|Effects and motivations|
As Allied troops entered and occupied German territory during the later stages of World War II, mass rapes of women took place both in connection with combat operations and during the subsequent occupation of Germany. Most Western scholars agree that the majority of the rapes were committed by Soviet servicemen, while some Russian historians maintain that these crimes were not widespread. The wartime rapes had been surrounded by decades of silence.According to Antony Beevor, whose books were banned in 2015 from some Russian schools and colleges, NKVD (Soviet secret police) files have revealed that the leadership knew what was happening, but did little to stop it. Some Russian historians disagree, claiming that the Soviet leadership took some action.
Historians have written about sexual violence committed by the armies of the Western Allies and the Red Army as these forces fought their way into the Third Reich and during the period of occupation.On the territory of Nazi Germany, it began on 21 October 1944 when troops of the Red Army crossed the bridge over the Angerapp creek (marking the border) and committed the Nemmersdorf massacre before they were beaten back a few hours later.
The majority of the assaults were committed in the Soviet occupation zone; estimates of the numbers of German women raped by Soviet soldiers have ranged up to 2 million.According to historian William Hitchcock, in many cases women were the victims of repeated rapes, some as many as 60 to 70 times. At least 100,000 women are believed to have been raped in Berlin, based on surging abortion rates in the following months and contemporary hospital reports, with an estimated 10,000 women dying in the aftermath. Female deaths in connection with the rapes in Germany, overall, are estimated at 240,000. Antony Beevor describes it as the "greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history", and has concluded that at least 1.4 million women were raped in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia alone. According to Soviet war correspondent Natalya Gesse, Soviet soldiers raped German females from eight to eighty years old. Soviet and Polish women were not spared either. When General Tsygankov, head of the political department of the First Ukrainian Front, reported to Moscow the mass rape of Soviet women deported to Germany for forced labour, he recommended that the women be prevented from describing their ordeal on their return to Russia.
When Yugoslav politician Milovan Djilas complained about rapes in Yugoslavia, Stalin reportedly stated that he should "understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle."On another occasion, when told that Red Army soldiers sexually maltreated German refugees, he reportedly said: "We lecture our soldiers too much; let them have their initiative."
Historian Norman Naimark writes that after mid-1945, Soviet soldiers caught raping civilians were usually punished to some degree, ranging from arrest to execution.The rapes continued until the winter of 1947–48, when Soviet occupation authorities finally confined Soviet troops to strictly guarded posts and camps, separating them from the residential population in the Soviet zone of Germany.
In his analysis of the motives behind the extensive Soviet rapes, Norman Naimark singles out "hate propaganda, personal experiences of suffering at home, and an allegedly fully demeaning picture of German women in the press, not to mention among the soldiers themselves" as a part reason for the widespread rapes.Naimark also noted the effect that tendency to binge-drink alcohol (of which much was available in Germany) had on the propensity of Soviet soldiers to commit rape, especially rape-murder. Naimark also notes the allegedly patriarchal nature of Russian culture, and of the Asian societies comprising the Soviet Union, where dishonor was in the past repaid by raping the women of the enemy. The fact that the Germans had a much higher standard of living visible even when in ruins "may well have contributed allegedly to a national inferiority complex among Russians". Combining "Russian feelings of inferiority", the resulting need to restore honor, and their desire for revenge may be the reason many women were raped in public as well as in front of husbands before both were killed.
According to Antony Beevor, revenge was not the only reason for the frequent rapes; but the Soviet troops' feeling of entitlement to all types of spoils of war, including women, was an important factor as well. Beevor exemplifies this with his discovery that Soviet troops also raped Soviet and Polish girls and women that were liberated from Nazi concentration camps as well as those who were held for forced labour at farms and factories.They were often committed by rear echelon units.
The description of the events by Beevor was challenged by Makhmut Gareev who said the work by Beevor was worse than Goebbel's propaganda.According to Russian historian Oleg Rzheshevsky, 4,148 Red Army officers and "a significant number" of soldiers were convicted of atrocities for crimes committed against German civilians.
Richard Overy, a historian from King's College London, has criticised the viewpoint put forth by the Russians, asserting that they refuse to acknowledge Soviet war crimes committed during the war, "Partly this is because they felt that much of it was justified vengeance against an enemy who committed much worse, and partly it was because they were writing the victors' history."
Geoffrey Roberts writes that the Red Army raped women in every country they passed through, but mostly in Austria and Germany: 70,000–100,000 rapes in Vienna, and "hundreds of thousands" of rapes in Germany. He notes that the German Army probably committed tens of thousands of rapes on the Eastern Front, but that murder was the more typical crime for them.
In 2015, Beevor's books were banned in some Russian schools and colleges.
A documentary book, War's Unwomanly Face by Svetlana Alexievich includes memories by Soviet veterans about their experience in Germany.According to a former army officer: "We were young, strong, and four years without women. So we tried to catch German women and ... Ten men raped one girl. There were not enough women; the entire population run from the Soviet Army. So we had to take young, twelve or thirteen year-old. If she cried, we put something into her mouth. We thought it was fun. Now I can not understand how I did it. A boy from a good family... But that was me." A woman telephone operator from the Soviet Army recalled that: "When we occupied every town, we had first three days for looting and ... [rapes]. That was unofficial of course. But after three days one could be court-martialed for doing this. ... I remember one raped German woman laying naked, with hand grenade between her legs. Now I feel shame, but I did not feel shame back then... Do you think it was easy to forgive [the Germans]? We hated to see their clean undamaged white houses. With roses. I wanted them to suffer. I wanted to see their tears. ... Decades had to pass until I started feeling pity for them." While serving as an artillery officer in East Prussia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn witnessed war crimes against local German civilians by Soviet military personnel. Of the atrocities, Solzhenitsyn wrote: "You know very well that we've come to Germany to take our revenge".
The exact number of German women and girls raped by Soviet troops during the war and occupation is uncertain, but western historians estimate their numbers are likely in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly as many as two million.The number of babies, who came to be known as "Russian Children", born as a result is unknown. However, most rapes did not result in pregnancies, and many pregnancies did not result in the victims giving birth. Abortions were the preferred choice of rape victims, and many died as a consequence of internal injuries after being brutally violated, untreated sexually transmitted diseases due to a lack of medicine, badly performed abortions, and suicides, particularly for traumatised victims who had been raped many times. In addition, many children died in post-war Germany as a result of widespread starvation, scarce supplies, and diseases such as typhus and diphtheria. The infant mortality in Berlin reached up to 90 percent.
As to the social effects of this sexual violence Norman Naimark notes:
In any case, just as each rape survivor carried the effects of the crime with her till the end of her life, so was the collective anguish nearly unbearable. The social psychology of women and men in the Soviet zone of occupation was marked by the crime of rape from the first days of occupation, through the founding of the GDR in the fall of 1949, until—one could argue—the present.
West Berliners and women of the wartime generation refer to the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin, as the "tomb of the unknown rapist" in response to the mass rapes by Red Army soldiers in 1945 during and after the Battle of Berlin.
Hannelore Kohl, the wife of former West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, had been gang-raped at age 12 by Soviet soldiers in May 1945, according to her biographer. As a consequence, she sustained a serious lifelong back injury after being thrown out of a first-floor window. She had been suffering long and serious illnesses that experts thought of as the consequence of childhood trauma. Hannelore committed suicide in 2001.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn took part in the invasion of Germany, and wrote a poem about it called Prussian Nights . Parts of the poem read "Twenty-two Hoeringstrasse. It's not been burned, just looted, rifled. A moaning by the walls, half muffled: the mother's wounded, half alive. The little daughter's on the mattress, dead. How many have been on it? A platoon, a company perhaps? A girl's been turned into a woman, a woman turned into a corpse. . . . The mother begs, "Soldier, kill me!"" Records of sexual violence were found in works of other Soviet authors, mostly in the form of war memoirs mentioning particular incidents witnessed by the authors, such as Lev Kopelev, Vladimir Gelfand, Mikhail Koryakov, Eugenii Plimak, David Samoilow, Boris Slutskii, Nikolay Nikulin, Grigorii Pomerants, Leonid Ryabichev and Vassily Grossman. Vera Dubina and Oleg Budnitskii were among those few historians who investigated the subject more systematically.
As most women recoiled from their experiences and had no desire to recount them, most biographies and depictions of the period, like the 2004 German film Downfall , alluded to mass rape by the Red Army but stopped shy of mentioning it explicitly. As time has progressed more works have been produced that have directly addressed the issue, such as the books The 158-Pound Marriage and My Story (1961) by Gemma LaGuardia Gluck [reissued as Fiorello's Sister: Gemma La Guardia Gluck's Story (Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust) (2007, Expanded Edition)],or the 2006 films Joy Division and The Good German .
The topic is the subject of much feminist discourse.The first autobiographical work depicting the events was the ground-breaking 1954 book A Woman in Berlin , which was made into a 2008 feature film. It was widely rejected in Germany after its initial publication but has seen a new acceptance and many women have found inspiration to come forward with their own stories.
In Taken by Force , J. Robert Lilly estimates the number of rapes committed by U.S. servicemen in Germany to be 11,040.As in the case of the American occupation of France after the D-Day invasion, many of the American rapes in Germany in 1945 were gang rapes committed by armed soldiers at gunpoint.
Although non-fraternization policies were instituted for the Americans in Germany, the phrase "copulation without conversation is not fraternization" was used as a motto by United States Army troops.The journalist Osmar White, a war correspondent from Australia who served with the American troops during the war, wrote that
After the fighting moved on to German soil, there was a good deal of rape by combat troops and those immediately following them. The incidence varied between unit and unit according to the attitude of the commanding officer. In some cases offenders were identified, tried by court martial, and punished. The army legal branch was reticent, but admitted that for brutal or perverted sexual offences against German women, some soldiers had been shot –particularly if they happened to be Negroes. Yet I know for a fact that many women were raped by white Americans. No action was taken against the culprits. In one sector a report went round that a certain very distinguished army commander made the wisecrack, 'Copulation without conversation does not constitute fraternisation.'
A typical victimization with sexual assault by drunken American personnel marching through occupied territory involved threatening a German family with weapons, forcing one or more women to engage in sex, and putting the entire family out on the street afterward.
As in the eastern sector of the occupation, the number of rapes peaked in 1945, but a high rate of violence against the German and Austrian populations by the Americans lasted at least into the first half of 1946, with five cases of dead German women found in American barracks in May and June 1946 alone.
Carol Huntington writes that the American soldiers who raped German women and then left gifts of food for them may have permitted themselves to view the act as a prostitution rather than rape. Citing the work of a Japanese historian alongside this suggestion, Huntington writes that Japanese women who begged for food "were raped and soldiers sometimes left food for those they raped."
The black soldiers of America's segregated occupation force were both more likely to be charged with rape and severely punished.Heide Fehrenbach writes that, while the American black soldiers were in fact by no means free from indiscipline,
The point, rather, is that American officials exhibited an explicit interest in a soldier's race, and then only if he were black, when reporting behavior they feared would undermine either the status or the political aims of the U.S. Military Government in Germany.
In 2015, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that German historian Miriam Gebhardt "believes that members of the US military raped as many as 190,000 German women by the time West Germany regained sovereignty in 1955, with most of the assaults taking place in the months immediately following the US invasion of Nazi Germany. The author bases her claims in large part on reports kept by Bavarian priests in the summer of 1945."
Sean Longden states that while not on the scale of the Red Army in the Soviet Zone, the British Military Police regularly investigated reports of rape. However the numbers were small compared to the number of desertions:
The question of how they should respond to the few soldiers who committed serious criminal acts, such as rape and murder, was of little concern to the [British] military authorities. It made good sense to arrest such trouble makers, bring them to trial and dispose of them in military prisons. Such men were easily dispensable and best kept locked away. However how to deal with the army's largest group of offenders, the deserters, was rather less simple.
Longden mentions that some rapes were carried out by soldiers either suffering from post traumatic stress or drunk, but that these were not considered as serious as the less common premeditated crimes.
Longden mentions that on 16 April 1945 three women in Neustadt am Rübenberge were raped, however he does not make clear if this was one incident or three separate ones. He also does not make clear if they were spontaneous or premeditated.He gives an example of a premeditated rape: In the village of Oyle, near Nienburg, an attempted rape of two local girls at gunpoint by two soldiers ended in the death of one of the girls when, whether intentionally or not, one of the soldiers shot her. In a third example Longden highlights that not all British officers were willing to punish their men: When a German woman reported a rape to a British Army medic, two British soldiers were identified by the woman in a line up as the perpetrators, however their commanding officer declined to take any action because "they were going on leave".
Clive Emsley quotes a senior British Army chaplain as reporting that there was "a good deal of rape going on, those who suffer [rape] have probably deserved it", but adds that this probably referred to attacks by former slave labourers (displaced persons) seeking revenge.Longden also mentions such incidents and highlights that for a time Hanover (in the British zone) was in a state of anarchy with deplaced persons raping and murdering German civilians. Initially when German family members approached the overstretched British authorities about murders they were told "we only have time for living people here".
French troops took part in the invasion of Germany, and France was assigned an occupation zone in Germany. Perry Biddiscombe quotes the original survey estimates that the French for instance committed "385 rapes in the Constance area; 600 in Bruchsal; and 500 in Freudenstadt."French soldiers were alleged to have committed widespread rape in the Höfingen District near Leonberg. Katz and Kaiser, though they mention rape, found no specific occurrences in either Höfingen or Leonberg compared to other towns.
According to Norman Naimark, French Moroccan troops matched the behaviour of Soviet troops when it came to rape, in particular in the early occupation of Baden and Württemberg, provided the numbers are correct.
It has been frequently repeated that the wartime rapes were surrounded by decades of silenceor, until relatively recently, ignored by academics, with the prevailing attitude being that the Germans were the perpetrators of war crimes, Soviet writings speaking only of Russian liberation and German guilt, and Western historians concentrating on the details of the Holocaust.
In post-war Germany, especially in West Germany, the wartime rape stories became an essential part of political discourseand that the rape of German women (along with the expulsion of Germans from the East and Allied occupation) had been universalized in an attempt to situate the German population on the whole as victims. However, it has been argued that it was not a "universal" story of women being raped by men, but of German women being abused and violated by an army that fought Nazi Germany and liberated death camps.
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The Organised persecution of ethnic Germans refers to systematic activity against groups of ethnic Germans based on their ethnicity.
Hiwi, the German abbreviation of the word Hilfswilliger or, in English, auxiliary volunteer, designated, during World War II, the member of different kinds of voluntary auxiliary forces made up of recruits indigenous to the territories of Eastern Europe occupied by Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler reluctantly agreed to allow recruitment of Soviet citizens in the Rear Areas during Operation Barbarossa. In a short period of time, many of them were moved to combat units.
The evacuation of East Prussia was the movement of German civilian population and military personnel from East Prussia between 20 January and March 1945, that was initially organized and carried out by state authorities but quickly turned into a chaotic flight from the Red Army.
The Siege of Budapest or Battle of Budapest was the 50-day-long encirclement by Soviet and Romanian forces of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, near the end of World War II. Part of the broader Budapest Offensive, the siege began when Budapest, defended by Hungarian and German troops, was first encircled on 26 December 1944 by the Red Army and the Romanian Army. During the siege, about 38,000 civilians died through starvation or military action. The city unconditionally surrendered on 13 February 1945. It was a strategic victory for the Allies in their push towards Berlin.
Allied war crimes include both alleged and legally proven violations of the laws of war by the Allies of World War II against either civilians or military personnel of the Axis powers.
During World War II, the Germans' combined armed forces committed systematic war crimes, including massacres, mass rape, looting, the exploitation of forced labor, the murder of three million Soviet prisoners of war, and participated in the extermination of Jews. While the Nazi Party's own SS forces of Nazi Germany was the organization most responsible for the genocidal killing of the Holocaust, the regular armed forces of the Wehrmacht committed many war crimes of their own, particularly on the Eastern Front in the war against the Soviet Union. According to a study by Alex J. Kay and David Stahel, the majority of the Wehrmacht soldiers deployed to the Soviet Union participated in war crimes.
The war crimes which were perpetrated by the Soviet Union and its armed forces from 1919 to 1991 include acts which were committed by the Red Army as well as acts which were committed by the NKVD, including acts which were committed by the NKVD's Internal Troops. In some cases, these acts were committed upon the orders of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in pursuance of the early Soviet Government's policy of Red Terror. In other instances they were committed without orders by Soviet troops against prisoners of war or civilians of countries that had been in armed conflict with the USSR, or they were committed during partisan warfare.
Marta Hillers was a German journalist, and the author of the memoir, Eine Frau in Berlin, published anonymously in 1959 and 2003 in German. It is the diary of a German woman from 20 April to 22 June 1945, during and after the Battle of Berlin. The book details the author's rape, in the context of mass rape by the occupying forces, and how she and many other German women chose to take a Soviet officer as a protector.
The Aftermath of World War II was the beginning of a new era, defined by the decline of all European colonial empires and simultaneous rise of two superpowers: the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (USA). Allies during World War II, the US and the USSR became competitors on the world stage and engaged in the Cold War, so called because it never resulted in overt, declared hot war between the two powers but was instead characterized by espionage, political subversion and proxy wars. Western Europe and Japan were rebuilt through the American Marshall Plan whereas Central and Eastern Europe fell under the Soviet sphere of influence and eventually behind an "Iron Curtain". Europe was divided into a US-led Western Bloc and a Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. Internationally, alliances with the two blocs gradually shifted, with some nations trying to stay out of the Cold War through the Non-Aligned Movement. The War also saw a nuclear arms race between the two superpowers; part of the reason that the Cold War never became a "hot" war was that the Soviet Union and the United States had nuclear deterrents against each other, leading to a mutually assured destruction standoff.
A Woman in Berlin (1959/2003) is an anonymous memoir by a German woman, revealed in 2003 to be journalist Marta Hillers. It covers the weeks from 20 April to 22 June 1945, during the capture of Berlin and its occupation by the Red Army. The writer describes the widespread rapes by Soviet soldiers, including her own, and the women's pragmatic approach to survival, often taking Soviet officers for protection.
The battle in Berlin was an end phase of the Battle of Berlin. While the Battle of Berlin encompassed the attack by three Soviet Army Groups to capture not only Berlin but the territory of Germany east of the River Elbe still under German control, the battle in Berlin details the fighting and German capitulation that took place within the city.
Berlin: The Downfall 1945 is a narrative history by Antony Beevor of the Battle of Berlin during World War II. It was published by Viking Press in 2002, then later by Penguin Books in 2003. The book achieved both critical and commercial success. It has been a number-one best seller in seven countries apart from Britain, and in the top five in another nine countries. Together with Beevor's Stalingrad, first published in 1998, they have sold nearly three million copies.
Wartime sexual violence is rape or other forms of sexual violence committed by combatants during armed conflict, war, or military occupation often as spoils of war; but sometimes, particularly in ethnic conflict, the phenomenon has broader sociological motives. Wartime sexual violence may also include gang rape and rape with objects. It is distinguished from sexual harassment, sexual assaults, and rape committed amongst troops in military service.
The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany on 23 August 1939. In addition to stipulations of non-aggression, the treaty included a secret protocol that divided territories of Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland into German and Soviet Union "spheres of influence", anticipating potential "territorial and political rearrangements" of these countries. In October and November 1940, German-Soviet talks about the potential of joining the Axis took place in Berlin, nothing came from the talks since Hitler's Ideological goal was Lebensraum in the East.
Rapes during the occupation of Japan were war rapes or rapes committed under the Allied military occupation of Japan. Allied troops committed a number of rapes during the Battle of Okinawa during the last months of the Pacific War and the subsequent occupation of Japan. The Allies occupied Japan until 1952 following the end of World War II and Okinawa Prefecture remained under US governance for two decades after. Estimates of the incidence of sexual violence by Allied occupation personnel differ considerably.
The subject of rape during the Soviet occupation of Poland at the end of World War II in Europe was absent from the postwar historiography until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, although the documents of the era show that the problem was serious both during and after the advance of Soviet forces against Nazi Germany in 1944–1945. The lack of research for nearly half a century regarding the scope of sexual violence by Soviet males, wrote Katherine Jolluck, had been magnified by the traditional taboos among their victims, who were incapable of finding "a voice that would have enabled them to talk openly" about their wartime experiences "while preserving their dignity." Joanna Ostrowska and Marcin Zaremba of the Polish Academy of Sciences wrote that rapes of the Polish women reached a mass scale during the Red Army's Winter Offensive of 1945.
U.S. soldiers were reported committing rape against French women during and after the liberation of France in the later stages of World War II. The sociologist J. Robert Lilly of Northern Kentucky University estimates that U.S. servicemen committed around 3,500 rapes in France between June 1944 and the end of the war.
Genocidal rape is the action of a group who has carried out acts of mass rape during wartime against their enemy as part of a genocidal campaign. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Yugoslav Wars, the Rwandan genocide, the Iraqi Civil War, the second Sino-Japanese war, and the Rohingya genocide; the mass rapes that had been an integral part of those conflicts brought the concept of genocidal rape to international prominence. Although war rape has been a recurrent feature in conflicts throughout history, it has usually been looked upon as a by-product of conflict, and not an integral part of military policy.
Rape in Germany is defined by Section 177 of the Criminal Code of Germany. The definition of rape has changed over time from its original formulation in the penal code established in 1871, as extramarital intercourse with a woman by force or the threat. In 1997 laws were amended to criminalize marital rape, incorporate gender-neutral language, and recognize the effect of psychological coercion. In 2016 German laws were rewritten to remove a previous requirement that a victim physically resist their assailants and be overcome by force. The new law recognized any physical or verbal cue that one party does not consent to sexual contact. It also mandated deportation for migrants convicted of sexual assault, made it easier to prosecute rapes committed by groups, and criminalized other types of unwanted sexual contact, such as groping or fondling. The changes followed a series of high-profile cases that sparked public outrage at the inadequacy of the law.