renée Mirande-Laval (France) was chosen as president. National Ravensbrück committees in 17 European countries declared their willingness to participate in the IRC. Paris was designated as headquarters of the IRC and the town of Ravensbrück was chosen as symbolic center. The meetings of the IRC were to be held annually in all the member countries.

Plans for the first Ravensbrück Museum were discussed repeatedly in the International Ravensbrück Collective and cooperatively implemented. The basic idea, originating in the 1950s, was to install the museum in the former Cell Building (Bunker) and provide one room each for every national group. In the course of the years these rooms have twice been newly designed and may still be visited today. They include the following national memorial rooms: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Rumania, the Soviet Union, Spain, Yugoslavia and one international memorial room.

The meetings of the International Ravensbrück Committee have been held every year since 1965 in different member countries. Decisions were made on all questions raised, resolutions were passed, declarations publicized and letters sent to international organizations.

In addition to the joint conferences of the International Ravensbrück Committee with representatives from the national committees, there were a number of special meetings. At the initiative of the IRC there was a gathering for the children of Ravensbrück in July 1967, attended by 350 people from eleven countries. Another special occasion was the meeting of 178 former women prisoners in Steinhaus/Semmering, Austria, in November 1974.

In 1979, in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, Rose Guerin of France was elected president. Annette Chalut, also from France, was elected to this position in Mantua, Italy, in 1999.

In many countries former Ravensbrück prisoners founded national groups or joined organizations for all former concentration camp prisoners. They held meetings, organized exhibitions and their own monuments in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Warsaw and other places. They publish newspapers and often participate in Internet.

At IRC meeting in Warsaw / Krakow, Poland, in 1971 the question of a written history of Ravensbrück was first raised. By now the number of such books in the world is in the hundreds, but it was the survivors themselves who first promoted this research. Among the most active in this field were Erika Buchmann, Wanda Kiedrzynska, Dagmar Hajková and Germaine Tillion.

At the IRC meeting in Hamburg in 1988 Rose Guerin announced that the International Ravensbrück Committee had been awarded the title "Ambassadors of Peace" by the UN. The document confirming this award was given to Cécile Lesieur of France in New York on September 15th 1987 in the name of the UN Secretary General.

In July 1991 it was learned that the Tengelmann chain planned a supermarket on the "Street of the Nations" in Ravensbrück. This street, a part of the camp territory, had been built by women prisoners. A widespread national and international protest movement developed to prevent this plan. A group of former prisoners from different countries arrived in order to speak with those responsible people. At the same time the ICR met in Ravensbrück in September 1991 to inspect the section of the camp occupied by the Soviet Army and made proposals for designing the original camp territory after the troops had left.

In this discussion the future of the Memorial, thus far uncertain, was newly determined. The Foundation of Brandenburg Memorial Sites was formed on January 1st 1993. The International Committee is on its International Advisory Council. Current members are: Ambra Laurenzi (Italy), Hanna Nowakowska (Poland) and Jeanine Bochat (Germany).

At IRC meetings the various activities are debated and the living conditions of Ravensbrück survivors discussed. There are reports from the different countries on such questions, on work with young people and on other topics.

In recent years members of the International Ravensbrück Committee often played a highly respected role in the democratic development of their countries and were honored with high awards and decorations. Their being "Women of Ravensbrück" always played a special role.

Dr. Bärbel Schindler-Saefkow secretary general of the IRC 2002-2019

2020, online-meeting, 18.12.2020

2019, Meeting in Goriza, Italy

2018, Meeting in Warsaw, Poland

2017, Meeting in Lidice, Czech Republic

2016, Meeting in Vienna, Austria

2015, 70th Anniversary of Liberation; meeting in Templin, Germany

2014, Meeting in Paris, France

2013, Meeting in Berlin, Germany,

2012, Meeting in Madrid, Resolution regarding further design of the Memorial

2011, Meeting in Venice, San Servolo/ Italy

2010, 65th Anniversary of Liberation, meeting in Templin, Germany

2009, Meeting in Den Haag, Netherlands

2008, Meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia

2007, Meeting in Barcelona, Spain

2006, Meeting Ljubljana, Slovenia

2005, 60th Anniversary of Liberation, meeting in Templin/Germany

2004, Meeting in Lidice, Czech Republic

2004, Meeting in Payerbach, Austria

2002, Meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands

2001, Meeting in Paris, France

2000, 55th Anniversary of Liberation, Neustrelitz/Germany 2000

1999, Meeting in Mantua, Italy, Annette Chalut is elected president

1998, Meeting in Remich, Luxemburg

1997, Meeting in Česky Sternberk, Czech Republic

1986, Meeting in Lindabrunn, Austria

1995, 50th Anniversary of Liberation, meeting of the IRC in Fürstenberg and Templin, Germany

1994, Meeting in Barcelona, Spain 1994

1993, Meeting in Oslo, Norway

1992, Meeting in Antwerp, Belgium

1991, Meeting in Ravensbrück

1991, Meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands

1990, 45th Anniversary of Liberation, Meeting in Neubrandenburg, GDR

1989, Meeting in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia

1988, Meeting in Hamburg, FRG 1988

1987, Meeting in Balatonfüred, Hungary

1986, Tagung in Nimes/Frankreich

1985, 40th Anniversary of Liberation, Meeting in Berlin, GDR

1984, Meeting in Moscow, USSR 1984

1983, Meeting in Brussels, Belgium

1982, Meeting in Marianske Lazne, ČSSR

1982, Meeting in Vienna, Austria

1980, 35th Anniversary of Liberation,Berlin, GDR 1980

1979, Meeting in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia(1979); Rose Guerin is elected president

1978, Meeting in Turin, Italy

1977, Meeting in Paris, France

1976, Meeting in Raunheim on Main, FRG

1975, 30th Anniversary of Liberation, Meeting in Berlin, GDR

1974, Meeting in Steinhaus/Semmering, Austria

1973, Meeting in Budapest, Hungary

1972, Meeting in Paris/France 1972

1971, Meeting on the history of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in Poland

1970, 25. Anniversary of Liberation, Meeting in Berlin, GDR

1968, Meeting in Paris, France

1967, Meeting near Berlin, GDR

1966, Meeting in Prague, CSSR

1965, 20. Anniversary of Liberation, meeting in Berlin, GDR with representatives from 11 countries

1965, Meeting in Brussels, Belgium in order to establish an International Committee

1959, Ceremonial opening of the Ravensbrück Memorial

1958, The Preliminary International Ravensbrück Committee invites all members of the various national resistance organizations to cooperate on the development of the Ravensbrück museum.

1956, A Preliminary International Ravensbrück Committee discussed in Berlin/GDR

1954, International Commemoration Day in Ravensbrück, GDR

1949, International Women’s Meeting for Peace in Ravensbrück, Germany

1948, Meeting of Ravensbrück survivors from 4 countries, Prague, Czechoslovakia