Rape in the Holocaust

How Sexualized Violence is Used as a Weapon of War.

Unlike in other genocides in the 20th century, sexualized violence was not used during the Holocaust as a sanctioned strategy from above. It was, however, employed deliberately and haphazardly, with horrendous results.
To subjugate: In their quest to annihilate the Jewish people, Nazis subjugated them through starvation and slave labor. But Jewish women were subjugated on a sexually violent level as well: raped, sexually humiliated, and destroyed bodily.
For ethnic cleansing: The U.N. defines ethnic cleansing as “a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” The Holocaust was an effort to completely annihilate the Jewish people. We are using the term “ethnic cleansing” here to denote that sexualized violence was used to prevent the propagation of Jews and other groups of people. Ethnic cleansing makes women subject not only to outright murder, but also controls the threat of their bodies as the means of reproduction. For instance, women have been raped in order to occupy “inferior” wombs with “superior” sperm, or forced to have abortions or sterilizations (as have men of “inferior” groups) in order to end future reproduction. In some conflicts, women are also subject to the sex-specific political torture of forcing them to bear the child of their torturer in order to break their will. In the Holocaust, forced sterilizations and abortions, as well as heinous “medical” experiments, prevented Jews and Sinti-Roma (or Gypsies) from later having children.
To wield power: Some women were forced to accept rape as payment for receiving food or shelter, or to save their children, in the camps and ghettos under Nazi control. This was also used as a tool when women were in hiding to bring silence through humiliation and fear. Nazis; their collaborators; Kapos (prisoners in charge of prisoners); male prisoners (Jewish and non-Jewish) who had more food or privileges than the women; members of a Judenrat (Nazi-appointed council that governed a ghetto) all wielded power over women through various forms of sexualized violence.
To humiliate: Women were forced to strip in front of soldiers, stand naked for hours, even days, or wait naked in lines for disinfection, or were whipped naked or made to dance naked. One of the biggest humiliations for a woman was having her hair shaved, not only from her head but from all over her body. Rape sometimes took place in front of relatives in forced home invasions, or fellow camp prisoners. In one “show” in Auschwitz-Birkenau, German soldiers raped 20 Jewish women in front of a labor group, who were supposed to stand and applaud, writes Helene Sinnreich in Sexual Violence. According to the testimony of one witness survivor, one of the women who were raped was from his hometown; she later committed suicide.
…Despite the many testimonies from Jewish and non-Jewish survivors that mention the prevalence of rape and the threat of sexualized violence, it is likely impossible to come up with any plausible numbers. The scale of the Holocaust was so immense, and the atrocities so widespread, that we can only recount individual acts and statements like this one, in Sexual Violence, from a Warsaw doctor: “One continually hears of the raping of Jewish girls in Warsaw.” Continual, terrifying, and obliterating—sexualized violence must be recognized as a tornado force in the Holocaust without quantification.

How Sexualized Violence is Used as a Weapon of War.

Lauren Wolfe, Women Under Siege – Holocaust

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