Munich and Berlin
Olga Benario was born on February 12th 1908 to a Jewish family in Munich. Her father was a lawyer and a member of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). She became a member of the German Communist Youth Organization (KJVD) and was described as „a communist agitator“ in Munich police files. In 1925 Olga went to Berlin, where she became a leading KJVD functionary in the working-class neighbourhood of Berlin-Neukoelln. In 1926, Olga was arrested charged with „attempted high treason.“ She was put on probation for two months.
Illegality – Europe and Moscow
In 1928, Olga Benario and comrades from the Communist Party’s “Antimilitarist Organization” assisted in the jailbreak of Otto Braun, Olga’s boyfriend and comrade, who had been held in Berlin’s Moabit prison since 1926 as a member of the CP’s secret military branch. After hiding with Communist comrades in Germany, Olga Benario and Otto Braun fled successfully to the Soviet Union, where Olga participated as a German delegate in the Young Communist International’s 5th congress. She received a military decoration from the Soviet Union and travelled to France and Great Britain as a political organizer. .
In 1935, after Otto Braun had been sent to China, Olga Benario was ordered by the Communist International to be the companion of Luis Carlos Prestes, Brazil’s “Knight of Hope” and upcoming leader of the Brazilian CP. Crossing the Atlantic together, Olga and Luis Carlos fell in love, and Olga got pregnant. As they arrived in Rio Janero, Communists there were attempting to overthrow the government of Brazil headed by Getulio Vargas, but the revolt failed, and Olga and Luis Carlos were arrested.
Extradition to Germany
Despite international protest, Olga Benario was extradited to Nazi Germany by the Brazilian government of President Vargas. The Gestapo incarcerated her in Barnimstrasse prison in Berlin, where she gave birth to her daughter, Anita Leocadia, on November 27th, 1936. Supported by an international campaign, Prestes’ mother, Mrs. Leocadia Prestes, got custody of the baby child Anita, who was brought to Mexico in 1938.
Concentration camps and the death of Olga Benario
The Gestapo transferred Olga to the Lichtenburg concentration camp in 1938. In 1939, the female prisoners in Lichtenburg were sent to the new camp in Ravensbrück. As a prisoner in Ravensbrück, Olga was part of the camp’s clandestine Communist network. In 1942 Olga, a Jew and a communist, was sent to the Bernburg Psychiatric Clinic’s gas chambers, where she was murdered by carbon monoxide gas in “Action T4”