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Rape of women |  The Soviet Union’s retaliation was harsh: the rape of German women

Rape of women | The Soviet Union’s retaliation was harsh: the rape of German women

comment Expresses the writer’s opinions.

The gruesome stories of the mass rapes that occurred in the spring and summer of 1945 were suppressed for decades after the war ended.

It was only after German reunification that historians were able to come to grips with this labor crisis, which must have affected almost all families in the country.

How broad—how terrible—it dawned on me that day in all its horror.

In a reportage from TV station ARD, young women came forward and talked about the beginning of their nightmare.

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For several years, Joseph Goebbels ran hard-hitting propaganda that if the Red Army invaded Germany, Soviet retaliation would be terrible.

German soldiers on the Eastern Front – if Germany did not win the war – had to expect that their daughters, wives, sisters and mothers would become victims of the violent excesses of the wild mobs.

Because also on the German home front, people were perfectly fine with their soldiers burning, looting, raping, and killing in grand style during their brutal advance eastward.

Sexual assault

In Women as Spoils of War, historian Miriam Gebhardt recounts how the war developed exactly as the Nazi propaganda apparatus had predicted:

As Soviet forces advanced, German women of all ages were subjected to every form of sexual assault imaginable.

Almost everyone survived. The historian posits that in Berlin alone – which had a population of three million in 1945 – 110,000 women were raped – many of them repeatedly.

In the area that came under Soviet occupation – with the exception of Berlin – up to 500,000 women are said to have been raped.

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Everywhere

This can happen in broad daylight or during a midnight house search, in a field, in a basement or outbuilding, in cabins and villas, in hospitals or officers’ clubs, in cars or sometimes in separate – specially designed – vehicles. – Rape rooms.

The Soviet soldiers had received a clear message in advance: the German woman stood behind her men – when they ran frantically across Soviet territory. So she deserved what was coming.

In the weeks before and after the German collapse, there was no law enforcement, so women also had no place to report what they had been exposed to.

In the Red Army, they placed their protective hands on everyone who participated.

The victims were therefore left to fend for themselves.

miscarriage?

But in the summer of 1945, women began to go to hospitals in large numbers to have abortions.

Suddenly, they were faced with questions suggesting that they themselves were responsible for the pregnancy. Didn’t they really flirt with soldiers, let alone sell their bodies for food?

In cases where there was no report – that is, in almost all cases – abortion requests were rejected.

Stories are still told of angry and desperate women who, in order to get rid of the fetus, were forced to undergo illegal abortions, performed by non-doctors in unsanitary and disastrous conditions.

It is no longer possible to estimate the number of people who lost their lives in this way.

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Suicide

But the fact that there was widespread fear of what was to come is clear from the suicide statistics.

In the first four months of 1945, just under 4,000 suicides among Berlin women were recorded.

Since Christmas 1945 and the following months, at least 30,000 births as a result of rape have been recorded.

From the documents still available from all these cases, Miriam Gebhardt was able to conclude that at least 900,000 women – and perhaps many more – had been subjected to one or more cases of rape.

Special error

The assaults soon became insignificant, and with the creation of the German states, politicians decided not to provide compensation to rape victims.

They themselves were supposed to bear responsibility for what happened – and also live with the shame.

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Before the fall of the Wall, there were regular reports in Western Europe about how Red Army soldiers were wreaking havoc.

But it was never a subject that was widely exploited by French, British and American soldiers.

For Americans, Gebhardt assumes roughly 190,000 cases.

Here you can read more about Asbjørn Svarstad

submerged down

But since West Germany became a close ally of the United States after the war, the importance of these matters has been downplayed.

The same was true of the French, who during their advance through southern Germany had acquired a reputation for brutality – often motivated by a desire for revenge for German abuses in their homeland.

The historian did not see the documents received from the British occupation zone.

In the communist German Democratic Republic, it was, of course, completely taboo to claim that “liberators” from the Great Brotherhood of the East had acted in a way that led to hundreds of thousands of involuntary pregnancies.

Social punishment

The victims were quickly stigmatized as the real perpetrators, and no one wanted to hear their stories.

When historian Gebhardt began contacting some of them, she was astounded by the large number of responses – even though these women were over ninety years old.

Many of them had heartbreaking stories to tell, both about rapes and what awaited them afterward.

Many were clear that the ensuing decades of social punishment within their families – as well as in the entire local area – were worse for many than the actual physical assaults of 1945.

Ironically, it was the reports of Catholic priests to their superiors in Munich that made it possible to piece together some kind of picture of the circumstances under which the Vestal forces advanced.

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Racial stigma

Popularly, North African soldiers from the French army were blamed for most of the abuses.

The same is true for people of color in the US military.

But because the German bureaucracy caught many cases – by recording the skin color of children – it is possible today to prove that these rumors were false – and based on the violent racist hatred that was directed against African soldiers from 1940 until the Nazis. Advertising.

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Although historians addressed this topic late and dealt with it seriously, it was whispered and gossip in women’s families and neighborhoods.

So many chose to adopt “children of shame,” sending them to foster parents — or leaving them to grow up in an orphanage.

Aging panic

In the mid-nineties, I had many contacts with two young Germans who were serving their military service in a geriatric ward – that is, for people suffering from geriatric diseases.

Late one night at a bar, they started telling stories from work. One of them was mistakenly placed on night duty in a women’s ward.

It went completely wrong, because a woman with Alzheimer’s woke up, saw the young civilian worker and screamed that they must not rape her again. Eventually, more people woke up, and in the ensuing chaos, they also believed that Soviet soldiers were going to get them.

This forgotten – and well-hidden – story comes at a time when German media publish almost daily reports about Russian soldiers who these days behave in the same way in dealing with Ukrainian women.

To this day, rape is clearly part of the Kremlin’s way of waging war.

Humiliating the enemy by desecrating his women and forcing them to give birth to the children of the rapists.

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Psychotherapist

Immediately after the war, some huge, and some not quite so huge, Victory Monuments were erected in almost all the cities of the GDR.

They like to show the heroic Soviet soldier.

Here in Berlin there are three large monuments and five smaller ones. In all years, they were referred to in East German colloquial language as a “rapist.”

As a condition for agreeing to German reunification, the Soviet government demanded that all these monuments of victory be permanently preserved and maintained at Germany’s expense.

After the attack on Ukraine, the old nickname returned to everyday talk.

Now they are again called “rapist”.