Annette Chalut was part of the French Resistance when she was arrested by the Nazis and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in the early 1940s. On Sunday, seventy years after its liberation, the honorary chair of the international Ravensbrück Committee had a clear message for those present at the anniversary commemoration.
"Vigilance is our absolute duty," the 90-year-old said. "Evil can return at any time, and we are not allowed to forget what happened here."
"Memory never ends," echoed Dietmar Woidke, premier of the federal state of Brandenburg, where Ravensbrück is located.
"We must defend against the seeds of hatred," Woidke added, in reference to a slew of right-wing extremist attacks in Brandenburg that damaged the reputation of this and other eastern German states.
"Only with solidarity can we combat the hatred of foreigners on our streets and the arson attacks and death threats against people who have pledged support for political refugees," he said, with explicit reference to a recent attack in Saxony-Anhalt.
Some 90 former Ravensbrück prisoners were present on Sunday in what Chalut called "probably the last time we will be together," due to the advanced age of the survivors. Ravensbrück was Nazi Germany's largest women's concentration camp and is known for the infamous medical experiments carried out by Nazi surgeon Karl Franz Gebhardt.
In a collection of 40 external warehouses, inmates were forced to perform slave labor under the control of the SS. Located directly adjacent to the camp were several large manufacturing plants belonging to Siemens & Halske.
According to state statistics, around 25,000 female inmates were murdered by the SS at Ravensbrück, before it was abandoned by the Nazis in late April, with the inmates sent on "death marches."
On April 30, 1945, the Soviets liberated the Ravensbrück and freed the 2,000 invalids who had remained in the camp.
glb/kms (AFP, epd, dpa)