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    Anita Prestes

    Olga Benario, the Communist That Nazi Gestapo Hounded Most Vehemently

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    Olga Benario was a German-Brazilian Communist activist who was executed by the Nazis in Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1942. Seventy-five years on, Sputnik Mundo met with her daughter, Anita Prestes, whose book of memoirs about her mother will come out in Brazil later this month.

    “A Communist in Gestapo Archives” is a 2,000 page biography of the German-born Jewish Communist who died in a Nazi gas chamber in 1942 aged 34.

    Anita Prestes wrote it after going through a wealth of Nazi documents about her mother that were recently declassified in Russia.

    Early years

    Born into a Jewish family in Munich in 1908, Olga Benario became involved in Communist activities early on. Aged 20, she was forced to flee to the Soviet Union with her finance, Otto Braun, a writer whom she helped escape from Berlin’s Moabit prison in 1928.

    In Moscow she made the acquaintance of Brazilian political activist Luis Carlos Prestes. In 1934, Prestes was to return to Brazil to lead a newly-formed Communist movement.

    Due to her military training, Olga was assigned to accompany him as a bodyguard. In order to accomplish this mission, false papers were created stating that they were a Portuguese married couple.

    After a failed insurrection in November 1935, Olga and Luis were arrested by the pro-Nazi regime of Brazilian President Getulio Vargas. 

    An investigation, conducted jointly with German Gestapo, disclosed Olga Benario’s real identity. Pregnant and separated from Prestes, she was deported to Germany in 1936.

    In was in one of Berlin’s prisons that Anita Prestes was born later that same year.

    When asked about the hardship she had suffered as the daughter of revolutionaries in Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Anita, now a doctor of philosophy in Moscow, said that she was proud of her parents and of the ideal of social justice they had instilled in her.

    After spending a year in prison, Anita was separated from her mother and sent back to her family in Brazil. Olga Benario spent the next six years in jail and concentration camps before she died in a gas chamber in Ravensbruck on April 23, 1942.

    In her last letter to her daughter and members of the Prestes family, she wrote, “I fought for the most fair, kind and best things for this world.”

    Anita said that her book about her mother was based on yet unpublished Gestapo archives that were revealed to the public just two years ago.

    “There is more information which I’m holding back right now to keep people interested,” she told Sputnik Mundo.

    Parts of this story have been retold in numerous books and a popular Brazilian film based on Benario's life, “Olga,” directed by Jayme Monjardim, which focused on her love affair with Luis Prestes.

    Gestapo accounts

    The declassified documents consist of 2,000 pages of the so-called “Bernario Trial.” After the war they were seized by the Soviet Army and were kept in KGB archives in Moscow for decades.

    Anita Prestes, who says she is a “Brazilian Communist proud of the internationalist ideals of her parents who died for the Revolution,” has also published a biography of her father.

    Twice exiled to the Soviet Union, she has fond memories of the “solidarity shown by the Soviet Government and the Soviet people with revolutionaries persecuted in their own countries.”


    The daughter of Olga Benario and Luis Prestes is worried by the lack of social justice in Brazil.

    She considers President Michel Temer as “a usurper of the mandate not handed to him by the Brazilian people” and condemns “the parliamentary putsch,” which deposed former President Dilma Rousseff last year.


    Anita Prestes wants “all of the country’s democratic and progressive forces” to join together to offer “a real power alternative that would cater to the needs of the working people and the majority of the population.”

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