Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten Gedenkstätte und Museum Sachsenhausen

Christmas present from a fellow inmate

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A special christmas present

This ring weighs just 5 grams, but one can hardly imagine how much it must have weighed in the pocket of the prisoner who secretly made it. In the winter of 1944, this special gift was created in the machines that normally shaped armour parts and from material intended for lethal ammunition. 


We do not know the name of the manufacturer. The recipient - Bernard Dutasta - only remembered his nationality: the man who gave him this ring on Christmas Day in 1944 is said to have been of Polish descent. 
On the shiny silver protruding rhombus of the piece of jewellery, a black plastic angle is embedded in the metal, identical in shape to the angle that every prisoner had to attach to his clothing. French-born Bernard Dutasta wore a red square as a political prisoner. He was arrested in 1943, aged just 21, while attempting to cross the border illegally and deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  Under the angle was his prisoner number 65308, which was to replace his name. This number is also on the ring, engraved under the angle. 


Dutasta, a medical student, was assigned as a nurse in the infirmary of the Falkensee subcamp. The subcamp was located directly next to the factory halls of the Deutsche Maschinenbau Aktiengesellschaft, or DEMAG for short. Up to 2500 prisoners from all over Europe had to perform slave labour here for up to 14 hours a day. With vitamin injections and great dedication, Dutasta tried to help as many prisoners as possible. He was also a member of the illegal camp committee which, with the help of the DEMAG factory management, managed to prevent the evacuation of the camp in April 1945, when the Russian forces were moving ever closer to Falkensee. 


When the Red Army reached the Falkensee subcamp on 26 April and finally liberated the prisoners, Dutasta remained on site for some time to help injured fellow prisoners, Red Army soldiers and civilians. Only in winter did he finally return to his French homeland, where he died in 1998 at the age of 76.


He still wore the ring of the Polish fellow prisoner two years after the liberation, when he had taken off his angle and number.