Wednesday, October 26, 2016

PhotoProsePoem THE UNIVERSITY OF RAVENSBRUCK by Christal Rice Cooper

Christal Cooper

University of Ravensbruck painting attributed to Chris Rice Cooper.  Copyright by Chris Rice Cooper 

The University of Ravensbruck
a photographic prose poem by Chris Rice Cooper

The University of Ravensbruck is a tiny village yoked to the Mecklenburg Forest, nestled next to Furstenberg,

where the shimmering lake embraces fancy boathouses, laid bare beneath the town’s church steeple, welcoming us all into the fold.

                                          The main entrance to Ravensbruck 

Free education, room, board to every color of the rainbow:
Red, Green, Blue, Purple, Pink, Black, Brown, and Yellow.

There is no discrimination here!

There are drawbacks - sawdust, gas, excrement, vomit, and dead bodies are all consuming.

Food, water are scarce;  Clothing, shelter are minimal.  But
there are abundances of soul-breaking labor, starvation, disease, beatings, shootings, standing in the weather for hours, torture, gas, and death.  

Ravensbruck women laboring away. 

Three workshops that have been approved by the Nazis:

Workshop One:
Students will learn how to style the hair of both men and women Nazis.  The benefits are two fold:  the Nazis will save time and money by not having to drive to Furstenberg for haircuts.  The students will get a respite from daily life
The workshop will take place on the other side of the bathhouse’s camp-wall.

The wall of the bathhouse and kitchen block is the building on the right.  

Workshop Two:
Helene Korewina has created the Kunstgewerbe Arts and Crafts workshop where young Polish artists can paint, embroidery, sculpt, carve, and sew shoes, toys, and puppets out of straw.  The students will not be able to keep their creations, because the Nazis will take the creations, sell them on the market and pocket the money for themselves.  The workshop will take place at the side of the straw shop making barracks.

                                     The barracks of Ravensbruck

Workshop Three:
Sylvia Salvesen will teach those how to draw Norwegian children on skis, wearing red tasseled caps, standing outside a small Norwegian cottage surrounded by pine trees.  The red, yellow, and blue pencils have already been provided.

The remaining workshops are considered highly secret and have not been approved by the Nazis.  It is required that once you read this newsletter, that you memorize the courses offered and when and where they will take place, and then destroy the document, even if you have to eat it.

Halina Chorazyna, the chemistry professor from Warsaw
will give lectures on chemistry.

Kathe Diatz will demonstrate how to comb hair even when it isn’t there. 

Denise Dufournier will hold a workshop on how to build sandcastles.

Polish dancer Ojcumila Falkowska will conduct a class
on dance techniques.
Ojcumila, who works in the staff canteen, will give updates after the nightly roll call.

Elisabeth Fassender, who was sent here for stealing coats,
will teach us how to steal coasts

Catholic writer Nanda Herbermann is leading Catholic literature classes and the reciting of the Magnificat.

Jacqueline will show us how to obtain a lock of hair from the dead, label it, preserve it in a scrapbook, and hide it from the Nazis.

Joanna will teach Norwegian literature and language in Block 10.

Olga Benario, Stalin’s feminine revolutionary, has great expertise in numerous fields; picking lice from each other’s hair; drawing sketches with small sticks and sand; and lecturing on philosophy based on letters received from her husband Carlos. Olga will also hold a geography class on the university, revealing secret places not known to the Nazis.  In this course, each student will receive copies of the map of the university drawn and scaled by Olga from scrapes of paper she smuggled from the block ova.  

Grete Buber-Neumann has access to the SS offices and its large-scale map of Europe displaying flags representing the front.  She will give nightly updates of changes made to the map. 

Grete Buber-Neumann speaking at a rally organized by the European Youth Organization in Berlin.  June 1952

Lublin Poet Grazyna Chrostowska will recite poetry after she tries to make a hairstyle with her tufts.  This class has been postponed since Grazyna was confined to the isolation room for making a hairstyle with her tufts.   
Grazyna is now holding her own roll call for those interested in memorizing one stanza of new poems she has written. That way the poem lives even if she doesn’t.

The Jehovah Witnesses are offering daily Bible Studies to anyone who is interested.

Krysia Cyza is holding classes on how to compose poems and draw portraits of their loved ones on paper smuggled in by the friendly Polish guards.
Krysia, one of the rabbits, will also teach endurance to those who are interested.  One lesson on endurance is learning how to look at the stars and appreciate their beauty, even while standing in the bitter cold for hours during morning and evening roll call.
Krysia will also teach us how to write secret letters with paper smuggled by the Polish guards and our own urine as ink.  She will show us how to hide these letters in the attic above our bunks, until it is time to pass them to Hanna Sturm, who will smuggle them out in the daily mail.

Jozka Jaburkov, previous editor of the communist feminist magazine The Soweress is teaching numerous courses: her predictions for the coming revolution; reciting her fairy tale stories she had published called Eva in Wonderland; how to write articles benefiting communism and feminism.  She will teach the writers how to hide their articles in the attic, until it is time to pass them to Hanna Sturm who will smuggle them out in the daily mail.

Hanna Sturm, the Austrian communist and jack-of-all-trades will teach students: how to put up fences, bang in nails, and break up locks.
Hanna Sturm will hold discussions on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Students may find the book highly repellent since Hanna found the book in the latrine. This discussion will take place in the back of block 13.

Milena Jesensak know for her charisma, confidence
and flaming red hair is holding classes on how we can obtain charisma and use it to our advantage, with confidence.  It is our hope that once students learn these great lessons that they too will become a privileged prisoner as Milena and work in the hospital.

                                                         Milena Jesenska 

Yevgenia Lazarevna Klemm will offer classes on how to protest effectively; conduct newspaper readings (thanks to the Czechs who smuggled in the newspapers); will tell stories of her young days in Russia in hopes that we forget the present.  
Yevgenia will demonstrate to us how to cure typhus by rubbing the sick person's back.
Yevgenia will also teach those how to make a birthday cake out of 25 grams of margarine, a spoon of jam, bits of bread, and decorate it with flowers from the grave of Binz’s dog.

Else Krug, who was sent to Ravensbruck for being a prostitute, will offer her expertise on sado-masochism.  You’ll find Else dressed in black and white, wearing a black badge, her soul glued to the dirty ground.

Karoline Lanckoronska will tell of how the crematorium’s flames shooting higher every night remind her of the beginning of the Iliad.  She will also continue her lectures on Charlemagne and Gothic art.  More importantly,

Karolina who is not afraid of Binz or her black dog will teach all of us not to be afraid of Binz and her black dog.

Karolina is holding a food tasting course on the prized tomatoes from Himmler’s own farm that Himmler has sent to her daily because she is a Polish Countess.

Cicely Lefort, will give talks about her experiences of living on a yacht with her French doctor husband before she was sent here.

                                                            Cicely Lefort 

Kathe Leichter, is our newest addition who arrived form Vienna.  She will hold a class on current events and give poetry readings upon request.   

Loulou Le Porz will teach us how to remember the names of the dead and what they died from.  She will also share how she smuggled in medicines with the help of Yugoslavia pharmacists.

                                                   Loulou Le Porz 

Lyusya is leading a workshop on how to write leaflets and distribute them in secret.  She is also holding a class on how to smuggle in paper and pencils.

Anja Lundholm will speak of her own experiences at a brothel where she was raped sixteen hours per day, for six weeks.   

Doris Maase will lead discussions on Beyond the Woods by Trygve Gulbrannssen.

Maria, who works at the bookbinding workshop, will tell of her experiences working at the bookbinding workshop.

Micheline Maurel will hold a class on how to write poems for mothers who are separated from their children.

                                    Micheline Maurel 

Annie de Montfort is holding seminars on the history of Poland. 

Sculptor Zofia Pocilowska is holding classes on how to make small sculptures out of sticks, coal, dead woman’s clothes, and other materials. She will also teach how to hide these sculptures in the wall’s tiny cracks near our bunks.

The Polish Performing Artists will only perform for peelers in the vegetable cellar. One performance is the reciting of stories in the dialect of the Tatra Mountains. 

Prostitutes, lesbians, and criminals wearing green or black badges will teach those interested how to have sex with men and women in exchange for sausage and margarine.

Maria Rundo will hold a session of acting lessons on how to pretend we are living in a fairy tale instead of this.

Witkoria Ryczko who is supposed to correctly sew buttons onto the Nazi soldier uniforms, will hold special meetings
of how to incorrectly sew buttons on Nazi soldier uniforms.

The French Prostitutes are the most reviled here at the camp but we have a special presenter Simone (a French prostitute who will be covered with black and white cloth to hide her identity) who will tell of her experiences of hiding America pilots in the brothel where she worked.

The old students will teach the new students how to line up in groups of five quicker than the blink of an eye.

Corrie and Betsie ten Boom are offering Bible Studies to those who are interested. The Bible studies will be held at their flea-ridden bunk in Barracks 38 and there is no fear of discovery, because the fleas, which bite, are keeping the guards outside the doors.

The piano concert by Genevieve Tiller has ben permanently canceled due to a lesion on her thumb.

Emilie Tillion will give talks from her own bunk on the history of French art, culture, and history.

                                                      Emilie Tillion 

Germaine Tillion has secured a camera on the camp black market and will show her photographs.  She also will hold talks every night, after the fourth guard inspection, near her bunk.  Women are requested to form a line and repeat what she says into the next woman’s ear.

Germaine Tillion will speak of her experiences of writing her own operetta spoof on Orpheus in the Underworld called Le Verfugbar aux enfers.    Following her talk, there will be a theatrical play staged out based on her spoof.  In the play, a chorus of Verfugs will sing of  “a model camp with all comforts, water, gas, electricity – above all gas.”  The play, which will be held at the back of Block 12, will hopefully make everyone laugh. 

Even though this is an adult play, it is highly encouraged to bring as many children as possible, because it seems the children have forgotten how to laugh.  

"Children Behind the Wire" by Mieczyslaw Kosielnick 

In Block 27, children are invited to participate in a game called “Selection for the gas chamber.”

At the sign shop the Ukraine girl sings Russian Folk songs.  It is safe to attend this concert because the machines are so loud that the guards never hear.

Valentinia will teach others how to smuggle precious items
(like metal shavings) in our vaginas until the right moment comes to pass those items to a civilian worker.  

Vera will train us how to stuff a piece of bread through wire in the blink of an eye.  

Katharina Waiz, the gypsy trapeze artist, will teach you how to scale the fences.

Maria Wiedmaier will provide updated information from the Nazi Newspaper the Volkischer Beobachter

The Red Army block women will hold classes on how to make red flags to hang in the hopeful arrival of the Russians.

                                     The Russian Army liberating the Rabbits at Ravensbruck

While the secretaries are holding their daily bomb fires, we will try to save as many files as possible and hide them in the attics above our bunks.  

Russian Liberation Army is raping women and girls repeatedly, sometimes three men at one time.  Despite our efforts of trying to hide women and girls, the Russians have discovered our hiding places.  All women and girls are subject to this treatment – those who have given birth, in the process of dying, sick, and unconscious.  Only the dead and those who can convince the Russians they have contagious diseases will be spared. Is there anyone who has experience on how to avoid these rapes?

We no longer need an expert on how to prevent being raped by the Russian Liberators.  It is too late for the Russians have raped every woman and girl.

The University of Ravensbruck is officially closed due to lack of students.  All women and children are no longer here.  All of them have been murdered, transported to safety on white buses, hiding in the woods, or marching in their wooden clogs or barefoot heading for home.  Or what they hope is left of home.

Other Poems Written By Chris Rice Cooper