Accommodation and Hygiene

The women’s concentration camp was accommodated on the ground floor of the southern wing where the windows were already barred. At present this is the wing where the priests are accommodated. The entrance was reached through the archway at the left and was shut off by a wrought iron gate that too was already present and stands to this day as a silent witness. The space beneath the archway was the muster place for roll call for the small group of prisoners.

(Private archives Anita Farkas, Tillmitsch/Austria)

Every morning and every evening the Bible Students had to present themselves for the roll call that took only a few minutes.1PA, interview Huisman, Gerdina, 15-10-2002. It was performed according to the principle the Bible Students were already familiar with from Ravensbrück.2PA, interview Huisman, Gerdina, 15-10-2002. Participation in the roll call at St. Lambrecht concentration camp was not refused by the Bible Students. The so-called ‘extremists’ too presented themselves. Contrary to the German inmates, who stood to attention during the roll call, the Dutch sisters in the faith were merely present and ‘just stood there’.3PA, interview Pronk, Cobie, 18-10-2002. This example clearly shows the variety in national socialisation of the different women.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses had a room for eating and sleeping and a room with sanitary equipment at their disposal. This room had previously been used for the detention of British and French prisoners of war, who probably had been transported to Schloss Lind shortly before the arrival of the female prisoners.4PA, interview Messnarz-Günter, Margarete, 13-09-2002.

The room for eating and sleeping was furnished with wooden bunk beds two high, a long dinner table and chairs. The opportunity to sit after work was felt to be a luxury. Most of the sisters in the faith took their meals in the camp. An exception were the women who were put to work as chambermaids, they had permission to eat in the kitchen. This was a privilege, as they did not have to eat the prison food but got to eat the same food as the staff and the guards.5PA, interview Huisman, Gerdina, 15-10-2002; interview Hoogers-Elbertsen, Jans, 16-10-2002.

Each Bible Student had a private drawer for storing her personal belongings. A great difference from the degrading situation in Ravensbrück was that the women were not obliged to share the pallet on which they slept with someone else. They also had their own pillow and blankets. The resulting night’s rest was an important improvement on conditions in the main camp.6PA, interview Huisman, Gerdina, 15-10-2002.

There was a row of washbasins on a broad shelf in the washing room with only cold water and pieces of clay for soap. There was also ‘a toilet that was very deep. You could make all kinds of things disappear in there.’7PA, interview Hoogers-Elbertsen, Jans, 16-10-2002; interview Huisman, Gerdina, 15-10-2002. Unlike the eating and sleeping areas the washing room was not heated, so there was sometimes ice in the washbasins in winter.8WTA Emmen, interview Berkers, Katharina, 1985, tape Nr. 372.

There was a tiled stove in the sleeping area, which was tended by the Belgian Maria Floryn. The eating and sleeping areas must have been sufficiently heated. Gerdina Huisman could ‘not remember ever having felt cold there’.9PA, interview Huisman, Gerdina, 15-10-2002; interview Hoogers-Elbertsen, Jans, 16-10-2002. Floryn was responsible for cleaning the camp facilities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as the adjoining room of the female camp guard.10PA, interview Huisman, Gerdina, 15-10-2002.

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