This case study highlights the role of translations for the documentary, Saving the Rabbits of Ravensbrück; a film that tells the nearly forgotten story of a Nazi concentration camp and the incredible rescue planned by a group of international women prisoners to save 63 women who were all victims of inhumane medical experiments.
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Stacey Fitzgerald, the producer, and director of the documentary is an experienced independent filmmaker with an Emmy award-winning program, A Southern Celtic Christmas. She has previously produced and directed the feature-length comedy Delivery Boy Chronicles, as well as several television commercials for nonprofit clients.
Stacey’s association with the project started nearly 20 years ago when she was visiting family at her grandmother’s place in Northwest Alabama. Her great-uncle John, told them about a women’s concentration camp his division had helped liberate. He spoke of what the women went through and how together they came out victorious. He feared, however, that with time, their story would be lost, and so he said to Stacey, “you will tell them what your great-uncle saw, with his own two eyes.” On that night, Stacey made a promise to tell the story of the women of Ravensbrück.
Today, with her own determination, the documentary is now well underway. Stacey conducts all the interviews of the survivors herself with a locally hired crew. She works with an interpreter for live interviews so she can communicate with the survivors. Later, she sends the content to Translate By Humans for professional translation and transcription.
History of Ravensbrück
Ravensbrück was the largest women’s only concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Located 56 miles north of Berlin, it was commonly known among the inmates as “Hitler’s Hell for Women.” Since its doors opened in 1939 and until liberation in 1945, more than 130,000 women and adolescents from over 20 nations were inmates at the camp. All the women were forced into heavy labour at nearby factories. Of all the women who passed through the camp, experts estimate approximately 50,000 died due to starvation, disease, beatings and other physical trauma, experimental surgeries, lethal injections, firing squad, and starting in January of 1945, the gas chamber.
In 1942, 74 young and healthy Polish political prisoners were chosen for some of the most horrific experiments on the pretext of advancing medical science. Around the camp, this group of women was referred to as “rabbits” because they were used as lab animals.
The first set of experiments became known as the sulfonamide experiments, used to test sulfa drugs. The women were taken to a hospital where their legs were ruthlessly sliced open, sprinkled with glass, dirt, and bacteria and then sown to allow infections to develop, thereby replicating war wounds for the drugs to be tested on. The doctors also carried out various surgical experiments on nerves and tissues to see what would happen when nerves, bones, and muscle were removed, often without anaesthesia. Sometimes, they would even amputate entire limbs.
Hiding and Rescue
Towards the end of the war, the Nazis planned to execute all the rabbits who were living proof of the crimes they had committed against humanity. On the night before their execution, the other inmates, women of all nationalities who had lost their families and were struggling themselves to survive, conspired and came forward with great solidarity in an attempt to save the rabbits. They hid the rabbits from the guards for three months, until liberation and ensured each of them was fed and taken care of.
Telling the Story Through Translation
Language plays a crucial role in not only telling the triumphant story of the rabbits but also in understanding it as a filmmaker. Although an interpreter helps aid communication during interviews, creating a documentary requires a deeper understanding of the context.
Collaboration: Stacey’s longstanding association with Translate By Humans as a language service provider stems from our deep understanding of the sensitive subject matter and the responsibility we hold towards the cause.
From translating legal content related to the documentary to the actual interviews, we’ve always delivered high-quality services resulting in a growing business relationship with Stacey.
Process: Interviews are recorded and transcribed in the language the interviewee speaks (Polish, French, Russian) and sent to us for translation and transcription into English. Our team of carefully chosen language specialists work on the content and send them to Stacey, complete with time codes. Stacey uses the translations for her reference in understanding the interviews, editing the footage and stores them for the future creation of subtitles.
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