April 23, 2015
All wars are bad. All wars are evil. All wars are inherently bad and evil. And World War Two was the most inherently bad and evil of all wars. No matter what some desk-bound Jewish propagandist might scribble, and no matter what some Christian nightly news reader might mumble, there is no such thing as a “Good War” and there was no such thing as a “Greatest Generation.” War unleashes pent hate. War lends a degree of legitimacy to the basest instincts in man. War is organized savagery. And never was this on uglier display than in World War Two. And never has the term “hell on earth” come closer to an actual manifestation than on the Eastern Front.
As momentum swung to the Soviet Union late in the war, the Red Army turned viciously on the crippled German Wehrmacht. First through Russia, then through Poland, the Soviets ruthlessly pursued the German army until by January, 1945, the communists were on the very borders of the Reich itself. When the final push for Berlin began, and when Soviet forces finally rolled across Germany, it caused widespread panic among German civilians.
The following is from my books, Rape Hate—Sex & Violence in War & Peace, and Hellstorm–The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947. It is not a pretty picture to paint. For over 70 years the world has been told only one side of that terrible war–the side that won. To this very day, unfortunately, these books and a handful of others remain the only books which actually attempt to describe what the war looked like to those who lost it. My hope when I began writing these books–my hope then, my hope now–was to tell the story as accurately and honestly as possible; to let the world know what actually occurred during that so-called “Good War,” not simply what we were told occurred. My hope then, my hope now, is that if enough people of good will read the books, understand the books, then act upon the books, then the day will soon come when the world will rise up and with a united voice declare that nothing like this will ever happen again, not in their names, not in their times, not to them . . . not to anyone.
Unfortunately, and as horrible as the ensuing pages are, the reader should keep in mind that the following deals with only one nightmarish component of a war filled with Allied war crimes–terror bombing, torture, starvation, massacre, enslavement—crimes that are even now, after over 70 years, still largely unknown. Taken together, the ugly things that were done to the defeated Germans by the victorious Allies remain to this day the darkest and best-kept secret in human history.
Unlike the wild and almost unmanageable Red Army, US military commanders might have prevented much of the excesses committed by their men against helpless civilians had they but so willed it. In many cases, however, they did not. On the contrary, the words of some high-ranking officers seemed designed to encourage atrocities.
“We are engaged in a total war, and every individual member of the German people has turned it into such,” US general, Omar Bradley announced. “If it had not been Hitler leading the Germans, then it would have been someone else with the same ideas. The German people enjoy war and are determined to wage war until they rule the world and impose their way of life on us.”
“[T]he German is a beast,” echoed Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight David Eisenhower, a man whose hatred of all things German was well known. In much the same vein as Joseph Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower advocated the outright massacre of German army officers, Nazi Party members and others. In all, according to the American general, at least 100,000 Germans should be “exterminated.”
“In heart, body, and spirit . . . every German is Hitler!” faithfully trumpeted the US Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. “Hitler is the single man who stands for the beliefs of Germans. Don’t make friends with Hitler. Don’t fraternize. If in a German town you bow to a pretty girl or pat a blond child … you bow to Hitler and his reign of blood.”
Not surprisingly, such sentiment from above quickly worked its way down. Soon after combat soldiers moved out of a community and rear echelon troops moved in, the reality of occupation became clear. Wrote one shocked reporter, William Stoneman of the Chicago Daily News:
Frontline troops are rough and ready about enemy property. They naturally take what they find if it looks interesting, and, because they are in the front lines, nobody says anything. . . . But what front-line troops take is nothing compared to the damage caused by wanton vandalism of some of the following troops. They seem to ruin everything, including the simplest personal belongings of the people in whose homes they are billeted. Today, we have had two more examples of this business, which would bring tears to the eyes of anybody who has appreciation of material values.
“We were crazy with happiness when the Americans came . . . ,” one woman said, “[but] what [they] did here was quite a disappointment that hit our family pretty hard.”
They broke everything and threw it all outside. Later, we found only piles of rubbish. . . . Those who came in the first few days were fighting troops and they had seen something of the war. But those who came later … hadn’t seen anything at all. And many of these very young soldiers wanted to experience something, like repeat a little of the war. . . . We had original watercolors and so forth on the walls, which weren’t framed, and they wrote all over them. In the cellar we had bottles of apple juice. When we wanted to get some later, after the Americans had left, they’d drunk it all up and filled the bottles with urine. Or, in our cooking pots was toilet paper, used toilet paper.
In many towns, the invaders unlocked jails, prisons and concentration camps and invited the inmates to join the revelry. “They just opened up the camps and let them go,” noted Amy Schrott, a young German raised in New Jersey. “The Russians and Poles were looting the houses and killing the shopkeepers. Then they began raping the girls.”
When a prison camp at Salzwedel was thrown open, a mob of various nationalities literally tore the town to pieces. Locating the mayor, a gang of Russians dragged the man, his wife and daughter to the cemetery. After lashing the mayor to a tombstone, a line of laughing men began taking turns with his naked wife as she screamed on her hands and knees. When a Mongolian started to rape his daughter, the father, in a final fit of rage, tore the tombstone from the ground, then fell over dead.
A glimpse at the anarchy unleashed is given by Christabel Bielenberg of Furtwangen as she pedaled a bicycle near the town:
It was like a drunken circus along the road. There were hordes of liberated Russian forced laborers, all dressed in clothes they had looted from all the ransacked shops, roaring with laughter and falling all over the road. And there were soldiers in huge army trucks tearing past all over the road in a crazy kind of way—it was a fantastic scene….
When we got to Furtwangen it was in pandemonium. All the radios had been requisitioned from their German owners and put in the windows facing outward toward the street—and each radio was playing a different program at full blast. All the freed Russians and Poles were waltzing down the street—it was just like a carnival going through the town. The Germans were walking round in a daze wearing white armbands as a sign of surrender. As for the French . . . [t]he troops were not French but Moroccan…. These were the men who occupied our area.
That was when the raping started. [They] raped up and down our valley in the first few days. Two people were shot trying to protect their wives. Then they moved out and another lot of French colonial troops moved in—Goums from the Sahara, tall, black, strange people in uniforms like gray dressing-gowns. They were terrifying. First they came into Rohrbach and stole all the chickens and my children’s rabbits. A few days later they came at night and surrounded every house in the village and raped every female between 12 and 80…. What was so frightening about them was the silent way in which they moved…. [T]hey came up to the door and one of them asked: “Where’s your husband?” I said that he was away and as I was talking to them I suddenly realized that one of them was standing right behind me—he had climbed in through a window and crept right up to me through that creaking wooden . . . house without making the slightest sound.
While Moroccan and other French colonial troops had an especially bad reputation and raped on a massive scale in Germany and Italy, American and British soldiers were not above reproach. “Our own Army and the British Army . . . have done their share of looting and raping … ,” a US sergeant admitted. “[W]e too are considered an army of rapists.”
“Many a sane American family would recoil in horror if they knew how ‘Our Boys’ conduct themselves . . . over here,” added another GI.
“We expected Russian lawlessness ..,” said one German, “but we once believed the Americans were different.”
Like the helpless women to the west, females in Berlin could do little else but sit in their cellars and wait as the battle for the city raged overhead. Unlike bombing raids, which had a certain rhyme and rhythm, death from artillery could come at any moment. Hence, life was now passed almost entirely underground talking . . . and thinking.
“The word ‘Russians’ is no longer mentioned. The lips won’t pronounce it,” confided one thirty-year-old female. While rape was on everyone’s mind, she added, “not a single woman talked about ‘it.’”
A nervous gaiety breaks out. All kinds of stories are making the rounds. Frau W. screeches: “Rather a Russki on the belly than an A[merican] on the head!”—a joke not quite fitting her mourning crepe. Fraulein Behn shouts through the cellar: “Now let’s be frank—I’ll bet there’s not a virgin among us!” No one answers. I find myself wondering. . . . Probably the janitor’s younger daughter, who is only sixteen and who, ever since her sister’s faux-pas, has been strictly watched. And certainly, if I know anything about the faces of young girls, the eighteen-year-old … who is sleeping peacefully in the corner.
As their frightened countrymen to the east had earlier discovered, Berliners also soon found that tough and hard as Russian shock troops might be, they were a far cry from the blood-thirsty monsters propaganda and imaginations had sketched them as. “The first troops were friendly and gave us food,” said a teenager. “They had officers with them who spoke German very well and told us to be calm, that everything would be all right.” But also like their eastern brethren, Berliners soon learned that there was a world of difference between the first wave of Soviet soldiers and the second.
“These are good, disciplined and decent soldiers,” one Russian officer explained to a Mother Superior at a maternity hospital. “But I must tell you—the ones coming up behind are pigs.”
With such warnings, some terrified women tried to follow the front, dodging from cellar to cellar, dying from bombs and bullets as they did, but staying just ahead of the horror behind. For most, however, it was too late.
I step out into the dark corridor. Then they got me. Both men had been standing there waiting. I scream, scream. . . . One man seizes me by the wrists and drags me along the corridor. Now the other one also pulls, at the same time gripping my throat with one hand so that I can no longer scream…. I’m already on the ground, my head lying on the lowest cellar stair. I can feel the coldness of the tiles against my back. Something falls from my coat with a tinkling sound. Must be my house keys…. One man stands guard at the door upstairs while the other claws at my underwear, tears my garter belt to shreds and violently, ruthlessly has his way….
When it’s all over and, reeling, I try to get up, the other man hurls himself upon me and with fists and knees forces me back on the floor. Now the first man is standing guard, whispering: “Hurry, hurry… .”
Suddenly I hear loud Russian voices. Someone has opened the door at the top of the staircase, letting in light. Three Russians come in, the third one a woman in uniform. They look at me and laugh. My second attacker, interrupted, has leaped to his feet. They both go off with the others, leaving me lying on the floor. I pull myself up by the banister, gather my things together, and stagger along the wall toward the door of the cellar. . . . My stockings are hanging over my shoes, my hair has fallen wildly over my face, in my hand are the remains of the garter belt.
“What followed was worse than anything we had ever imagined,” recalled nineteen-year-old Juliane Hartman.
One Russian went into the garage and the other headed for the house. Not having the slightest idea of what would happen, I followed the man into the house. First, he locked all of the doors behind him and put the keys in his pocket. I began to feel a bit funny when we got to one of the bedrooms. I wanted to go out on the balcony, but he pointed his gun at me and said, “Frau komm!” We had already heard about a few of the horrible things going on, so I knew one thing for certain and that was “Don’t try to defend yourself.” An upper-middle-class child, I had never been told about the facts of life.
A short time later, Juliane learned much more about the “facts of life” when “an entire horde of Mongolians” stood facing her.
Recounts Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, a German communist:
In the middle of the night I wake up. A flashlight is shining into my face. “Come, woman,” I hear a voice. The smell of cheap liquor assails me…. A hand covers my mouth. “Good woman … come,” the voice repeats. A heavy body falls upon me. “No, no,” I gargle, half choked, trying to slip deeper into the pillows. The smell of cheap liquor. Close to my ear panting breath. “O God! … Dear God!”
Following her own ordeal, Andreas-Friedrich tried to console a young Marxist friend:
She sits huddled on her couch. “One ought to kill oneself,” she moans. “This is no way to live.” She covers her face with her hands and starts to cry. It is terrible to see her swollen eyes, terrible to look at her disfigured features.
“Was it really that bad?” I ask.
She looks at me pitifully. “Seven,” she says. “Seven in a row. Like animals… .”
She is eighteen years old and didn’t know anything about love. Now she knows everything. Over and over again, sixty times.
“How can you defend yourself?” she says impassively, almost indifferently. “When they pound at the door and fire their guns senselessly. Each night new ones, each night others. The first time when they took me and forced my father to watch, I thought I would die… .”
I shudder. For four years Goebbels told us that the Russians would rape us. That they would rape and plunder, murder and pillage.
“Atrocity propaganda!” we said as we waited for the Allied liberators.
A German attorney and his Jewish wife were two more Berliners who had eagerly anticipated the arrival of Soviet troops. According to a witness:
For months the couple had been looking forward to the liberation of Berlin, had spent nights by the radio, listening to foreign broadcasts. Then, when the first Russians forced their way into the cellar and yelled for women, there had been a free-for-all and shooting. A bullet had ricocheted off the wall and hit the lawyer in the hip. His wife had thrown herself on the Russians, imploring their help in German. Whereupon they had dragged her into the passage. There three men had fallen upon her while she kept yelling: “Listen! I’m a Jewess! I’m a Jewess!” By the time the Russians had finished with her, the husband had bled to death.
Because of the close-quarter street fighting, German troops were often unwilling spectators to the horror taking place just beyond.
“The nights, when the women in the occupied side streets were raped by Russian soldiers, were awful,” a sixteen-year-old fighter reminisced. “[T]he screams were horrible. There were terrible scenes.” Added another German soldier: “[I]t is just not a pretty sight to see a terrified, naked woman running along a roof top, pursued by a half-dozen soldiers brandishing bayonets, then leaping five or six stories to certain death.”
By the last days of April, 1945, all of Berlin save the city center was under Russian control. Consequently, almost everything that the capital had to give had fallen to the victors.
I sense a strange, intangible something in the air, evil and menacing. Some of these fellows look past me in a strange way, exchanging glances with each other. One of them, short and yellow and smelling of alcohol, involves me in a conversation, tries to lure me sideways into a courtyard, points at two watches strapped to his hairy wrist, promising to give me one if I…. I retreat into the cellar corridor, sneak across the inner courtyard, think I’ve given him the slip when suddenly there he is, standing beside me, and following me into the cellar.[H]e suddenly throws me onto the bed. Shut your eyes, clench your teeth, don’t utter a sound. Only when the underwear is ripped apart with a tearing sound, the teeth grind involuntarily. The last underwear.”
I feel fingers at my mouth, smell the reek of horses and tobacco. I open my eyes. Adroitly the fingers force my jaws apart. Eye looks into eye. Then the man above me slowly lets his spittle dribble into my mouth….
Paralysis. Not disgust, just utter coldness. The spine seems to be frozen, icy dizziness encircles the back of the head. I find myself gliding and sinking deep down through the pillows, through the floor….
Once more eye looks into eye. The lips above me open. I see yellow teeth, one front tooth half-broken. Slowly the corners of the mouth rise, tiny wrinkles form round the slit eyes. The man is smiling….
When I got up I felt dizzy and wanted to vomit. My ruined underclothes fell round my feet. I staggered along the passage … to the bathroom. There I vomited. In the mirror I saw my green face, in the basin what I had vomited. I didn’t dare rinse it as I kept on retching and we had so little water left in the bucket.
After the horror stories from the east, most women in Berlin expected to be raped once or twice … but not dozens of times.
I felt wretched and sore and crept around like a lame duck. The widow, realizing immediately the reason why, got down her medicine chest from the loft where she had been hiding it. Without a word she handed me a jar containing vaseline, but her eyes were brimming. I too felt weak and was aware of something rising in my throat. It occurred to me how fortunate I have been until now, how in the past love-making for me has never been a burden, but always a pleasure. I have never been forced, never had to force myself. Whatever it was like, it was good. What makes me so wretched at this moment is not the too much, it’s the abused body taken against its will, which reacts with pain…. Frigid is what I have remained during all these copulations. It cannot, it must not be different, for I wish to remain dead and unfeeling so long as I have to be prey. As a result I’m glad I feel so sore and sick. And yet there I stood blubbering, with the jar of vaseline in my hand, in front of the equally blubbering widow.
Throughout ravaged Berlin, the victors ruthlessly laid claim to the “spoils of war.”
“They queued up,” whispers his wife, while Elvira just sits there speechless. “They waited for one another to finish…. She thinks there were at least twenty, but of this she isn’t quite sure. She had to take almost all of it herself. The other one was unwell, they let her alone after four times… .”
I stare at Elvira. Her swollen mouth hangs from her deathly pale face like a blue plum. “Just let them see,” says the distiller’s wife. And without a word Elvira unbuttons her blouse, opens her chemise, and reveals her breasts covered with bruises and the marks of teeth. . . . [S]he herself started talking. We could hardly understand a word, her lips are so swollen. “I prayed all the time,” she muttered. “I prayed: Dear God, I thank You for making me drunk. . . .” For even before queuing up, as well as after, the Ivans had forced liquor down the woman’s throat.
Nothing, it seemed, was a defense against the assaults. “Most of us tried to make ourselves look a lot older than we really were,” said Hedwig Sass, who was in her early forties. “But then the Russians always said, ‘You not old. You young.’ They laughed at us because of the old clothes and eye-glasses we were wearing.”
Added another woman: “The younger one, so the mother whispered to me, knowing that the Ivans didn’t like menstruating women, had stuffed herself with cotton. But it didn’t do her any good. Amidst howls and laughter the two rowdies had thrown the cotton all over the kitchen and laid the sixteen-year-old girl on the chaise lounge in the kitchen.”
The same woman continues:
We sit around the kitchen table, everyone hollow-eyed, greenish-white from lack of sleep. We all whisper and breathe uneasily…. In turn we all stare at the bolted, barricaded back door, praying it will hold out…. All of a sudden the sound of steps on the back stairs, and the alien voices which seem so coarse and bestial to our ears. Silence and paralysis settle over the table. We stop chewing and hold our breath. Hands tremble, eyes open wide in horror. Then it’s quiet again beyond the door; the sound of steps has died away. Someone whispers: “If it’s going on like this. . . .” No one answers. Suddenly the refugee girl from Konigsberg throws herself screaming across the table: “I can’t stand it any longer, I’m going to end it all. . . .” She had to submit to it several times last night, under the roof where she had fled, followed by a gang of pursuers. Her hair hangs over her face; she refuses to eat or drink. We sit, wait, listen. We can hear firing from a distance. Shots whip down our street.
Like the frantic girl above, many females did indeed choose the ultimate escape. “There is no other talk in the city. No other thought either,” revealed Ruth Andreas-Friedrich. “Suicide is in the air. . . . They are killing themselves by the hundreds.”
Those women who did not commit suicide sought out officers, commissars and other powerful men, offering their bodies in hopes of ending the brutal, random assaults.
As with Berlin, after weeks of desperate, heroic struggle, the besieged garrison of Breslau also lowered its flag. Soon after surrender, the already haggard females of Breslau began pondering “whether life had not been sweeter during the worst days of the siege.” Remembered one girl:
Rape began almost immediately and there was a viciousness in the acts as if we women were being punished for Breslau having resisted for so long…. Let me say that I was young, pretty, plump and fairly inexperienced. A succession of Ivans gave me over the next week or two a lifetime of experience. Luckily very few of their rapes lasted more than a minute. With many it was just a matter of seconds before they collapsed gasping. What kept me sane was that almost from the very first one I felt only a contempt for these bullying and smelly peasants who could not act gently towards a woman, and who had about as much sexual technique as a rabbit.
At devastated Dresden, Chemnitz and other cities that now for the first time experienced Soviet occupation, the situation was the same. “On the morning of May 9th, the Russian troops swarmed into town,” wrote a priest from Goerlitz.
By noon, the Russians, flushed with victory, were looting all the houses and raping the womenfolk. Most of the soldiers were under the influence of drink, and as a result the number of atrocities began to increase at an alarming rate. . . . As soon as it grew dark the streets re-echoed with the screams of women and girls who had fallen into the hands of the Russians. Every ten minutes or so, parties of soldiers raided the house. As I was attired in the dress of my order, I tried to protect the occupants of the house by pointing to the cross I was wearing…. All went well until about three o’clock in the morning. Just as we were beginning to hope that the dreadful night was over, four drunken Russians appeared and started searching the house for two girls who had hidden in a room on the fourth floor. After ransacking our apartment, they went upstairs…. They found the two girls and locked the three of us in the room. I went down on my knees and begged them not to molest us. Thereupon they forced me onto a chair; one of them stood in front of me, pointing his loaded revolver at me, and made me look on whilst the others raped the poor girls. It was dreadful.
“There were no limits to the bestiality and licentiousness of these troops,” echoed a pastor from Milzig. “Girls and women were routed out of their hiding-places, out of the ditches and thickets where they had sought shelter from the Russian soldiers, and were beaten and raped. Older women who refused to tell the Russians where the younger ones had hidden were likewise beaten and raped.”
“Fear is always present,” young Regina Shelton added. “It flares into panic at tales of atrocities—mutilated nude bodies tossed by the way-side—a woman nailed spread-eagle to a cart and gang-raped while bleeding to death from her wounds—horrible diseases spread to their victims by sex-drunken Mongolians.”
“Is this the peace we yearned for so long?” cried Elsbeth Losch from a town near Dresden. “When will all this have an end?”
With the end of war in May, 1945, and the beginning of so-called “peace,” many assumed the assaults on German women would end. But they did not. Even as the deliberate starvation of Germany was in progress, the defilement of German womanhood continued without pause. Although violent, brutal and repeated rapes persisted against defenseless females, Russian, American, British, and French troops quickly discovered that hunger was a powerful incentive to sexual surrender.
“[R]ape represents no problem to the military police because,” explained an American officer matter-of-factly, “a bit of food, a bar of chocolate, or a bar of soap seems to make rape unnecessary.”
“Young girls, unattached, wander about and freely offer themselves for food or bed . . . ,” reported the London Weekly Review. “Very simply they have one thing left to sell, and they sell it.”
“Bacon, eggs, sleep at your home?” winked Russian soldiers over and over again, knowing full well the answer would usually be a five-minute tryst among the rubble. “I continually ran about with cooking utensils, and begged for food … ,” admitted one girl. “If I heard in my neighborhood the expression ‘pretty woman,’ I reacted accordingly.”
Despite Eisenhower’s edict against fraternization with the despised enemy, no amount of words could slow the US soldier’s sex drive. “Neither army regulations nor the propaganda of hatred in the American press,” noted newswoman, Freda Utley, “could prevent American soldiers from liking and associating with German women, who although they were driven by hunger to become prostitutes, preserved a certain innate decency.”
“I felt a bit sick at times about the power I had over that girl,” one troubled British soldier said. “If I gave her a three-penny bar of chocolate she nearly went crazy. She was just like my slave. She darned my socks and mended things for me. There was no question of marriage. She knew that was not possible.” As this young Tommy made clear, desperate German women, many with children to feed, were compelled by hunger to enter a bondage as binding as any in history. With time, some victims, particularly those consorting with officers, not only avoided starvation, but found themselves enjoying luxuries long forgotten.
“You should have seen all the things he brought me, just so I wouldn’t lack for anything!” recalled one woman kept by an officer on Gen. George Patton’s staff. “Nylon stockings, and the newest records, perfume, and two refrigerators, and of course loads of cigarettes and alcohol and gas for the car…. It was a wild time—the champagne flowed in streams, and when we weren’t totally drunk, we made love.”
Unlike the above, relatively few females found such havens. For most, food was used to bait or bribe them into a slavery as old and unforgiving as the Bible. Wrote Lali Horstmann from the Russian Zone:
He announced that women were needed to peel potatoes in a soldiers’ camp and asked for volunteers. Their work would be paid for with soup and potatoes. The girl next to me whispered: “My sister was taken away four days ago on the same pretext and has not returned yet. A friend of mine escaped and brought back stories of what happened to her and the others.”
When a frail, hungry-looking, white-haired woman lifted her arm to offer her services, the golden-toothed one did not even glance at her, but pointed his pistol at the young girl . . . of whom the others had been talking. As she did not move, he gave a rough command. Two soldiers came to stand beside him, four more walked right and left of the single file of women until they reached her and ordered her to get into the truck. She was in tears as she was brutally shoved forward, followed by others who were protesting helplessly.
“[A] Pole discovered me, and began to sell me to Russians,” another girl confessed.
He had fixed up a brothel in his cellar for Russian officers. I was fetched by him. . . . I had to go with him, and could not resist. I came into the cellar, in which there were the most depraved carryings on, drinking, smoking and shouting, and I had to participate….I felt like shrieking.
Then a room was opened, and the door shut behind me. Then I saw how the Pole did a deal with a Russian, and received money. My value was fixed at 800 zlotys. The Russian then gave me 200 zlotys for myself, which he put in my pocket. I did not give him the money back, because I could buy food….
My employer . . . was continually after me, and followed me even when I went into the cellar. I was chased about like a frightened deer, he even turned up in the wash-house if he thought I was there. We often had a struggle but how was I to escape him? I could not run away, or complain to anyone, but had to keep to my work, as I had my mother with me. I did as little as I could. It was, however, not possible to avoid everything.
While many women endured such slavery—if only to eat—others risked their all to escape. Remembered an American journalist:
As our long line of British Army lorries . . . rolled through the main street of Brahlstorf, the last Russian occupied town, a pretty blond girl darted from the crowd of Germans watching us and made a dash for our truck. Clinging with both hands to the tailboard, she made a desperate effort to climb in. But we were driving too fast and the board was too high. After being dragged several hundred yards she had to let go and fell on the cobblestone street. That scene was a dramatic illustration of the state of terror in which women … were living.
By the summer of 1945, Germany had become the world’s greatest slave market where sex was the new medium of exchange. While the wolf of hunger might be kept from the door, grim disease was almost always waiting in the wings.
“As a way of dying it may be worse than starvation, but it will put off dying for months—or even years,” commented an English journalist.
In addition to all the venereal diseases known in the West, German women were infected by a host of new evils, including an insidious strain of Asiatic syphilis. “It is a virulent form of sickness, unknown in this part of the world,” a doctor’s wife explained. “[I]t would be difficult to cure even if we were lucky enough to have any penicillin.”
Another dreaded concern—not only for those who were selling themselves, but for the millions of rape victims—was unwanted pregnancy. Thousands who were in fact pregnant sought and found abortions. Thousands more lived in dreadful suspense. Jotted one Berlin woman in her diary:
I calculated that I’m now just two weeks overdue. So I decided to consult a woman’s doctor whose sign I had seen on a house round the corner. She turned out to be a blond woman of about my age, practicing in a semi-gutted room. She had replaced the missing windowpanes with X-ray negatives of human chests. She refused to talk and went straight to work.
“No,” she said, after the examination, “I can’t find a thing. You’re all right.”
“But I’m overdue. That’s never happened to me before.”
“Don’t be silly! It’s happening to almost every woman nowadays. I’m overdue myself. It’s lack of food. The body’s saving its blood. Try and put some flesh on your ribs. Then things’ll begin to work again.”
She charged me 10 Marks—which I gave her with a bad conscience. . . . Finally I risked asking her if women made pregnant by Russians come to her for help.
“I’d rather not talk about that,” she said dryly, and let me go.
And for those infants who were carried and delivered, their struggle was usually brief. “[T]he mortality among the small children and infants was very high,” wrote one woman. “[T]hey simply had to starve to death. There was nothing for them. . . . Generally, they did not live to be more than 3 months old—a consolation for those mothers, who had got the child against their will from a Russian. . . . The mother worked all the time and was very seldom able to give the child the breast.”
Added another female from the Soviet Zone:
We had to build landing strips, and to break stones. In snow and rain, from six in the morning until nine at night, we were working along the roads. Any Russian who felt like it took us aside. In the morning and at night we received cold water and a piece of bread, and at noon soup of crushed, unpeeled potatoes, without salt. At night we slept on the floors of farmhouses or stables, dead tired, huddled together. But we woke up every so often, when a moaning and whimpering in the pitch-black room announced the presence of one of the guards.
Had rapes, starvation and slavery been the only trials Germans were forced to endure, it would have been terrible enough. There were other horrors ahead, however—some so sadistic and evil as to stagger the senses. The nightmarish fate that befell thousands of victims locked deep within American and Jewish torture pens was enough, moaned one observer, to cause even the most devout to ask “if there really were such a thing as a God.”
Of course, an untold number of German women and children did not survive the violent, non-stop assaults. One million? Two million? Ten million? Since no one in power cared, no one in power was counting.
But what of the others? What of those who were raped again and again and again yet managed to survive? What of them? Surely, their numbers were in the millions as well. This spiritual massacre of females was a slaughter fully as great as the physical massacre for these women were destroyed in heart and soul just as surely as their murdered sisters were destroyed in blood and body.
Although she may have survived her ordeal, how does a school teacher return to teaching the following month, the following year, ever, after a hundred laughing Mongols invaded her school room one day and forced her to give oral, anal and vaginal sex to each while the entire class was compelled to watch? Or how does a wife and mother go back to being a wife and mother after her husband and children were forced to witness her night of nonstop rape on the dining room table by dozens of dirty, drunken Soviet soldiers? How does a family or a marriage survive something like that? Or the teenage clerk from the village grocery store–a plain-featured, bespectacled girl known to all as a painfully shy and self-conscious young person? How does she simply return to her store counter sacking bread and cheese when the entire village had witnessed her in the square, on her hands and knees, servicing one man after the other in a line that seemingly grew longer as the day grew shorter? The answer, of course, is that these females and millions more, could never return to a normal life, not ever. Emotionally murdered, spiritually slaughtered, the violent attacks altered the essence, the very core of what each woman had once been. These surviving victims were transformed as effectively as though their genes had been altered, not after thousands of years of evolution, but in a matter of hours.
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