"IVAN'S WAR" BY Catherine Merridale
Only.... The German women went through a nightmare that perhaps dwarfs Darfur.
After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation
Antony Beevor has been one of the few historians who have told the story. Here is an excerpt from his book Berlin, The Downfall 1945
From The Guardian
The Soviet armies advancing into East Prussia in January 1945, in huge, long columns, were an extraordinary mixture of modern and medieval: tank troops in padded black helmets, Cossack cavalrymen on shaggy mounts with loot strapped to the saddle, lend-lease Studebakers and Dodges towing light field guns, and then a second echelon in horse-drawn carts. The variety of character among the soldiers was almost as great as that of their military equipment. There were freebooters who drank and raped quite shamelessly, and there were idealistic, austere communists and members of the intelligentsia appalled by such behaviour.
Marshal Rokossovsky issued order No 006 in an attempt to direct "the feelings of hatred at fighting the enemy on the battlefield." It appears to have had little effect. There were also a few arbitrary attempts to exert authority. The commander of one rifle division is said to have "personally shot a lieutenant who was lining up a group of his men before a German woman spreadeagled on the ground". But either officers were involved themselves, or the lack of discipline made it too dangerous to restore order over drunken soldiers armed with submachine guns.
Drink of every variety, including dangerous chemicals seized from laboratories and workshops, was a major factor in the violence. It seems as if Soviet soldiers needed alcoholic courage to attack a woman. But then, all too often, they drank too much and, unable to complete the act, used the bottle instead with appalling effect. A number of victims were mutilated obscenely.
The subject of the Red Army's mass rapes in Germany has been so repressed in Russia that even today veterans refuse to acknowledge what really happened. The handful prepared to speak openly, however, are totally unrepentant. "They all lifted their skirts for us and lay on the bed," said the leader of one tank company. He even went on to boast that "two million of our children were born" in Germany.
According to Ralph Keeling, "The Russians were not alone in violating these principles. Police records of Stuttgart show that during the French occupation, 1,198 women were raped and eight men violated by French troops, mostly Moroccans."
When Stuttgart was first occupied by the French immediately after the war in August 1945, mostly French colonial soldiers from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia under French command rampaged through the bombed out city and shelters and committed an orgy of rape. The local police verified 1,198 cases of rape. The ages of the victims ranged from 14 to 74. According to police reports, most of them were attacked in their homes by turbaned thugs who broke down the doors in looting forays. Four of the women were killed by their attackers, and four others committed suicide. One of the victims was killed by her husband who then killed himself. They committed 385 rapes in the Constance area, 600 in Bruchsal and 500 in Freudenstadt. They moved in gangs relentlessly from home to home in Karlsruhe, threatening, raping and stealing all they could carry. In the County Women's Clinic in Karlsruhe alone, 276 terminations of pregnancies after rape were performed in April and May of 1945. Eisenhower, fearing bad publicity, then ordered Stuttgart under American occupation, but when the story broke anyway, American newspapers immediately and without any investigation, discounted it as "German propaganda," apparently forgetting that the war was over.
Little is known about the forced prostitution of German women by American soldiers in the years between 1945 until the currency reform of 1948 In order to accommodate their children, they sought proximity to American soldiers, who gave the hard dollars not without any return. In order to offer them, the women often drove for hours and days on freight trains to the barracks, where they waited in line. From this ate whole family. Because of the nature of their money-making women felt guilty. They turned the hatred against themselves
Although not technically rape, since American occupation troops had ready access to food needed by hungry, deprived German and Austrian women, often to feed their children with, sexual favors were sold out of desperation. By the end of 1945, the official ration in the U.S. zone of Germany had slid to 1550 calories per day, and it later fell even lower to 1275 calories by the spring of 1946. In some areas, people were not receiving rations of much more than 700 calories per day, allotments well below the minimum necessary to maintain health. On December 5, 1945, the Times reported: "the American provost marshal Lieutenant Colonel Gerald F. Beane said that rape presents no problem for the military police because a bit of food, a bar of chocolate, or a bar of soap seem to make rape unnecessary. Think that over, if you want to understand the situation in Germany."
From Macdonogh's After The Reich P-96
London's International News Service reported in January of 1946 that the American soldiers' wives who were brought to Germany were given special authorization to wear military uniforms because "the GIs did not want their wives mistaken for Frauleins by other occupation troops" and thus molested, raped or propositioned. In the first six months of American occupation, venereal disease jumped to twenty times its former level. The New York World Telegram, January 21, 1945, stated: "Americans look on the German women as loot, just like cameras and Lugers."
But the U.S. Military certainly made it easy for irresponsible G.I.s to have casual sex with German girls. Aside from providing free condoms, on April 8, 1946, The Stars and Stripes published an article titled "Pregnant Frauleins Are Warned!" explaining that the U.S. Army was not responsible for the sexual relationships of its personnel and: "Girls who are expecting a child fathered by an American soldier will be provided with no assistance by the American Army ... If the soldier denies paternity, no further action will be undertaken other than to merely inform the woman of this fact. She is to be advised to seek help from a German or Austrian welfare organization. If the soldier is already in the United States, his address in not to be communicated to the woman in question. Claims for child support from unmarried German and Austrian mothers will not be recognized. "
One reason there were fewer reports of rape was that there was far more consensual congress. German girls would have sex for food or cigarettes. You didn’t court a German woman with flowers – a basket of food was more welcome. The Americans were attractive to the Germans, because they had not suffered the deprivations of war in the same way. Few were crippled, and they were taller and more athletic. Every now and then the Germans took it out on the women who spurned them in favour of the occupiers. It is not hard to imagine the feeling of impotence of the rare young German who saw his girl making for the American garrison on the promise of sweets and cigarettes.
Meanwhile, in Austria, the Soviets in Vienna were not only raping but also starving their victims to death. Women under Communist occupation ate less than 1,000 calories a day, and 1,000 new cases of TB suddenly arose each month. Pregnant women, the elderly and children were at grave risk. In July of 1945 alone, 389 out of 1,000 newborns, most "rape babies", were dying. Ilya Ehrenburg's vicious propaganda machine had widely disseminated false reports of Nazi rape in Russia to ensure that the Red Army stormed into Germany with no pity. It worked. They committed the largest mass rape in history, with the girls and women of East Prussia bearing the first brunt of their brutality. Here, most females were gang raped and then murdered. "Tot den Deutschen Okkupaten!" (Death to the German Occupants) the victorious Soviet soldier cried, and regardless of age, German women and girls were taken without mercy. Thousands of women shuddered as the words "Frau komm!" grunted from the invading army, for it not only meant they were about to be violated, it might also mean torture or death of themselves, their mothers, grandmothers or daughters.
“A nurse from Stettin, a young, good-looking blond, told how her father had been stabbed to death by Russian soldiers who, after raping her mother and sister, tried to break into her own room. She escaped and hid in a haystack with four other women for four days …
“On the train to Berlin she was pillaged once by Russian troops and twice by Poles. Women who resisted were shot dead, she said, and on one occasion she saw a guard take an infant by the legs and crush its skull against a post because the child cried while the guard was raping its mother.
“An old peasant from Silesia said ... victims were robbed of everything they had, even their shoes. Infants were robbed of their swaddling clothes so that they froze to death. All the healthy girls and women, even those 65 years of age, were raped in the train and then robbed, the peasant said.”
The Red Army entered Berlin first, seething with hatred and determined to exact vengeance, while the Americans and the British lagged behind to the west. They had two months to freely plunder and rape, and Berlin was a city virtually without men. The female population had swelled to 2,000,000 with thousands more refugee women who had fled there from the east. Up to a million females from ages 8 to 80 were believed to have been raped. Over 10,000 women and girls are recorded as having died as a result. There were so many rapes that doctors in the hospitals could not even treat them all. Many were captured, lined up, with some singled out for immediate "pleasure", then packed into trains headed for Siberia in April, 1945, some repeatedly raped while being transported and others dying along the way from lack of food and mistreatment. Once in Siberia, they were slave laborers forced to do heavy manual labor such road building, all the while enduring constant sexual abuse. Many of these women remained in Stalin's work camps for up to five years, during which time two- thirds of them died. Some were sent to an infamous camp near Petrozavodsk in Karelia called Number 517. Once they arrived, they were paraded naked in front of the camp officials who would select favorites, promising lighter work in exchange for sex. "Stubborn prisoners" were subjected to solitary confinement, genital mutilation or murder. Of the 1,000 girls and women who were sent to that camp, over half, or 522 of them, died horrible deaths within six months.
In armed conflict rapes are an effective means by which to wear down the opponent and humiliate at the time of capitulation, leaving it traumatized and incapacitated.
As the Red Army started its offensive toward Berlin during the spring of 1945, thousands of Germans from the east tried to cross the Oder River and flee westward, but there were just too many refugees, and many were trapped as they waited to be allowed to cross. As many as 20,000 girls and young women were stranded and at the mercy of the Red Army as they marched through in February. To the surprise and horror of the trapped inhabitants, occupying Americans in war torn east Germany proper "liberated" it just long enough to turn it all over to the Red Army for enslavement. In this area, the communist GDR, for stated reasons of " public security", instituted detention areas for political prisoners, many of them female. From 1950 to 1989, an insidious internal spy agency existed with a military structure and over 90,000 workers. There were district offices in over 30 cities.
Not spoken of in our media, thousands of women suffered horrible repression at the hands of the Communists. With no men left to protect the women, the 'Stasi' in East Germany stuffed unruly females behind the walls of dank, dark, 13th century Hoheneck castle in Thuringia. Although not technically rape, since American occupation troops had ready access to food needed by hungry, deprived German and Austrian women, often to feed their children with, sexual favors were sold out of desperation. By the end of 1945, the official ration in the U.S. zone of Germany had slid to 1550 calories per day, and it later fell even lower to 1275 calories by the spring of 1946. In some areas, people were not receiving rations of much more than 700 calories per day, allotments well below the minimum necessary to maintain health. On December 5, 1945, the Times reported: "the American provost marshal Lieutenant Colonel Gerald F. Beane said that rape presents no problem for the military police because a bit of food, a bar of chocolate, or a bar of soap seem to make rape unnecessary. Think that over, if you want to understand the situation in Germany." In Salzburg, under the Americans, there was at first a strict anti-fraternization policy with the local population. The first Americans arriving in Salzburg from the west were units which had been issued a 'Handbook for Germany', which prescribed a typically "strict" treatment of the locals.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a young captain in the Red Army when it entered East Prussia in 1945. He wrote later in his book, 'The Gulag Archipelago': "All of us knew very well that if girls were German they could be raped and then shot. This was almost a combat distinction." He was arrested and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp. Other Russian officers agreed with him and those who dared to report excesses of violence against civilians met a similar fate. Master hate propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg told soldiers on January 31, 1945: "The Germans have been punished in Oppeln, in Königsberg and in Breslau. They have been punished, but yet not enough! Some have been punished, but not yet all of them." In contrast to Ehrenberg's rhetoric, rape was in truth a German military offense punishable by death. Rape by German troops was the smallest recorded in occupied territories and lower than that of US troops on US bases. Germany was missing 15 million men. Husbands, brothers and sons were killed, maimed or not yet released from their long captivity, and the clean up was left to the women, many in grief, illness and physical distress. The women also had to feed and house their children and elderly parents. They also tended the wounded, buried the dead and salvaged belongings.
RAPE OF GERMAN NUNS IN UPPER SILESIA
From After The Reich by Giles Macdonogh P 180
Although the raping of German women had abated in the summer of 1945, it had not stopped. There was a fresh outburst of wild raping when the occupation lines were redrawn in June. The Russians moved into parts of Saxony and Thuringia where up till then the women had lived in comparative safety. There were a hundred rapes in Zerbst, the town that had seen the birth of Russia’s great queen, Catherine, and similar numbers were reported in Halle and Weimar. In Weimar a Russian lieutenant walked into a barber’s shop and proceeded to rape the cashier in front of the customers. Two other Russian officers had to be found before ‘this animal could be overpowered’.40 Despite the availability of abortions, many half- Russian children were born.
After The Reich P 210
Canny Berlin women learned quickly that it was wisest to give in and receive the Russians one at a time than to have to put up with terrifying gang rapes. The wisest found an officer and stuck with him: a ‘wolf ’ to protect you from wolves, and as high-ranking as possible. In return for sexual favours he was able to prevent any attacks by the routine soldateska. This was true for an eighteen-year-old in Klein Machnow who had been raped sixty times. She found a captain and they left her in peace.39 The Woman in Berlin (See the DVD) did likewise. After a few tussles with soldiers she found a sympathetic lieutenant, and finally a major, who wanted more companionship than sex. She described the blissful sensation of lying fearless at his side. When she was later asked the standard question about how many times it had happened to her she could not say with certainty: ‘No idea. I had to work my way up through the ranks as far as a major.
From After The Reich P 101
From "Fog Of War" By Leonid Rabichev (Source: http://lib.rus.ec)
In truth, the picture drawn by Rabichev (who became a professional artist after the war) does not inspire great confidence. We know from documents and memoirs about the great number of group rapes, one of which Rabichev probably witnessed, and it is altogether possible that some officers "kept order in line." But that thousands simultaneously participated in such an action and moreover did so in broad daylight on the shoulder of a road and under the leadership of senior officers--this reminds one more of a Bosch painting extrapolated to 1945. It is even less likely that a colonel "stood in line" behind rank-and-file soldiers. Colonels behaved somewhat differently. Lieutenant-Colonel Los'ev, the staff commander of a rifle regiment, sent his subordinate lieutenant into a cellar where Germans were hidden to select and bring him a woman. The lieutenant carried out the order, and the lieutenant-colonel raped the woman who had been brought to him.
The most outrageous case was the one recorded by the operational-military group of the NKVD in the township of Spaleiten. NKVD employees noted during the filtration of the civilian population that 3 women and 12 children had cuts across their right wrists. These were the marks of a collective suicide attempt. As one of the women recounted, on 3 February, when advance units of the Red Army entered the town, Red Army troops dragged her out in the courtyard, where she was raped in turn by 12 soldiers; other soldiers at the same time raped her neighbors.
That same night, six soldiers entered the cellar and raped women in front of their children. On 5 February there were three rapists, and the next day eight drunken soldiers not only raped women but beat them as well.
An NKVD officer recorded the testimony of the woman: "Under the influence of German propaganda about how the Red Army torments Germans, and having seen actual tormenting of them, we decided to kill ourselves, so on 8 February we cut the right wrists of ourselves and our children."
According to the account of one of the local residents, two German women who had been raped several times killed themselves in the attic of his house. Around ten suicides were registered in connection with the evacuation from the frontline region in the city of Grants on 18 and 19 February. "Suicide by Germans, especially women, has become more widespread."
In Defence Of The Russian Soldiers: Why Did They Behave The Way They Did?
(From IVANS WAR - Life and Death in the Red Army 1939-1945 - Catherine Merridale)
Whatever lust they may have felt, large numbers of the men had stronger reasons for resenting and even hating representatives of the female sex. All through the war, they had been getting sad letters from home. Some were tales of hunger, others told of rape and death, but many were letters of farewell. Families were unraveling, new lives asserting themselves in separate worlds.
Official policy was changing, too. In July 1944 the Soviet Union began its campaign to create
iconic mothers, striking medals for the women who had given birth to large broods of healthy,surviving young. The ideal woman, if the photographs could be believed, was stern andprovident, tough as a tank driver, the nurse and teacher of armies to come.63 She was also sweet, innocent, and untroubled by hardship, let alone by war. Frivolity and sex (the many children notwithstanding) had no place in her life. Soldiers began to praise the type, to dream of faithful, moon faced women and their healthy well-nourished sons. The gentleness, the sentimentality, of many Soviet troops toward small children in Prussia was noted at the time. A woman with a baby, local people learned, was practically immune to rape. But even sentimental troops, the men who kept their pockets full of sweets for hungry German kids, worried about their families back home. It was a long time since any had seen their children.
But fighting men were powerless to change things back at home. The only world they could affect was here, in Germany, where the women who had brought on their ruin, the spoiled Frauen, still wrapped themselves in silk and fur—or so the soldiers fantasized— while Russian children starved. Where Russian women wore their peasant blouses and embroidered sarafans (in theory and in folklore, anyway), these German females dressed in provocative western styles, wore makeup, teetered on high heels. The whole culture that had produced them seemed sick, disgusting—and wickedly seductive. Some German women were accused of deliberate whoring. "German ladies are . . . ready to begin payment of 'reparations' at once," a disgusted Soviet officer observed. "It won't work! " "Europe is a dirty abyss," a soldier wrote home from Prussia that winter. "I have taken a look at German magazines, and they revolt me.... Even their music is indecent! Is this Europe? Give me Siberia anytime! " Another discovered a cache of pornographic pictures (probably not, in this case, the Venus de Milo) in an abandoned German position near Königsberg. "What could be more disgusting?" he asked. "Our culture must be higher than that of the Germans, because you would never find such images among our ranks."
Rape, then, combined the desire to avenge with the impulse to destroy, to smash German luxuries and waste the Fascists' wealth. It punished women and it reinforced the fragile manliness of the perpetrators. It also underscored the emotional ties between gangs of the men, and it was as a gang, not individuals, that the men usually acted, drawing an energy and anonymity from the momentum of the group. It was the collective triumph of these males, certainly, that rape purported to celebrate.
And though women bore the brunt of the violence, German men were also victims of a kind. It was no accident that many rapes took place in view of husbands and fathers. The point was being made that they were now the creatures without power, that they would have to watch, to suffer this most intimate degradation. One woman recounted the tale of a lawyer who had stood by his Jewish wife all through the Nazi years, refusing to divorce her in spite of the risks. When the Russians arrived, he protected her again, at least until a bullet from a Russian automatic hit him in the hip. As he lay bleeding to death, three men raped his wife.
Real security was achieved only when the Red Army was garrisoned in barracks buildings in 1947–8. Even later the Russians took over whole areas of towns, throwing the inhabitants out on to the streets. From mid-1945, however, Russians caught raping women were liable to punishment. They might even suffer execution. Some were shot in the act, adding a further trauma to the victim of the sexual assault. A scale of charges was introduced in the summer of 1945, with ten days for debauchery and four years for aggravated rape. No German could report the crimes, however. When a group of young Germans prevented a rape by beating up the culprit, they were arrested and charged with being Werewolves. It was only in 1949 that Russian soldiers were presented with a real deterrent, with ten to fifteen years for simple rape and ten to twenty for raping a child, and for group or aggravated rape. The east Germans had been allowed their own police, but at the beginning these men were armed with nothing more potent than clubs and they were not encouraged to step in when the crime was being committed by a Soviet soldier. They were given a small number of guns in mid-1946.
(We are thankful to A. Hunter for suggesting the site rexvita.com)
Beevor, the author of the best-selling Stalingrad, says advancing Soviet troops raped large numbers of Russian and Polish women held in concentration camps, as well as millions of Germans.
The extent of the Red Army's indiscipline and depravity emerged as the author studied Soviet archives for his forthcoming book Berlin, to be published in April by Viking.
Beevor - who was educated at Sandhurst and served in the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own), an elite cavalry regiment - says details of the Soviet soldiers' behaviour have forced him to revise his view of human nature.
"Having always in the past slightly pooh-poohed the idea that most men are potential rapists, I had to come to the conclusion that if there is a lack of army discipline, most men with a weapon, dehumanised by living through two or three years of war, do become potential rapists," he told The Bookseller.
A weapon of warfare 24 Jan 2002
He appears to echo the American feminist Marilyn French's notorious claim that "in their relations with women, all men are rapists, and that's all they are".
Any such resemblance is, however, superficial. Beevor is careful to qualify any suggestion that what happened from 1944 onwards is in any way typical of male behaviour in peacetime. But he admits that he was "shaken to the core" to discover that Russian and Polish women and girls liberated from concentration camps were also violated.
"That completely undermined the notion that the soldiers were using rape as a form of revenge against the Germans," he said.
"By the time the Russians reached Berlin, soldiers were regarding women almost as carnal booty; they felt because they were liberating Europe they could behave as they pleased. That is very frightening, because one starts to realise that civilisation is terribly superficial and the facade can be stripped away in a very short time."
Beevor's high reputation as a historian ensures that his claims will be taken seriously. Stalingrad was widely praised and awarded the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize.
His account of the siege of Berlin, however, promises to be more controversial. "In many ways the fate of the women and the girls in Berlin is far worse than that of the soldiers starving and suffering in Stalingrad."
To understand why the rape of Germany was so uniquely terrible, the context is essential. Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941, began the most genocidal conflict in history. Perhaps 30 million inhabitants of the Soviet Union are now thought to have died during the war, including more than three million who were deliberately starved in German PoW camps.
The Germans, having shown no quarter, could expect none in return. Their casualties were also on a vast scale. In the Battle of Berlin alone more than a million German soldiers were killed or died later in captivity, plus at least 100,000 civilians. The Soviet Union lost more than 300,000 men.
Against this horrific background, Stalin and his commanders condoned or even justified rape, not only against Germans but also their allies in Hungary, Romania and Croatia. When the Yugoslav Communist Milovan Djilas protested to Stalin, the dictator exploded: "Can't he 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?"
And when German Communists warned him that the rapes were turning the population against them, Stalin fumed: "I will not allow anyone to drag the reputation of the Red Army in the mud."
The rapes had begun as soon as the Red Army entered East Prussia and Silesia in 1944. In many towns and villages every female, aged from 10 to 80, was raped. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laureate who was then a young officer, described the horror in his narrative poem Prussian Nights: "The little daughter's on the mattress,/Dead. How many have been on it/A platoon, a company perhaps?"
But Solzhenitsyn was rare: most of his comrades regarded rape as legitimate. As the offensive struck deep into Germany, the orders of Marshal Zhukov, their commander, stated: "Woe to the land of the murderers. We will get a terrible revenge for everything."
By the time the Red Army reached Berlin its reputation, reinforced by Nazi propaganda, had already terrified the population, many of whom fled. Though the hopeless struggle came to an end in May 1945, the ordeal of German women did not.
How many German women were raped? One can only guess, but a high proportion of at least 15 million women who either lived in the Soviet Union zone or were expelled from the eastern provinces. The scale of rape is suggested by the fact that about two million women had illegal abortions every year between 1945 and 1948.
It was not until the winter of 1946-47 that the Soviet authorities, concerned by the spread of disease, imposed serious penalties on their forces in East Germany for fraternising with the enemy.
Soviet soldiers saw rape, often carried out in front of a woman's husband and family, as an appropriate way of humiliating the Germans, who had treated Slavs as an inferior race with whom sexual relations were discouraged. Russia's patriarchal society and the habit of binge-drinking were also factors, but more important was resentment at the discovery of Germany's comparative wealth.
The fact, highlighted by Beevor, that Soviet troops raped not only Germans but also their victims, recently liberated from concentration camps, suggests that the sexual violence was often indiscriminate, although far fewer Russian or Polish women were raped when their areas were liberated compared to the conquered Germans.
Jews, however, were not necessarily regarded by Soviet troops as fellow victims of the Nazis. The Soviet commissars had commandeered German concentration camps in order to incarcerate their own political prisoners, who included "class enemies" as well as Nazi officials, and their attitude towards the previous inmates was, to say the least, unsentimental.
As for the millions of Russian prisoners or slave workers who survived the Nazis: those who were not executed as traitors or sent to the Gulag could count themselves lucky. The women among them were probably treated no better than the Germans, perhaps worse.
The rape of Germany left a bitter legacy. It contributed to the unpopularity of the East German communist regime and its consequent reliance on the Stasi secret police. The victims themselves were permanently traumatised: women of the wartime generation still refer to the Red Army war memorial in Berlin as "the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist".
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BRUTAL MASS RAPE OF GERMAN WOMEN During (And After) WW2