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Rape at the end of World War II


Seanie Lemass

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20,159
Have been reading a lot about the ending of the war in the east. The heroic part of course is the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of the camps. However, it was accompanied by horrific violence against the populations of Poland and Germany, including mass rapes. Solzhenitsyn witnessed some of what happened and wrote the following harrowing poem about a scene he came upon. The mother of the dead child apparently begged the Soviets to kill her.


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.
It's all come down to simple phrases:
Do not forget!
Do not forgive!
Blood for blood!
A tooth for a tooth!



Rape was also prevalent among some of the other allied troops but not to the same scale as in the east. It was clear that the Germans were seen as fair game for anything by the victorious armies and of course they have had little historical sympathy given the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Nor was it something that was part of public discourse in Germany for decades afterwards. With Douglas' book on the deportations of Germans and recent work on what happened to German women and children in particular, history is only beginning to examine what took place.
 

Clanrickard

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33,045
Have been reading a lot about the ending of the war in the east. The heroic part of course is the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of the camps. However, it was accompanied by horrific violence against the populations of Poland and Germany, including mass rapes. Solzhenitsyn witnessed some of what happened and wrote the following harrowing poem about on scene he came upon. The mother of the dead child apparently begged the Soviets to kill her.


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.
It's all come down to simple phrases:
Do not forget!
Do not forgive!
Blood for blood!
A tooth for a tooth!



Rape was also prevalent among some of the other allied troops but not to the same scale as in the east. It was clear that the Germans were seen as fair game for anything by the victorious armies and of course they have had little historical sympathy given the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Nor was it something that was part of public discourse in Germany for decades afterwards. With Douglas' book on the deportations of Germans and recent work on what happened to German women and children in particular, history is only beginning to examine what took place.
Stalin allegedly said "let them have some fun". I think it was after Bosnia that mass rape was declared to be a war crime. Sadly too late for millions of poor German women.
 

flavirostris

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25,031
The North African Goumiers ( French Colonial troops ) also had a notorious reputation for mass rape in Italy.
 

Hitch 22

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A film version of A Woman In Berlin

[video=youtube;S_gUVuajkEs]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_gUVuajkEs[/video]

A Woman in Berlin (German: Eine Frau in Berlin) is an autobiographical account of the period from 20 April to 22 June 1945 in Berlin (Battle of Berlin). At the author's request, the work was published anonymously for her protection. The book purports to detail the writer's experiences as a rape victim during the Red Army occupation of the city. Two years after her death in 2003 the anonymous author was identified in the Süddeutsche Zeitung by Jens Bisky (a German literary editor) as Marta Hillers. Brisky said that Hillers was a journalist who worked on magazines and newspapers during the Nazi era, and who had also been a small-time propagandist for the Third Reich writing a navy recruiting brochure, but that she was probably not a member of the Nazi Party.
A Woman in Berlin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

sauntersplash

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Alright, don't pick me up wrong here, rape is obviously an unthinkably horrific crime, but in comparison to regularly carpet bombing entire urban civilian populations...it doesn't seem like the worst thing that could have happened.

I say this to try to highlight the fact that war changes the rules of civilisation, utterly.
 

Telemachus

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The Soviet savages were not signatories to the Geneva convention.
 

Seanie Lemass

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Stalin allegedly said "let them have some fun". I think it was after Bosnia that mass rape was declared to be a war crime. Sadly too late for millions of poor German women.

There is conflicting evidence about Stalin. When some Polish communists, I think, wrote to him to complain he said something on the lines of "oh, well thats the sort of things soldiers do." The Red Army did issue strict orders regarding rape and theft but the practise, according to former soldiers was that for the first three days occupying a place they could do as they wished.

One of the saddest aspects of it all is that gangs of liberated prisoners were among those who were engaged in rape and pillage. An awful time. The horror certainly didn't end with the war.
 

ibis

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Joined
Mar 12, 2005
Messages
12,359
Have been reading a lot about the ending of the war in the east. The heroic part of course is the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of the camps. However, it was accompanied by horrific violence against the populations of Poland and Germany, including mass rapes. Solzhenitsyn witnessed some of what happened and wrote the following harrowing poem about a scene he came upon. The mother of the dead child apparently begged the Soviets to kill her.


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.
It's all come down to simple phrases:
Do not forget!
Do not forgive!
Blood for blood!
A tooth for a tooth!



Rape was also prevalent among some of the other allied troops but not to the same scale as in the east. It was clear that the Germans were seen as fair game for anything by the victorious armies and of course they have had little historical sympathy given the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Nor was it something that was part of public discourse in Germany for decades afterwards. With Douglas' book on the deportations of Germans and recent work on what happened to German women and children in particular, history is only beginning to examine what took place.
Not exactly the first time women have been glossed over in the histories of war. War is a masculine narrative, and follows the conventions of masculine narrative, one of which is the implied fate of the loser's women. Implied, but not discussed, because not truly important.
 

H.R. Haldeman

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Isn't it extraordinary that rape was this enormous war crime that went on in every war for centuries, and yet history books and scholarship were close on silent about it until the last decade or so? It'd be akin to historians simply not recording the use of bombs or tanks or trenches. Or concentration camps. The mind boggles at what the Red Army got up to in Germany and Poland in the immediate post-war period.

Laurence Rees' follow-up to his masterpiece Nazis: A Warning from History, which was called War of the Century and documented war in the east, was one of the first times I became aware of just how profound and prevalent a war crime rape was. Terrorism is probably a good word for it.

That series, from 1999, is available on Youtube: War of the Century 1of 4 HD - YouTube

It's not as well known as Rees' Nazi's, but in many ways more terrifying. I can't exactly recall which episode documents the prevalence of rape as a war crime, but it's only 4 episodes and worth watching in any event.
 
Joined
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Alright, don't pick me up wrong here, rape is obviously an unthinkably horrific crime, but in comparison to regularly carpet bombing entire urban civilian populations...it doesn't seem like the worst thing that could have happened.

I say this to try to highlight the fact that war changes the rules of civilisation, utterly.
I understand what you are trying to say, but each evil is an evil whole and entire. Be careful not to succumb to moral relativism.
 

EUrJokingMeRight

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Sep 28, 2009
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11,840
Let's not forget the stories of rape/murder etc by allied forces. It seems in war people turn into savages. Those who engage in war or allow themselves to be manipulated enough to go and murder strangers need to sit back and think about that.

If business interests want to go to war, let them, but be aware of what is really going down. If you're part of an army that is fighting in any country except your own and unless you've been invited in then you are the agressor.
 

sauntersplash

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I understand what you are trying to say, but each evil is an evil whole and entire. Be careful not to succumb to moral relativism.
But doesn't some hierarchy of wrong have to be established if "just" reasons for going to war are to be secured? I would shy away from any use of the word evil in a political context however, relativism being a necessary foundation of international relations.
 

Seanie Lemass

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Joined
Nov 26, 2010
Messages
20,159
Isn't it extraordinary that rape was this enormous war crime that went on in every war for centuries, and yet history books and scholarship were close on silent about it until the last decade or so? It'd be akin to historians simply not recording the use of bombs or tanks or trenches. Or concentration camps. The mind boggles at what the Red Army got up to in Germany and Poland in the immediate post-war period.

Laurence Rees' follow-up to his masterpiece Nazis: A Warning from History, which was called War of the Century and documented war in the east, was one of the first times I became aware of just how profound and prevalent a war crime rape was. Terrorism is probably a good word for it.

That series, from 1999, is available on Youtube: War of the Century 1of 4 HD - YouTube

It's not as well known as Rees' Nazi's, but in many ways more terrifying. I can't exactly recall which episode documents the prevalence of rape as a war crime, but it's only 4 episodes and worth watching in any event.

It has always been an instrument of punishment on the defeated people but generally not mentioned or referred to obliquely. It was also used against captured male soldiers. I recall a reference somewhere to young boys being raped after the Siege of Limerick but can't remember where that was. And one of the great terrors of early modern Europe was being captured by the Turks, for that reason.

Several times I have seen references to the endemic silence and depression that fell over whole communities because of the fact that they had been unable to protect their women and children against rape, which in some places went on for years after 1945.
 

ibis

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12,359
It has always been an instrument of punishment on the defeated people but generally not mentioned or referred to obliquely. It was also used against captured male soldiers. I recall a reference somewhere to young boys being raped after the Siege of Limerick but can't remember where that was. And one of the great terrors of early modern Europe was being captured by the Turks, for that reason.

Several times I have seen references to the endemic silence and depression that fell over whole communities because of the fact that they had been unable to protect their women and children against rape, which in some places went on for years after 1945.
It's part of the point, I suppose - you really know you've been defeated.
 
J

john moriarty

You often hear of this during conflicts.
What makes it truly odious is the suspicion
that senior officers may regard rape as some
sort of 'reward'. Only last week Congolese
soldiers have admitted as much. (Can't find
the link).
 

pippakin

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Joined
Feb 22, 2010
Messages
9,665
Have been reading a lot about the ending of the war in the east. The heroic part of course is the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of the camps. However, it was accompanied by horrific violence against the populations of Poland and Germany, including mass rapes. Solzhenitsyn witnessed some of what happened and wrote the following harrowing poem about a scene he came upon. The mother of the dead child apparently begged the Soviets to kill her.


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.
It's all come down to simple phrases:
Do not forget!
Do not forgive!
Blood for blood!
A tooth for a tooth!



Rape was also prevalent among some of the other allied troops but not to the same scale as in the east. It was clear that the Germans were seen as fair game for anything by the victorious armies and of course they have had little historical sympathy given the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Nor was it something that was part of public discourse in Germany for decades afterwards. With Douglas' book on the deportations of Germans and recent work on what happened to German women and children in particular, history is only beginning to examine what took place.
Horrific. Rape has always been a part of war the very term 'rape and pillage' says it all.

Some years ago I saw a documentary a German woman told how her experience had been that the front line troops had been very business like professionals. It was the troops in the rear the ones whose lives were not at so much risk who would commit the rapes and other atrocities.

There is no doubt that when an army of men is involved in killing on a daily basis something human is lost not permanently but for the duration.
 

Hitch 22

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Many of the Soviet soldiers who invaded Germany 1945 had experienced great brutality in peace time under Stalin's terror or had been inmates of the gulags who were released to fight in the Red Army ranks or had just been released from captivity and immediately press ganged back into the ranks. They were filthy, poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly led, poorly fed and subject to savage discipline from NKVD units and most were kept going only by vodka after they suffered horrendous casualties when they were flung at the German front lines.

They were reduced to the level of animals.

A great book about what happened as the Reich collapsed:

 
Last edited:
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But doesn't some hierarchy of wrong have to be established if "just" reasons for going to war are to be secured? I would shy away from any use of the word evil in a political context however, relativism being a necessary foundation of international relations.
Obviously any casus belli must be sufficiently serious. From a moral point of view, an evil is an evil, no matter what its nature (an evil meaning something contrary to a good). Where we have to function at the level of law or international relations, there is a necessary element of relativism in deciding what should be criminalized or the foundation for intervention (perhaps arbitrarily decided by a combination of Mill's harm principle and deontological ethics). At the level of mass rape and mass murder, there really is little distinction in terms even of this approach - both are easily sufficiently serious.

But at the purely moral level, what is right or wrong is never relative, it is absolute - though interpretations of what is absolutely right or wrong might differ, once one accepts that a wrong is decided relative to the beholder, one denies there being anything inherently wrong at all. Some evils have grave consequences, some have not. In the case of mass rape and mass murder, once some sort of hierarchy of victims is imposed then there is a degree of legitimization of the supposedly lesser tier of evils - they did this so it is ok/understandable/less wrong that we did that. Thus when you said, "but in comparison to regularly carpet bombing entire urban civilian populations...it doesn't seem like the worst thing that could have happened.." I pointed out that you were treading close to this path.
 
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