Olga Benario Prestes

Olga Benario Prestes

German-Brazilian communist revolutionary
Date of Birth: 12.02.1908
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Olga Benario-Préstes
  2. Early Life and Activism
  3. Political Involvement and Relationship with Otto Braun
  4. Escape to the Soviet Union and International Work
  5. Marriage to Luis Carlos Prestes and Arrest
  6. Imprisonment, Birth of Anita, and Tragic Fate
  7. Literary and Film Depictions

Biography of Olga Benario-Préstes

Early Life and Activism

Olga Benario-Préstes was a German-Brazilian revolutionary and communist. She was born into a wealthy German-Jewish family in Munich to Leo Benario, a social-democratic lawyer. Olga received a liberal upbringing and was exposed to socialist and communist ideals from a young age, as her father defended political activists in court. At the age of 15, Olga already held leading positions in the German Communist Youth Union.

Political Involvement and Relationship with Otto Braun

Olga left her family home in Munich in 1926 and moved to Berlin, where she actively worked in the communist party and became one of the leaders of the communist youth in the Neukölln district. It was in Berlin that she met Otto Braun, a seasoned communist activist with experience in underground resistance work. They fell in love and were both arrested by the police on charges of espionage and conspiracy. Olga was released thanks to her father's efforts as a lawyer, but Braun remained in prison.

Escape to the Soviet Union and International Work

On April 11, 1928, Olga and Braun were abducted from the courtroom by members of the German Communist Party, including Olga herself. While the police searched for them fruitlessly throughout the city, they secretly made their way to Czechoslovakia and then to Moscow. In Moscow, Olga enrolled in the International Lenin School. After completing her studies, she worked as a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International and engaged in anti-fascist work in France and England.

Marriage to Luis Carlos Prestes and Arrest

In 1931, Olga and Braun ended their relationship. In 1934, Olga received a mission to assist Luis Carlos Prestes, a well-known charismatic left-wing army captain in Brazil, in his illegal trip back to Brazil. They left the Soviet Union with fake Portuguese passports, posing as a married couple. To confuse the Brazilian authorities, news was spread about Prestes' alleged participation in a communist congress in Moscow. Olga and Prestes fell in love during the trip and married in 1935. However, after the failed November uprising against the dictator-president Getúlio Vargas in 1936, they were tracked down and arrested.

Imprisonment, Birth of Anita, and Tragic Fate

Despite protests and campaigns, Olga was handed over to the Gestapo by the Brazilian authorities. She was taken to Germany while pregnant in September 1936. After giving birth to her daughter Anita Leocadia Prestes on November 27, 1936, Olga was placed in a women's prison. In 1939, she was transferred to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she was classified as a "Jewish" prisoner. Olga maintained her spirit and courage in the camp and conducted underground educational activities among other prisoners. In 1942, she was selected, along with 2,000 other women prisoners, for medical experiments and was killed by poison on April 23, 1942, in Bernburg.

Literary and Film Depictions

Olga Benario-Préstes has been depicted in various forms of art. In 1942, Georges Amado compared her to Anita Garibaldi, the Uruguayan wife of the famous Italian revolutionary, in his biography of Luis Prestes. In 2004, a biographical drama film titled "Olga" was made by Brazilian director Jayme Monjardim, with actress Camila Morgado portraying Olga. Additionally, a documentary film titled "Olga Benario - Ein Leben für die Revolution" was made by Turkish director Galip Iyitanir. An opera, "Olga," composed by Jorge Antunes, premiered in São Paulo in 2006.

Olga Benario-Préstes is remembered today through streets named after her in Berlin and other cities in East Germany, as well as schools and childcare centers bearing her name.