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Sexual assualt & the Holocaust

(34 Posts)
Sickoffamilydrama Sun 15-Nov-20 10:27:09

Don't know what I'm expecting from this post just more sharing my frustrations.

I've just finished reading Cilka's Journey which I know is fiction weaved around what facts & research could be found. I thought the author dealt well with the complexity of sexual violence and rape.

Anyway this lead me down the path of looking up the woman the book is based around to find her stepson is suing the author, mostly it looks like he's denying she was raped but I can't be certain as obviously not privy to the legal documents. The law allows him to sue so that's fair enough.

Looking at this I discovered that a lot of holocaust museums seem to deny or brush over sexual violence during that time and it has really frustrated me especially as it appears there's a lot of oral history of women talking about them witnessing other women being assaulted, they almost never say themselves were a victim which again is understandable. I understand there's a layer of shame around it all but it's really frustrated/saddened me that part of history isn't taken seriously and is effectively denied.

So I thought I'd share my frustrations with you all.

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Laserbird16 Sun 15-Nov-20 10:33:22

The history books are written by men for men.

Women's experiences are not given the same weight as men and for a long time sexual assault was seen as shameful for women. The abuse by all parties in the second world war was not seen as an appropriate topic for discussion.

There were no white knights and I agree we need to talk about this. It breaks my heart when these atrocities are documented and they continue today in war zones.

zaphodbeeble Sun 15-Nov-20 10:40:30

House of Dolls is a book about the ‘joy divisions’ and the brothel at Auschwitz. There isn’t an awful lot written on this subject, the same with the mass rape of women by Russian soldiers or the ‘comfort women’ held by the Japanese. There was definitely a huge amount of shame felt at the time which made survivors unwilling to talk

Sickoffamilydrama Sun 15-Nov-20 10:46:25

Yes I thought the same that the history is mostly written by men who wouldn't necessarily understand the complexities as easily.

I was shocked but not surprised that rape was only considered a war crime after '94 and Rhonda. I feel by hiding or denying it how can we help the survivors of today?

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Sickoffamilydrama Sun 15-Nov-20 10:47:43

I've seen a few references to house of dolls not sure if my blood pressure can take reading it at the moment but definitely one I'll add to my list.

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Steamfan Sun 15-Nov-20 10:55:10

Christina Lamb wrote an article about Rape as a Weapon of War earlier this year - she also has a book "our Bodies, their Battlefields" Which I've not read

happytoday73 Sun 15-Nov-20 10:55:35

The level of rape just after the war as troops were going through countries on their way home is also little spoke about

user1294729492759 Sun 15-Nov-20 10:59:39

I was shocked but not surprised that rape was only considered a war crime after '94

War crimes (like most crimes) have been determined by men though historically. So makes sense.

Our legal frameworks just reflect who has power and what they want to achieve.

I'm not sure some of the denial isn't from the shame of men who don't want to be seen as the "monsters" our society tends to categorise sexual offenders as. Plus men maintaining their power.

I share your frustration.

RuffleCrow Sun 15-Nov-20 11:01:51

I wonder what grounds he's suing on ? Is he claiming defamation? Because that would imply that having been raped is held to reflect badly on the victim. I've read "Why Women Are Blamed For Everything" I'm not surprised.

RealityNotEssentialism Sun 15-Nov-20 11:11:48

happytoday73

The level of rape just after the war as troops were going through countries on their way home is also little spoke about

Yup, the allied soldiers are described only as heroes liberating the camps. The fact that many of them raped local women in the process is never mentioned.

Sickoffamilydrama Sun 15-Nov-20 11:24:23

The reporting I've read says the stepson is suing for deformation wether that is centred around her not working in the section that sent prisoners to the gas chambers or that she was a sex slave I'm not sure the reporting makes it sound like the latter.

Yes we all know the allied soldiers raped women why hide it. Like user12947 says it's probably related to not wanting to be seen as monsters and initially was a propaganda exercise.

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BitMuch Sun 15-Nov-20 11:32:55

Andrea Dworkin's book Scapegoat:The Jews, Israel and Women's Liberation includes a great many very extensively researched accounts of the organised sexual violence and pornography employed against Jewish women and girls by the Nazis. A digital copy is available free here radfem.org/dworkin/. Andrea's cousin survived multiple camps and a death march and Andrea witnessed her PTSD as a child and was told of the horrific abuse of babies in the camps. It is her best work in my opinion and a very thorough exploration of the oppression of Jewish people from a female-focused author. The way the Nazis made pornography as propaganda against the Jews is very important, and the role of sex slavery. Andrea Dworkin describes being absolutely crushed when she travelled to Israel for the first time in 1988 and saw pornography depicting women being sexually tortured in Nazi concentration camps in magazines sold in Israeli newsagents.

zaphodbeeble Sun 15-Nov-20 11:37:16

The Lebensborn programme is an example of Nazi sexual abuse towards aryan women too.

CaraDuneRedux Sun 15-Nov-20 11:43:11

Yup, the allied soldiers are described only as heroes liberating the camps. The fact that many of them raped local women in the process is never mentioned.

Anthony Beevor's Berlin does tackle this - though mainly (because of the fact that it's Berlin in particular he's discussing, therefore the army doing most of the attacking was the Red Army) in the context of Soviet soldiers raping German civilian women. But there are other sources which indicate that other allied soldiers, including Brits and Americans, were just as bad.

Pretty much every conflict in history has had widespread rape as a weapon of war. Most recently in Europe, in Bosnia. And it wasn't just the "bad guys" doing the raping: UN peacekeepers [sic] were also involved and implicated in industrial scale sex trafficking.
www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/9041974/What-the-UN-Doesnt-Want-You-to-Know.html

Beevor's also good on the sexual politics of women accused of collaboration, pointing out that such accusations were often levelled against women who had been victims of sexual assault and rape, and that their accusers were often themselves collaborators trying to deflect attention from their own crimes.
www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/jun/05/women-victims-d-day-landings-second-world-war

(Both old articles, but still worth a read.)

Sickoffamilydrama Sun 15-Nov-20 11:49:56

Thanks bitmuch I've downloaded them I am actually shocked at that those poor women and angry. Why am I even surprised but that it still exists and is circulated I have no words.

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RealityNotEssentialism Sun 15-Nov-20 11:54:32

Thanks, those look really interesting and I will take a look.
Yeah, even the ‘good guys’ sent to help vulnerable populations will take advantage if they can. It doesn’t matter if they’re Nazis, Red Army, UN soldiers or allies - the one thing they have in common is that they are men. And, horrendously, when men feel unconstrained by the social norms that usually keep them on the straight and narrow, a worrying number of them will rape and exploit women. I think it’s something we don’t want to face as a society. That’s why we pretend that it’s only depraved ‘monsters’ who rape when the reality is that many rapists are respected members of society with good jobs, wives, girlfriends and children.

I also think that the characterisation of rape as something exceptional that only the most depraved evil men engage in means that it’s harder to argue for women’s single sex spaces. If you look at the number of women who have suffered a sexual assault or rape in their lifetime, many many more men that we want to admit are a potential danger to women. It’s not like these women are all assaulted by the same guy. Rape is widespread and commonplace and happens when men are given the confidence that they will get away with it. WW2 provided that in bucketloads.

BrassicaRabbit Sun 15-Nov-20 12:42:02

I also think that the characterisation of rape as something exceptional that only the most depraved evil men engage in means that it’s harder to argue for women’s single sex spaces. If you look at the number of women who have suffered a sexual assault or rape in their lifetime, many many more men that we want to admit are a potential danger to women. It’s not like these women are all assaulted by the same guy. Rape is widespread and commonplace and happens when men are given the confidence that they will get away with it. WW2 provided that in bucketloads.

I agree. My assailants are all out there identifying as decent members of society as far as I know. In fact I don't know a single female friend who has reported their rape or sexual assault to the police.

Soldiers are brutalised to train them to kill. It doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to work out how that desensitisation could lead them to rape too.

I suspect one reason no man wants to confront this is that it would lead us to question what is it about our peacetime (ish) society that continues to raise men capable of attack?

nosswith Sun 15-Nov-20 12:47:17

I have been to several Holocaust museums, more since the discovery a few years ago that I have ancestors who died in two of the concentration camps. Most recently to Dachau in September.

Ill-treatment (short of killing) hardly ever mentions sexual violence, if at all.

I only became aware firstly of rape as a weapon of war from someone who survived a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, who was a childhood friend of my grandmother.

weebarra Sun 15-Nov-20 12:48:48

I took a course at a US university in the late 90's called International Perspectives on violence against women, and it did have specific references to Bosnia/Serbia, WW2 and Rwanda. Really interesting course but not light!

BrassicaRabbit Sun 15-Nov-20 12:49:42

This is really very shocking that the holocaust museums wouldn't cover the subject at all.

WeeBisom Sun 15-Nov-20 12:50:20

I remember reading a book about the brothels in the Holocaust and being really shocked to learn that there was a brothel set up for the camp guards but also one for the male prisoners to “reward” them. I can’t imagine the pain and misery of these poor women being assaulted by their fellow prisoners. The horrible truth is that there are no goodies and baddies in this - all the men, it seems, eagerly line up to exploit women.

Sickoffamilydrama Sun 15-Nov-20 12:54:29

Thanks Cara can't get past the paywall on the first link but the 2nd is interesting the writer tries to explore the subject but sometimes probably missed some points he describes them as prostitutes or having "relationships" with Germans and doesn't really explore that they probably weren't either.

I found 5 women about the women jack the ripper murdered interesting for this as we are always told by history they were prostitutes when actually they probably weren't.

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IrishCawfee Sun 15-Nov-20 13:00:27

History and education overall is occupied, umpired and edited by men. That's only just starting to change.
Rape is a Weapon of War. I learned this term reading about Congolese women who suffered greatly during the Great African War.

Sickoffamilydrama Sun 15-Nov-20 13:33:36

IrishCawfee

History and education overall is occupied, umpired and edited by men. That's only just starting to change.
Rape is a Weapon of War. I learned this term reading about Congolese women who suffered greatly during the Great African War.

Yes definitely agree with you.

It's also telling that the stepson appears to be suing to protect her "virtue" that there's something wrong with her having experienced that (if she did) that's his biases showing. All I see when I read the book was a young woman barely and adult surviving in the most horrific circumstances. Imagine surviving the Holocaust only to be sent to the Gulag. She was only 2 1/2 years older than my DD when she arrived at the camp.

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DidoLamenting Sun 15-Nov-20 13:44:07

It's also telling that the stepson appears to be suing to protect her "virtue" that there's something wrong with her having experienced that (if she did) that's his biases showing

I think there is a bit more to it than that.

www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/03/cilkas-journey-heather-morris-sequel-tattooist-of-auschwitz-branded-titillating

The Auschwitz Camp Memorial Centre doesn't seem thrilled by Morris' first book either.

www.theguardian.com/books/2018/dec/07/the-tattooist-of-auschwitz-attacked-as-inauthentic-by-camp-memorial-centre

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