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During the end of World War II, many Germans were subject to brutality at the hands of the peoples who they had brutally occupied. There was frequent looting and violence against Germans, including thousands of German men killed and hundreds of thousands of German women were subjected to sporadic and in some cases mass rape by the conquering Red Army and by local populations. Rapes, in addition to other forms of violence, took place in Eastern Germany, Berlin, and German populated areas of Czechoslovakia. A maximum estimate of approximately 1.5 million German women are believed to have been raped, with around 100,000 women raped in Berlin and 1.4 million in eastern Germany.[1][2] A total of 500,000 men died as the result of conditions or atrocities at the end of the war.[3]

Summary

Historical context

During the course of World War II on the Eastern Front, the Germans waged a war of extreme brutality against the people of the Soviet Union. Germans believed as a result of Nazi propaganda that all Slavs, including Russians, were subhuman and would eventually need to be exterminated in order for Germans to exploit the lands of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. These dehumanizing beliefs of the Germans against the Soviet people led to extremely brutal and barbaric atrocities across the Soviet Union throughout the war. Most Soviet POWs were murdered either shortly after capture or in concentration and slave labor camps in Germany.[4] Germans also burned the land as they retreated after defeats by the Red Army, destroying crops, buildings, and houses, which contributed to the civilian deaths and the Soviet hatred of the German invaders. In total, nearly 14 million Soviet civilians died or were murdered as a result of actions by the Germans, with 7,420,379 directly murdered by the Germans,[5] 2,164,313 murdered as slave laborers within Germany,[6] and approximately 4.1 million as the result of famines created by the Germans.[7] For women in the Soviet Union, both soldiers and civilians, rape was extremely common and was even used as a weapon to break Soviet resistance.[8] It has been estimated that at least 10 million Soviet women were victims of rape by the Germans. [9] The rapes were also believed by the Germans to be beneficial for the proliferation of the German "Aryan" race through the creation of new children, rather than as a benefit to the Slavic race,[10] a claim frequently reiterated by pro Nazi deniers of mass rape by the Germans, who argue that the desire not to help other races reproduce would have prevented rape of women who were considered inferior by the Germans.

Eastern Germany

Mass rapes were especially common and brutal in eastern Germany, east Prussia, and the regions of Poland that were annexed by the Germans were especially brutal. This was the location where the Red Army first made contact with the Germans on their own territory, and where they initially began their revenge. There were hundreds of thousands of Germans raped in this region as the Red Army made its advance. There was little that could be done to avoid rape in the these areas, and attempts by Germans to avoid it were ineffective.[11] The town of Nemmersdorf was the first German town to be taken by the Red Army, and was arguably the site of the worst brutality of the Soviet invasion of Germany.[12] The events at Nemmersdorf were also greatly exaggerated beyond any factual evidence by the Nazis, who turned it into a propaganda tool.[13] By some accounts, there were far fewer rapes and murders in the town then is often believed,[14] which is in contrast to the claims by the Nazis of women raped, disemboweled, and nailed to doors.[15]

Berlin

The Soviet occupation of Berlin was far less brutal then the occupation of the eastern territories earlier in the war. This was partially due to Soviet efforts to prevent violence against Germans.[16] The Soviet occupiers also dedicated themselves to feeding the population of Berlin, rather than starving them as the Germans had done in Leningrad, and which Nazi propaganda had convinced them would happen.[17] It was also common for German women to form relationships with Red Army soldiers and officers, some of which resulted in the officers deserting after the occupation rather than leave their "occupation wives" to return to the Soviet Union.[18]

Sudetenland and regions turned over to Poland

In eastern Germany, western Poland, and Czechoslovakia, Germans were deported into the post World War II borders of Germany by the orders of the Allies.[19] The deportations were understandably brutal as the result of war crimes committed under the German occupation. Germans were not the only people who were settled. Many Poles were also resettled from the east into the west, to replace the Germans who had been resettled. The purpose of this forced resettlement of Germans was to prevent future development of German nationalism, Manifest Destiny mentality to conquer eastern Europe and Asia, and attempts to conquer territories east of Germany in order to unite Germans living outside of Germany. The goal of uniting all Germans outside of Germany had been a major reason why the Nazis had invaded Poland and Czechoslovakia. It was also the reason why the Nazis forcibly resettled Poles and Czechs and gave their land to German settlers from within Germany. The goal of this resettlement was therefore an attempt by the Allies to prevent the Holocaust and the brutality and crimes of the Nazi regime from happening again.[20]

Assistance by the Nazis to the mass murder and rape of Germans

The Nazis, in a final act of betrayal, were responsible for intentionally contributing to the suffering of Germans and the extent of mass murder and rape. The most significant contributions by the Nazis to German suffering were the failure to evacuate German civilians and forcing male civilians into the Volksturm to uselessly fight the Red Army. The Nazi leaders were also extremely uncaring of the fact that men were killed and German women were raped. Nazi leaders viewed mass rape and murder as punishment for losing the war. They also considered issuing evacuation orders or any attempt to evacuate to be "defeatist" and therefore bad for moral[21] because they were still under the delusion that they could win, or at least wanted the civilians to think that so that they would go more willingly into Hitler's ordered death of Germany. Another reason why the Nazis contributed the German suffering at the hands of the Red Army, which had suffered severely at the hands of Germans, was because they took full advantage of the propaganda value that mass rapes of German women by Soviet soldiers had on the civilian population, in order to convince them to continue fighting the Red Army.[22] To the Nazis, the suffering of German civilians was not a concern, and maintaining discipline and the illusion that they could still win the war was far more important. Any mass murders, looting, or rape was beneficial to the Nazis for its propaganda value. Nazi leaders often failed to issue evacuation orders while there was still time to avoid being overrun by the Red Army, if they issued orders at all. In one example, Gauleiter Erich Koch of East Prussia issued strict orders to against allowing evacuation, with the support of Adolf Hitler, because any attempt at evacuation would send "defeatist" signals to the rest of the Reich.[23] While Gauleiter Koch refused to allow evacuation and encouraged all Germans to fight to the death, he secretly began evacuating westward with his Mercedes and his family.[24] German civilians who evacuated were also vulnerable to Nazi reprisals for their "defeatist" actions,[25] particularly men, who could be viewed as deserters. The Nazi Feldgendarmerie often raided refugee columns looking for men to force into the Volksturm.[26]

Effects

Nazi exaggeration and exploitation during the war

After the Soviet invasion of Nemmersdorf, the Nazi propaganda ministry began an intense propaganda campaign to greatly exaggerate the extent of and frequency of Soviet atrocities in order to convince Germans to continue fighting.[27] One such tactic involved fabricating a Soviet newspaper article and attributing it to Ilya Ehrenburg. The article encouraged Red Army soldiers to "break the arrogent racial pride of these German women" and to "take them as their lawful booty."[28] The passage is still occasionally misattributed to him by mainstream historians[29] and constantly by pro Nazi pseudohistorians.[30]

Suicide

There were many Germans, both men and women, who committed suicide and murdered their children in advance of the Red Army occupation and after being overrun.[31] Such suicides, particularly after mistreatment by soldiers of the Red Army, were racist acts rather than the result or fear of trauma. Nazi women who committed suicide after being raped did not do so because of trauma, but because of the shame of being subjugated by people of a race who they considered subhuman.[32][33] This is supported by the suicide of Germans in the areas that had not yet been overrun, and who therefore obviously had not experienced trauma.

Post war

One of the consequences of the mass rapes committed during Soviet occupation of Germany and the flight from Poland and Czechoslovakia was a strong unwillingness of Germans to see themselves as perpetrators and willing participants of genocide, and attempts to portray themselves as "innocent victims" rather than as participants in a murderous regime.[34][35][36]

Exploitation by Nazi extremists

Many Neo Nazi and other revisionist historians use the rape of Germans by Soviet soldiers and Eastern Europeans for a variety of claims that are central to their revisionism. They attempt to portray the Germans as victims of World War II, and in some cases attempt to make moral equivalency arguments that try to equate the rape of hundreds of thousands of German women with the murder over 12 million Jews, homosexuals, and Slavs. In either case, the pro Nazi revisionists attempt to draw attention away from the suffering of Holocaust victims toward German suffering. Nazi revisionist claims often exaggerate the number of victims, and give only one sided accounts by cherry picking incidents of rape by Red Army soldiers, and ignoring incidents where soldiers of the Red Army behaved properly and even in some cases viewed as liberators.[37]

Many pro Nazi extremists attempt to claim that Germans were unique victims at the end of the war. In reality, many other groups, including Poles, were subject to mass deportations and other war crimes by the Allies.

Nazi claims Rebuttal
2 million women were raped This is higher than any reputable source suggests.
Two million women were raped in Berlin. In this case, Nazi apologists are taking an overestimated statistic from all of eastern Germany (in order to make it seem legitimate, like they aren't pulling numbers out their ass) and applying it to just Berlin to inflate it by 20 times and to give the impression that the number of rapes in the rest of Germany was far higher.
Millions of Germans were killed. Only 500,000 Germans died, and this includes suicides before occupation that were the result of Nazi ideology.
Many Germans committed suicide because of the brutality of occupation. Many of the Germans who committed suicide before the Soviet occupation. Neo Nazis also leave out the detail that many of them murdered their children first.
Giving the impression that only Germans were subject to post war expulsions. Poles were also subject to explosions. Poland was moved west along with Germany.
The Red Army raped every female from 8 to 80. This is entirely BS and is not supported by any reputable historian. It was also made up by Goebbels and is sometimes repeated by sensationalist newspaper headlines when a book or movie on the subject is released. Most reports of girls being raped are girls who are 16 with some dubious reports including girls who are 13.
Failing to explain the historical context or claiming that the historical context is victim blaming. Failing to mention the historical context is victim blaming to the millions of Soviet soldiers who saw millions of people in the Soviet Union be murdered and raped.
Historical context is the difference between American soldiers entering a town in Germany and shooting unarmed surrendering POWs and American soldiers entering the Dachau concentration camp and shooting the guards who surrendered.

Analysis

The suffering of German civilians who had enthusiastically supported the Nazi regime was in many was the direct and indirect responsibility of the Nazi leaders themselves. The German leadership had known fully about the brutality that Germans would encounter when they were occupied by the Red Army, and they intentionally forbade any evacuations and failed to issue evacuation orders. In the events when they did issue evacuation orders, it was far too late for the Germans to avoid being overrun. This puts responsibility for the atrocities committed against Germans with high ranking Nazi leaders, which is a fact that many Nazi leaders would be eager to cover up and fail to mention when making exaggerated rants about the brutality of the Red Army. The rapes committed during this time are also not a typical example of men raping women during war, but rather the result of the victims of genocidal murders and rape encountering the perpetrators of those atrocities.[38][39][40] This is supported by women in the Red Army who openly approved of the rape of German women,[41][42] and the way that Red Army soldiers focused violence particularly against active members of the Nazi party and anyone believed to be connected with the Nazi military.[43][44][45] The atrocities that were committed against Germans at the end of World War II have also been frequently exploited to present Germans during the war as victims rather than perpetrators of war crimes and participants in the Nazi regime.[46][47][48]

See also

Footnotes

  1. Ian Kershaw. The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 181.
  2. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 434.
  3. Bessel, Richard. Germany 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. P. 69.
  4. Article from university website about the slave labor camp at Nordhausen
  5. Российская академия наук (Russian Academy of Sciences). Людские потери СССР в период второй мировой войны: рник стсбоатей (Human Losses of the USSR in the Period of WWII: Collection of Articles). Saint-Petersburg, 1995. ISBN 978-5-86789-023-0 Pages 124-131 The Russian Academy of Science article by M.V. Philimoshin based this figure on sources published in the Soviet era.
  6. Российская академия наук (Russian Academy of Sciences). Людские потери СССР в период второй мировой войны: рник стсбоатей (Human Losses of the USSR in the Period of WWII: Collection of Articles). Saint-Petersburg, 1995. ISBN 978-5-86789-023-0 Pages 124-131 The Russian Academy of Science article by M.V. Philimoshin based this figure on sources published in the Soviet era.
  7. Российская академия наук (Russian Academy of Sciences). Людские потери СССР в период второй мировой войны: рник стсбоатей (Human Losses of the USSR in the Period of WWII: Collection of Articles). Saint-Petersburg, 1995. ISBN 978-5-86789-023-0 Pages 124-131 The Russian Academy of Science article by M.V. Philimoshin estimated 6% of the population in the occupied regions died due to war related famine and disease.
  8. Gertjejanssen, Wendy Jo (2004) (PhD diss.). Victims, Heroes, Survivors: Sexual Violence on the Eastern Front during World War II (Thesis). University of Minnesota.
  9. Gertjejanssen, Wendy Jo (2004) (PhD diss.). Victims, Heroes, Survivors: Sexual Violence on the Eastern Front during World War II (Thesis). University of Minnesota.
  10. A 1942 Wehrmacht document suggested that the Nazi leadership considered implementing a special policy for the eastern front through which the estimated 750,000 babies born through sexual contact between German soldiers and Russian women (an estimate deemed very conservative), could be identified and claimed to be racially German. (It was suggested that the middle names Friedrich or Luise be added to the birth certificates of male and female babies.) Although the plan was not implemented, such documents suggest that the births that resulted from rapes and other forms of sexual contact were deemed beneficial, increasing the "Aryan" race rather than as adding to the inferior Slavic race. The underlying ideology suggests that German rape and other forms of sexual contact may need to be seen as conforming to a larger military strategy of racial and territorial dominance. (Pascale R . Bos, "Feminists Interpreting the Politics of Wartime Rape: Berlin, 1945"; Yugoslavia, 1992–1993 Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2006, vol. 31, no. 4, p.996-1025)
  11. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 122.
  12. Ian Kershaw. The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 111.
  13. Ian Kershaw. The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 112, 181, 394.
  14. Ian Kershaw. The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 113.
  15. Ian Kershaw. The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 112-113.
  16. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 436.
    An order was issued by Stalin shortly before the fall of Berlin not to commit violence against the German civilians. It is also known that most of the violence was committed during occupation, not during the fighting. (P. 436.)
  17. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 433.
  18. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 438.
    These were actual relationships, not the common coercive sexual relationship where German women sought Soviet officers to protect them from rape.
  19. Bessel, Richard. Germany 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. P. 218.
  20. Bessel, Richard. Germany 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. P. 212-213.
  21. Bessel, Richard. German 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Collins, 2009. P. 76.
  22. Bessel, Richard. German 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Collins, 2009. P. 71.
  23. Kershaw, Ian. The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 111.
  24. Bessel, Richard. German 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Collins, 2009. P. 319.
  25. Kershaw, Ian.The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 87, 306, 323.
  26. Bessel, Richard. German 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Collins, 2009. P. 74.
  27. Kershaw, Ian. The End. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. P. 113.
  28. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 25.
  29. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 25.
  30. Youtube video by David Duke having a hilarious butthurt Nazi rant
  31. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 115.
  32. Pascale R . Bos, Feminists Interpreting the Politics of Wartime Rape: Berlin, 1945; Yugoslavia, 1992–1993 Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2006, vol. 31, no. 4, p.996-1025
  33. Bessel, Richard. Germany 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. P. 262.
  34. Bessel, Richard. Germany 1945: From war to peace. New York: Harper Collins, 2009. 167
    Bessel explains the German unwillingness to see themselves as perpetrators, and instead how they choose to portray and thought of themselves as victims.
  35. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution. New York: Yale University Press, 2008. 4, 124
    Explanation of German support for Hitler and the Nazis. While it appears that Germans did not know about the Holocaust, they were in fact apathetic and did not record their experiences for historians because they did not consider it a notable occurrence.
  36. National Geographic produced documentary about the Holocaust. Segment about German knowledge at 10:30.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCQy1VRwtpM&feature=watch-vrec
  37. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. 436, 439
    Examples of Jewish Red Army officers who protected German women from rape, despite the trauma that they had endured experiencing and witnessing German atrocities in the USSR, and knowing what they had done to the Jews.
    On page 439, a description of Germans yelling "Heil Stalin". 'Nuff said.
  38. Atina Grossmann. A Question of Silence: The Rape of German Women by Occupation Soldiers October, Vol. 72, Berlin 1945: War and Rape "Liberators Take Liberties" (Spring, 1995), pp. 42–63 MIT Press. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/778926
  39. Stuart Liebman and Annette Michelson. After the Fall: Women in the House of the Hangmen, October, Vol. 72, (Spring, 1995) pp. 4–14
  40. Pascale R . Bos, Feminists Interpreting the Politics of Wartime Rape: Berlin, 1945; Yugoslavia, 1992–1993 Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2006, vol. 31, no. 4, p.996-1025
  41. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 30.
  42. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 361
  43. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 434.
  44. Ian Kershaw. The End. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. P. 181.
  45. Beevor, Antony. The Fall of Berlin 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. P. 181.
  46. Pascale R . Bos, Feminists Interpreting the Politics of Wartime Rape: Berlin, 1945; Yugoslavia, 1992–1993 Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2006, vol. 31, no. 4, p.996-1025
  47. Bessel, Richard. Germany 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. P. 167.
  48. Bessel, Richard. Germany 1945: From War to Peace. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. P. 262.

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