May 8, 2016

Connecticut Woman With Norman Cousins Helped Expose Nazi Experiments on Women, New Book

Bringing their story to light: Caroline Ferriday (far right) seen with four of the so-called Ravensbruck Rabbits after she flew them over from Poland to be treated for their horrific injuries inflicted in a concentration camp.

[From article]
It was one of the big secrets of the murderous Nazi regime: a camp of 72 female prisoners used as experiments to test torture techniques.
The girls, all high school-age Catholics from Poland, were dubbed the 'rabbits' since they were treated like laboratory animals, and their injuries meant many had to hop instead of walk.
When they war ended, they were rescued by the Red Cross along with the hundreds of other prisoners in Ravensbruck concentration camp - but all accounts of their 'treatments' had been destroyed.
It meant their ordeal paled into oblivion as the world grappled to deal with the aftershocks of the Holocaust, particularly the horrific obliteration of the Jews.
But the women were finally brought out of the shadows in 1958 by an unlikely fairy godmother: a socialite from Connecticut.

Caroline Ferriday, a philanthropist who split her time between New York City and Bethlehem, CT, Caroline Ferriday heard of their ordeal after the war.
She made it her mission to bring them to the States for medical treatment, a road trip across America, Christmas at her holiday home, and a dinner with senators in Washington, D.C.

Tortured: The girls (survivors pictured post-war), all high school-age Catholics from Poland, were dubbed the 'rabbits' since they were treated like lab animals, and their injuries meant many had to hop instead of walk.
The rabbits were not meant to survive; Heinrich Himmler planned to have them all murdered before word got out.
They were brought in to Ravensbruck, 50 miles north of Berlin, in August 1942 to test different kinds of surgical procedures.

The women were brought in to Ravensbruck, 50 miles north of Berlin, in August 1942 to test different kinds of surgical procedures. Ravensbruck (pictured) held prisoners from 30 different countries until 1945.In total, each underwent six operations, having bones broken, muscle tissue removed, limbs amputated, and more - all without painkillers.
The wounds were then deliberately infected so the surgeons could test whether sulfonamide - a kind of penicillin - would cure it.
It came after Himmler's personal doctor, Dr Karl Gebhardt, failed to save the life of a senior Nazi officer, Reinhard Heydrich.
Heydrich, one of Hitler's closest friends, died in a car bomb.
Gebhardt did not use sulfonamide, a drug similar to penicillin, to treat his gangrene.
Hitler believed that decision killed Heydrich.
To disprove Hitler's theory - and to save his own skin - Gebhardt designed a series of experiments: his team at Ravensbruck would wound prisoners and deliberately infect the wounds then see whether sulfa drugs could cure the infections.
At first they operated on male prisoners. Accounts differ on why they switched to women. Some historians say women were typically healthier prisoners. Others say Gebhardt assumed females would be more docile and submissive.

This is an internal view of Ravensbruck and the furnaces which burned gassed prisoners' bodies.

Word of the rabbits leaked outside the walls of Ravensbruck thanks to notes passed from prisoners to sympathetic guards to their families, and so on.
But for a number of reasons their cause did not receive widespread attention for more than a decade.
First, Ravensbruck was one of the last concentration camps to close, its leaders had more time than most to deal with their incriminating paperwork, which informed and dictated the schedule of the war trials.
Second, the world was reeling at the sheer scale of attacks on Jews. Women and Catholics were not immediately the primary focus.
Third, there was not very much that could be done to support the women without funds and connections.
Cue Ferriday, who had spent time in France before the war.
In the 1950s she joined the Association of Deportees and Internees of the Resistance, a group started by four French women, including General Charles de Gaulle's teenage niece, who were all political prisoners in Ravensbruck.
The women, like many of Europe's underground resistance workers, were passionate about the rabbits' cause - something Ferriday had never heard of.
Once she became aware of the story in 1957, she contacted her friend Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, who was paying to fly Hiroshima victims to the US to receive reconstructive surgery for their injuries.
Ferriday implored Cousins to also champion the rabbits of Ravenbruck. He agreed.
Fourteen of the women had either died of their wounds or were shot after their treatment.
The surviving 58 were taken to Sweden then back home to Poland after they were liberated.
Ferriday flew to Poland to meet with a prosecutor who represented Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and persuaded him to represent the rabbits too.
She then returned a number of times, with Norman Cousins, to meet the women and gain their trust.
Finally, she came back with an American doctor, who surveyed each of the victims and gave a prognosis for what could be done to treat them.
During that time, Ferriday publicized her cause, raising a hefty $5,000 (about $43,000 in today's money).
In December 1958, 35 of the women who wished to go flew to America. They stayed for a year.
They were spread about various cities across the US based on which hospitals were best for their medical needs.
Four of the women spent Christmas in Connecticut with Ferriday.
And all of them united in San Francisco at the end of the year to go on a road trip across America, stopping in Washington, D.C., to be hosted by senators for a dinner.
Cousins wrote three articles about the cause.
He said of Ferriday: 'Caroline Ferriday has an almost magical gift for inspiring confidence.
'Her first few days in Warsaw were not without their difficulties, but after awhile the project began to move.
'Then, at the end of the week, we received a cable saying that the Polish authorities were cooperative and gracious and that prospects were excellent.'

How an American socialite helped rehabilitate the dozens of young Polish women who endured grotesque experiments as Hitler's doctors recreated injuries that killed his henchman
Caroline Ferriday flew 35 women to the US for treatment in 1958
The college-age Polish Catholic women were subjected to inhumane torture in the Nazi camp Ravensbruck, near Berlin
Nazi doctors broke their bones and amputated limbs without painkillers
It was all a test to see if they could recreate the injuries that killed Hitler's friend, then try to work out what drugs could have cured those injuries
When the women were liberated all documents had been destroyed
But Ferriday heard of their ordeal and championed their rehabilitation
PUBLISHED: 14:47 EST, 8 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:28 EST, 8 May 2016

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