Red Cross Depot Going Up at Site of Ravensbruck Camp

A dispute over the future of a building adjacent to the former Nazi concentration camp of Ravensbruck appears to have been resolved by a decision to place a German Red Cross depot, not a supermarket, at the site.

The decision to substitute the humanitarian aid facility was made to still the controversy and anger which erupted in July 1991 when plans for a supermarket were announced. The building was already under construction at the time.

Some 107,000 women were detained at the Ravensbruck labor camp between 1939 and 1945, and 90,000 of them died there. A memorial to the camp’s victims has been placed at the site.

After the war, the site was used as a Soviet detention camp and is still being used by Russian troops as a military base. The soldiers are expected to leave by March.

A year ago, the state of Brandenburg bought the property next to the camp from the German food giant Tengelmann for about 10 million marks, or more than $6 million. Tengelmann, which also owns the A&P supermarket chain, had slated the building to be part of a shopping center.

The building was constructed on a cobblestone road that was built by slave laborers from more than 20 countries incarcerated at Ravensbruck.

“A humane use” by the German Red Cross “is the best solution for the supermarket” building, said the memorial’s director, Silgrid Jacobeit.

Among those who had complained about the market plans was Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, who appealed directly to the prime minister of Brandenburg state to stop the implementation of the plan.

On Tuesday the ADL’s Elliot Welles, director of the task force on Nazi war criminals, said, “We accept the solution as quite proper.”

A spokesperson for the German Red Cross said the building will be used to store materials needed for disaster control.

Several former concentration camps in Germany, particularly in the former East Germany, have become the cause of controversy as developers seek to build on or next to them.

The German government has promised to contribute several million marks this year for building Holocaust memorials in the state of Brandenburg, including the one at Sachsenhausen, another former concentration camp.

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