On 27 and 28 April all those prisoners who were well enough to walk were led out of the camp. They had each been given bread and Red Cross ration but under the circumstances this would hardly be sufficient. Moving in a northwesterly directions, they formed long columns, guarded by SS personel. It was chaotic, in part because of all the other refugees also going in the same direction. [...] But as the march progressed, discipline became more relaxed, as many of the SS personel were more scared than the prisoners were. [....] Some of the already weak women fell by the wayside and were left behind to die. In some cases, SS guards accompannying the marchers shot prisoners who were left behind. [...] A group of French women stayed together, continuing west to the town of Waren, where they found refuge in a barn. That night (30 April), the Russian army arrived. Rather than being liberators, they put the French women through a more hellish ordeal than what they had experienced in the camp. The women were raped repeatedly by Russian troops, to the point where some of them were too weakened to continue their journey.
When Soviet forces liberated the subcamp at Neustadt-Glewe, "they raped all the women and girls: Jewish, Hungarian, German-it didn't matter." A group of Jewish women from this subcamp believed that their emaciated condition (they weighed on average only 30 kg/66 lbs) would be a deterrent. It was not. Such behavior by Russian troops was extremely widespread, and as rumors of the rapes spread, many women either hid or tried to make themselves look sick and contagious when they learned of approaching Russian military units.
Not all Russian troops acted in such a manner, of course. Many were genuine liberators and were warmly received by the former prisoners. In one case, a group of French women from the Neubrandenburg subcamp met up with a Russian unit, whose officers, upon learning of their identity, took pains to care for them. But that night, two of the French women were raped by drunken Russian soldiers anyway. In the morning, when the offenders could be identified, the rapists were summarily executed by their officers.
The forced march of the prisoners became like some kind of gigantic slime mold, changing size and shape as it lurched onward. By the time the marchers reached Malchow, perhaps a third of the original members had been left behind, either dead or in hiding. A few stayed at Malchow, finding shelter in a now broken down work camp.
But most continued moving, trying like all the other refugees to make it to the Allied lines. After Malchow, the goal became anywhere the Americans or British were in control. By now it was no longer a forced march or any other kind of march, but merely a conglomerate of human beings moving in the same general direction. Most of the SS had fled, and any who remained had put on civilian clothes in an effort to appear inconspicuous. A few overseers tried to pass themselves off as inmate refugees.
In the first days of May 1945, refugees from Ravensbriick began to cross into areas held by the American and British forces. At the little town of Liibz, Esther Bejarano and six other Ravensbrilkkerinnenmet a contingent ofAmericans. It was a joyous and exhilarating experience for all of them, as the women somehow found the strength to celebrate into the night with their liberators.
Liberation by the Red Army: On the afternoon of 30th April, advance units of the Soviet army rolled into Furstenberg. Captain Boris Makarow, of the 49th army, of the second Belo-Russian Front, had been ordered to take control of the area and set up a headquarters there. He knew of the concentration camp, but not its exact location. Initially, Furstenberg seemed like a ghost town. "Everything was very peaceful. The town seemed dead. There was nothing to hear and nothing to see." Finally, a woman appeared, speaking Russian and telling him of the many sick women in the nearby camp, and pointing out the way for him. Captain Makarow and a detachment went directly to the concentration camp, where they were met by Antonina Nikiforow the senior Russian prisoner doctor who was now in charge of the infirmary. She showed him around the camp, and explained to him the dire situation there. There was no electricity, no water, and thirty-five to forty women were dying in the camp every day. Captain Makarow promised his country's help, but first he needed to secure the region militarily. Even before that was done, some of the Politicals took him to Rosa Thalmann, still in hiding. It fell to Makarow to give her the official news that her husband had been killed. Soviet troops then thoroughly searched the town, looking not only for Nazis and military personnel, but also for women. Few females in this town of four to five thousand escaped being raped. It was a hideous scene, repeated again and again in the Russian occupied areas of Germany; it was quite obviously part of a policy which was at least semiofficial, designed no doubt to punish the Germans with contempt, while at the same time allowing Russian troops to reward themselves at the expense of the defeated enemy. After about a week, it was stopped abruptly, as the Russian military leadership brought the situation under control. (the above text comes from the book Ravensbrück : everyday life in a women's concentration camp by Morrison, Jack G.)
[ Polish women - former prisoners of German concentration and labour camps - who tried to reach Poland going eastward shared the same fate as other women who happend to be in the path of the "liberating" Red Army]