Simon Pocock - Blues in BrittanyThe 24th of April was Deportation day in Plestin. It is the day of remembrance for those who died in WW2, either shot or sent to the concentration camps.

My nearest neighbour’s mother died in Ravenbrock (Ravensbruck) in 1944 for sheltering two pilots who crash-landed on the beach at St Efflem. They stayed in the local château for a week and then were passed along the resistance escape network but the Gestapo found out and took her away. Her 10 children were hurriedly hidden, the eldest – 18yrs – went to England and the second oldest – 17yrs – hid out in one of our barns (which is now a gite: “Les Etables”) and became the local resistance communication expert using morse code. The farmer at Coat Aillis during the war was a communist leader of the local resistance, farming during the daytime and blowing things up at night.

So on Sunday, there was the usual ceremony, a march up the hill, and the remnants of the Plestin fanfare played the usual numbers: La Marseillaise, Le Chant des Partisans, and Le Chant Marais. Unfortunately, a lot of the players are away at the moment, so there were only four of us, the four musketeers: me on bari sax, Rodger on tenor, Guy on bass drum, and Fabienne on trumpet (who had an abscess, and was on antibiotics) so it didn’t look too good but when we played it sounded OK as the Mayor said at least it was the best players who turned up.

Plestin’s first team played an interesting match last week. One of the opposition was red carded and instead of wandering off, he attacked the ref, physically knocking him to the ground (they had to call for an ambulance), so I think he will be getting a life ban and the club a massive fine.

A note on Ravensbrück:

Ravensbrück was a concentration camp established by the Nazi regime in November 1938, primarily for women, making it unique in that aspect. It was located near the village of Ravensbrück, about 50 miles north of Berlin, Germany. The camp began operation in May 1939, initially receiving 900 women transferred from the Lichtenburg concentration camp. Over time, the population grew significantly, and by the end of 1942, there were about 10,000 inmates. The number of prisoners reached its peak at approximately 45,000 at one time.

The camp was notorious for its brutal conditions, medical experimentation, and forced labor. Inmates were subjected to unspeakable horrors, including unethical medical experiments conducted by SS doctors, such as wound treatment experiments, bone transplantation, and sterilization procedures. Conditions within the camp deteriorated over time, with overcrowding becoming a severe issue; barracks built for 250 women ended up housing up to 2,000, leading to appalling sanitary conditions and widespread diseases.

Ravensbrück also had a significant number of sub-camps, about 70, used for slave labor across a vast region from the Baltic Sea to Bavaria. The prisoners, which included political detainees, “asocials” (a term used by the Nazis to classify various groups including Roma and Jehovah’s Witnesses), Jews, and others deemed undesirable by the regime, were exploited for labor in industries such as the Siemens Electric Company, which was one of the major private firms utilizing slave labor from the camp.

In its final stages, the camp witnessed the construction of a gas chamber in early 1945, where between 5,000 and 6,000 prisoners were killed before the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops in April 1945. The estimated number of deaths at Ravensbrück varies, with some sources indicating that about 50,000 women perished due to the combined effects of disease, starvation, overwork, and executions.

The camp’s liberation did not mark the end of the suffering for those who survived, as many continued to struggle with the physical and psychological scars left by their harrowing experiences. Ravensbrück stands as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust and the particular impact of the Nazi regime on women.

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