The Holocaust took place during World War II. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s both Japan and Germany began nationalistic and imperialistic campaigns of expansion. Then the US got involved after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. While all of this madness was happening a man named Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany. He was responsible for the the Holocaust which was the murder of at least six million Jews and twelve million innocent people in total. Inside these camps there were horrors of women having to deal with sexual violence during this horrific time.
What I read goes more in depth about what happened in the camps. In the article written by Katarzyna called, “Sexual Violence during the Holocaust–the Case of Forced Prostitution in the Warsaw Ghetto” talks about how women, that aren’t even mothers, were manipulated for sex for their own and or their families survival. This is one of the untold stories of the holocaust. It also brings up the spread of venereal disease in the closed quarters because of all the sexual violence. Women were told “sex for survival.” Women could gain a higher chance of survival by offering their bodies to protect their parents, families, and siblings. I read an another article by Hassmann called, “Sexual Violence against Jewish Women During the Holocaust.’ This article goes more in depth about how women why were survivors were shameful to admit what happened to them. Many of them were subjected to sexual abuse. Before the 1990s women survivors didn’t even want to touch on the subject, They would be stripped naked and their heads would be shaved. They had felt like they lost their femininity. Many of these women were extremely religious so they didn’t was to talk about being raped because that means they had lost their “purity.” Another thing that is talked about is how lesbian rape by female guards was a big issue along with so much more.
There were two more articles that I read. One is the one, by Shik, that we got in class was my favorite out of all of them and explains two different narratives within the Chapter. It is also similar to the other ones when it talks about sex in exchange for survival, rape, and physical abuse. What I really like about this article is that it give testimonies from the women survivors. For example there is a testimony of sexual harassment. “From time to time SS officers came in, walked around the room, and jeered at the sight of our naked bodies. It amused them to pinch the buttocks of the women who were young and pretty. When now of the men passed beside me pinched my buttocks. I felt really humiliated.”
The women were subjected to being stripped of their femininity and SS officers would even shave their heads. There is also other accounts of rape and abuse not only from the male officers but the women officers as well. Lesbian rape was believed to run rampid in the camps just as much as male rape with the female prisoners. They SS officers would make them strip in front of everyone. For example this testimony talks about one of these accounts. ‘We were led to a block, there wait for us SS men and SS women armed with cudgels and yelling at us: ’Strip!’ We took off out coats and stood there looking helpless at6 each other. Then again that scream: ’Strip!’ Yes, to strip naked, totally naked in front of this herd of animals…”
The final article by Kerstin called, ‘No ‘Innocent Victim: Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust as Trope in Zeugin Aus Der Hölle.’ This article talks about This article talks about Jewish women’s experience during the Holocaust. Women were subjected to rape, forced prostitution, sterilization, and sexual abuse during medical experiments. Some women were put into camp brothels. THe women were told by working in theses brothels then they would be granted food and other goods. They were also offered survival in exchange for their bodies. Other women were even told if they did so they would be released from the camp.
Within the text by Shik talks about two different arguments as to what has happened with sexual violence during the Holocaust. The first interpretation in on page 225 where it talks about how there isn’t that much evidence that sexual violence and assault happened. Also due to the strict Nazi belief to eliminate all Jews why would Nazis be attracted to them and want to have sexual relations with them For example the reading states, “It concludes that there is little evidence of harsh sexual abuse, particularly incidence of rape, in the various camps. Scholars taking this position argue, correctly, that this is mainly due to strict prohibitions in Nazi ideology, in short, the interdictions against sexual relations, by a consistent or by force, between members of the Supreme race and inferior race, particularly Jews. To engage in such relations was considered a crime of race defilement.”
This quote tries proving the argument that there wasn’t any sexual violence because such realations with these jewish women would be considered a crime and probably punishable in some way. Nazis if caught having intercourse with a prisoner could be shipped to Russian fronts and the Jewish prisoner would be shot for defiling the “master race.”
The Second interpretation or argument was that sexual abuse did happen but women were ashamed or too afraid to talk about it. For example on page 226 it states “ Harsh sexual abuse including many cases of rape, did in fact take place in various Nazi camps. The lack of evidence for this can be explained by the reluctance of female survivors to talk about these experiences.” it says the author Shik doesn’t fully agree with this interpretation on page 228, but at the same time with the first interpretation she doesn’t agree with that at all.
The Holocaust was a terrible time that women also had to deal with sexual violence and sexual assault within the camps. They were stripped of their femininity and went through mental, physical, and sexual abuse. They experienced this from not just the male SS officers but also the women SS officers. Women used their bodies for survival and made to believe that they could use sex in exchange for survival. There was many horror that happened in the camps and sexual violence and assault is just one of them.