Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück

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Isa Vermehren

The memoirs of Isa Vermehren are among the earliest published eyewitness accounts. The first edition was published by Christian Wegner Verlag (Hamburg 1946) with the title A Journey through the Final Act: A Report (10.02.44 to 29.06.45). Numerous editions of Vermehren’s book have been published since then, most recently by Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag (Reinbek bei Hamburg 2005).

The author was born in 1918 in Lübeck. Her opposition to the Nazi regime prompted her to leave school in 1933. She subsequently moved to Berlin. From 1933 to 1935 she performed at the Katakombe political cabaret in Berlin. When the cabaret closed, she completed her school-leaving exam. In 1938 she converted to Catholicism. Her family was arrested in 1944 in retaliation for Isa Vermehren’s brother having requested political asylum overseas. Isa Vermehren was first sent to the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp and then to other prisons and camps.

In Journey through the Final Act, she describes her imprisonment in Ravensbrück and elsewhere until she was liberated and returned home to Hamburg. In 1947 she appeared in the film In Those Days directed by Helmut Käutner. She played the role of the maid Erna, who tries to help the mother of one of the assassins of 20 July 1944 go into hiding.

Isa Vermehren earned a degree in languages, became a nun in 1951, and worked as a headmistress in Bonn and Hamburg. She died in 2009 at the age of 91.

After the fall of the inner-German border, Isa Vermehren visited the Ravensbrück Memorial to give a reading. On the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp she visited the Memorial again to take part in an ecumenical service. In 1994, she sat for a portrait by the painter Christoph Wetzel from Dresden.

There is an interview with Isa Vermehren in the video archive 'The Women of Ravensbrück' by the director Loretta Walz.