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34

YVONNE USELDINGER

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Nov. 1921:    born in Steinfort (L)

Feb. 1938:   joins the Communist Party

July 1941:    first activities against the German occupying forces

Aug. 1942:    imprisonment in Trier (D) for “activities hostile to the Reich”

June 1943:    detention at Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp (D), forced labour for the war industry, for Siemens & Halske and others

1944:    several bouts of typhoid fever, rheumatism, otitis and scarlet fever

Dec. 1944:    begins a secret diary in the camp

Apr. 1945:    freed by the Danish and Swedish Red Cross
Yvonne Useldinger was politically active from a very early age. Her family were members of the Socialist Workers’ Party who took in refugees from Germany. In 1938 she joined the Communist Party. In 1940 the Communist Party went underground, the only party to do so. Together with her husband she was active in the resistance against the Nazis, helped publish the underground newspaper Die Wahrheit (The Truth), procured forged passports and money as well as paper for printing newspapers and leaflets. In April 1941 Useldinger was arrested for the first time, interrogated by the Gestapo and later released. She continued her resistance activities. In August 1942 Yvonne Useldinger and her family were arrested again during a raid. She spent months in a Trier prison, where she gave birth to a child under the most difficult circumstances. She was allowed to see her new-born daughter twice a week at most. In June 1943 she was taken to Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. Her camp uniform was marked with the red badge of political prisoners.
She teamed up with other Communists and took part in sabotage activities at her workplace for Siemens as well as in rescue operations. The situation at Ravensbrück was precarious, especially in the months before liberation. Useldinger painted and kept a secret diary describing the horrors of the camp. She fell ill several times and survived despite the dire circumstances thanks to the solidarity of her fellow inmates. They helped each other to stay alive, distracted each other from everyday life in the camp and gave each other moral support.
Yvonne Useldinger was freed from the concentration camp and taken to Sweden to recover in a convoy of the Danish and Swedish Red Cross. She returned to Luxembourg on 3 July 1945 and was finally able to see her daughter again.

Ich war eingesperrt in einem Zimmer. [...] Die Gestapo war anwesend, als das Kind zur Welt kam, mit ganz furchtbaren Bemerkungen, weil es eine Schwergeburt war. Steißlage. Und man hat mir dann gesagt, dass man das Kind in Stücken rausnehmen würde. Das war natürlich sehr erschütternd für mich. Und ich habe dann gesagt:  „Dann tun Sie, was Sie nicht lassen können.“
Yvonne Useldinger, contemporary witness interview, 1996. 

Yvonne Useldinger’s daughter Fernande sketched by Lily Unden, who in 1944 drew the child for Yvonne Useldinger on the basis of a photograph. A concentration camp guard had shown the photo to Useldinger for half an hour.
Work
Hard physical labour for prisoners at Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp, 1940
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Alles Leid versuchte man durch liebe Worte u. Handlungen zu beseitigen.
Yvonne Useldinger, letter from Sweden, 3 May 1945
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