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Olga Benario-Prestes, geb. Benario

Luisenstr. 7

Date of death:
Place of death:
Victim group:
Als Jüdinnen und Juden Verfolgte; Politisch Verfolgte – Arbeiterbewegung
Erinnerungszeichen (Tafel)

Olga Benario was born in Munich on December 12, 1908, the daughter of Leo and Eugenie Benario, and grew up with her older brother Otto at Jakob-Klar-Strasse 1 in a world full of contradictions – her father was an active social democrat and as a lawyer stood up for deprived and vulnerable members of society, while her mother came from a prominent Nuremberg family and moved in middle-class circles. Olga attended what is now the Luisengymnasium high school from April 1918 to April 1924. Her idiosyncratic and nonconformist behaviour meant that she had to leave the school early. She then began training as a bookseller with Georg Müller, a friend of the family.
Olga Benario joined the Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands (KJVD, German Communist Youth Association) when she was just 15 years old. There she met her future partner Otto Braun, with whom she moved to Berlin in 1925, where she worked in various functions in the KJVD. Olga Benario was also a typist in the Soviet trade mission. When the couple were arrested for treason, Leo Benario managed to get his daughter released fairly quickly, while Otto Braun, however, was sentenced to several years in prison. In 1928, Olga Benario and a few comrades freed him from Moabit Prison. The two of them were taken to Moscow, where they worked for the communist youth association. In their private life, however, they soon went their separate ways.
When in 1934 Olga Benario was assigned to escort the Brazilian revolutionary Luís Carlos Prestes to Brazil, her cover was to pretend to be his bride, and she really did fall in love with him. After the revolution in Brazil failed, the couple went into hiding. In early 1936 they were betrayed. Olga Benario bravely saved Luís Carlos Prestes‘ life, but they were both arrested. In disregard of existing case law, the Brazilian government extradited Olga Benario, who was heavily pregnant, to Germany. The ship docked in Hamburg on November 18, 1936. A few days later, on November 27, 1936, Olga Benario gave birth to her daughter Anita Leocádia in the women’s prison in Berlin’s Barnimstrasse. When the child was just over a year old, the Gestapo (secret state police) separated mother and daughter, without telling Olga Benario, that the child was sent to Leocádia Prestes, the mother of Luís Carlos Prestes. Olga Benario was sent first to Lichtenburg concentration camp and later to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück. There she was made block elder for the Jewish women in Block 11 and tried to help her fellow prisoners as best she could, secretly organising courses, lectures and gymnastic exercises. Although her mother-in-law did all she could to get permission for her to leave the country, all these efforts were in vain. In early 1942, the SS deported Olga Benario to the killing site Bernburg as part of “euthanasia Operation 14f13”. In her farewell letter to Luís Carlos Prestes and her daughter Anita she promised, “I will stay strong and am determined to live life to the very last moment.” Olga Benario was murdered with carbon monoxide on April 23, 1942.
Olga Benario’s father, Leo, had already died in 1933. Her mother and her brother, Otto, did not survive the Shoah. Eugenie Benario was murdered in the Theresienstadt ghetto, Otto Benario in Auschwitz concentration camp.
Luís Carlos Prestes was released from prison in 1945, when he was able to meet his daughter for the first time. Anita Leocádia Prestes lives in Brazil and works as a historian.(Text: Barbara Hutzelmann;editor: C. Fritsche; translation C. Hales)

Erinnerungszeichen für Schülerinnen des Luisengymnasiums

Zum 200. Jahrestag seiner Gründung veranstaltete das Luisengymnasium eine Gedenkveranstaltung, um an 20 ehemalige Schülerinnen zu erinnern, die von den Nationalsozialisten ermordet wurden.

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