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Crimes Unspoken: The Rape of German Women at the End of the Second World War

Crimes Unspoken: The Rape of German Women at the End of the Second World War

Miriam Gebhardt, Nick Somers (Translated by)

ISBN: 978-1-509-51123-5

Dec 2016, Polity

350 pages



The soldiers who occupied Germany after the Second World War were not only liberators: they also brought with them a new threat, as women throughout the country became victims of sexual violence. In this disturbing and carefully researched book, the historian Miriam Gebhardt reveals for the first time the scale of this human tragedy, which continued long after the hostilities had ended.

Discussion in recent years of the rape of German women committed at the end of the war has focused almost exclusively on the crimes committed by Soviet soldiers, but Gebhardt shows that this picture is misleading. Crimes were committed as much by the Western Allies - American, French and British - as by the members of the Red Army, and they occurred not only in Berlin but throughout Germany. Nor was the suffering limited to the immediate aftermath of the war. Gebhardt powerfully recounts how raped women continued to be the victims of doctors, who arbitrarily granted or refused abortions, welfare workers, who put pregnant women in homes, and wider society, which even today prefers to ignore these crimes.

Crimes Unspoken is the first historical account to expose the true extent of sexual violence in Germany at the end of the war, offering valuable new insight into a key period of 20th century history.

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  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Seventy years too late
  • Wrong victims?
  • How many were affected
  • Sexual aggression against men
  • A word about method
  • Chapter 2 Berlin and the East Ð chronicle of a calamity foretold
  • The great fear
  • The Red Army comes
  • Berlin
  • One year on
  • Extracts from police reports
  • A different perspective
  • Chapter 3 South Germany Ð who will protect us from the Americans?
  • No one’s time
  • Moderate indignation
  • A ‘feeling of great insecurity among our soldiers’
  • Discussion
  • A ‘sexual conquest of Europe’?
  • Unbroken assertion of power by the occupiers
  • Parallels and differences
  • Chapter 4 Pregnant, sick, ostracized Ð approaches to the victims
  • Victims twice over
  • Fraternization
  • The abortion problem
  • No one’s children
  • ‘The other victims are also taken care of’
  • First the French, then the public authorities
  • ‘I love this child as much as the others’
  • Chapter 5 The long shadow
  • The effects of the experience of violence
  • The myth of female invulnerability
  • ‘Anonymous’ and the censorship of memory
  • Duties of loyalty
  • First feminist protests
  • Helke Sander’s ‘BeFreier’ and the German victim debate
  • The past today
  • Notes
  • Sources and selected literature
  • Index
"Miriam Gebhardt has uncovered swathes of new evidence relating to the rape of German women in the US Zone of Occupation. Her book adds a further dimension to our knowledge of life in Germany in the immediate aftermath of the war." - Giles MacDonogh, historian and author

"Miriam Gebhardt's study is not the first that explores the experiences of circa 860.000 German women, who were raped by Allied soldiers in the aftermath of the Second World. But it shifts the focus from the notorious mass rape of Soviet soldiers to the members of the American, British and French forces and estimates that at least 190.000 German women experienced sexual violence by them. With her excellent study she thus challenges the common picture of the 'honourable' Western allied armies."- Karen Hagemann, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"A harrowing and highly recommended work of scholarship."- Times Higher Education Supplement

"A meticulous and fascinating study into the victims of World War II who are rarely considered, much less written about." - History of War