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12. March 2020

World War II: Millions of rapes on women and girls

On May 8, 2020, it will be 75 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe. Among the many severe violations of human rights committed during that war, there were millions of rapes of women and girls. Post-war society suppressed these crimes; medica mondiale wants these injustices to be remembered. We hope these women will finally gain some recognition.

During World War II, millions of women and girls suffered sexualised harassment, which was committed in both unplanned and systematic acts. The women locked up in concentration camps suffered particularly badly, especially those of Jewish, Romani and Sinti descent, as well as women who had joined the resistance against the NS regime. Huge numbers of rapes also occurred in areas under German occupation, such as France, Poland or regions of the Soviet Union. German soldiers were perpetrators there. There were also perpetrators among the Allied forces in post-war Germany. Women and girls who became pregnant as a result of rape seldom had a free decision whether to give birth to the child or not. Mother and child were then often isolated and stigmatised.

Rape during war: Experiences of women and their trans-generational consequences

The stories of these women are not well known. Their suffering was generally ignored and suppressed after the war - and it still is, including in Germany. The women affected have had almost no opportunity to talk about what they experienced. They generally never received any appropriate psychosocial support, without which it is impossible for them to process their experiences. And without processing, the consequences of the violence continue to impact deeply upon their lives. These consequences shape family and other social relationships, and are passed on to the next generations - an effect known as transgenerational trauma.

This is why medica mondiale sees the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Europe from National Socialism as an opportunity to remind society of these women and pay tribute to their strength. We want to publicly demonstrate our solidarity – with them and with all survivors of sexualised violence worldwide. These women and their stories are part of us. Further information will be published on our website soon.

Author: Beate Kriechel, free author on behalf of medica mondiale

Related Topics

Monika Hauser: “The men did not ask their wives, ‘So what happened to you during the war?’ because they did not want their wives to ask them, ‘And what did you do over there?’”