A little, known shameful chapter of World War II.
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To be more precise, they were not sex slaves for the Nazis. These women were made to have sex with the prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps.
As Frau W., a prisoner of the Nazi concentration camp Ravensbrck tells in her testimony,
?They told us we were in the camp brothel, that we were the lucky ones. We would eat well and have enough to drink. If we behaved and fulfilled our duties nothing would happen to us.?
And this heinous scheme was the brainchild SS chief Heinrich Himmler to increase productivity and try to prevent homosexuality from ?breaking out? among the prisoners. He forced women into prostitution in a system of concentration camp bordellos and established a bonus system that camp prisoners could use to buy privileges, such as cigarettes, or sex.
As Robert Sommer, author of the book ?Das KZ-Bordell? says.
?Himmler had a great belief in men?s sexual power. He thought that by using bordellos you could force men to work harder.?
Between 300 and 400 women were forced to become sex workers in brothels in ten concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Yes, the numbers are far fewer than the tens of thousands of ?comfort women? kidnapped across Asia to serve Japanese troops, but the trauma and suffering endured were the same.
After finishing their time in the brothels, some of the women were made camp functionaries and some survived the war. But little is still known about the women who survived the war and what happened to them.
The sex slaves
The first such brothels were established at the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1942 and then expanded to 10 camps including major ones such as Buchenwald, Dachau, Ravensbrueck, Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz.
The camps were set in a very orderly and bureaucratic manner and strict Nazi race rules were enforced. A vast majority of the selected women were either women with suspect political ties or had relationships with Jews. Some were also prostitutes rounded up by the Nazis in order to regulate prostitution in the German cities. All women were regularly tested for sexually-transmitted diseases to prevent outbreaks at the camps. Pregnancies were compulsorily ended by abortion.
As Sommer tells us.
?The SS guards at the camps were not allowed to use the bordellos under the Nazis? strict race laws, nor were Jews or Russian prisoners of war. A German prisoner could only go to a German woman. A Polish prisoner could only go to a Slavic woman.?
And the man charged with implementing Himmler?s plan was SS doctor Siegfried Schwela. Siegfried laid the blueprint and the ground rules for the running of the brothels and was fanatical in ensuring that both men and women are made as ?clean? as possible during the act.
He also created an elaborate system of ?spy holes? where Nazi guards could watch the action and ensure that the women didn?t spend more than 15 minutes with each prisoner. Talking between the man and woman was forbidden and shoes were not allowed on the bed. And adding insult to injury, only the missionary position could be done by the prisoners and anybody violating the rules was severely beaten.
Most of the women were in the early 20s and they were made to have sex with an average of 6?8 men every night between 8 and 10 pm. Both men and women were also subjected to a humiliating medical check and had disinfectant cream smeared over their genitals before and after the act.
Block 24 at Auschwitz where the brothel was located, nicknamed as the ?puff? was proudly offered by Nazis as a ?gift? to the selected prisoners who ?won? coupons for the entry in the brothel. But it was yet another brutal way to torment prisoners.
As Jozef Szajna, a survivor recalled.
?Everybody who thinks that Block 24 was some kind of a gift given to prisoners doesn?t know about Auschwitz at all. It was built to humiliate people. It was just another example of Nazi cynicism and cruelty. ?
The Auschwitz brothels were closed down in January 1945 when the camp was evacuated to escape the advancing Red Army. The final brothel was set up just months before the war ended, to service the camp at Mittelbau-Dora, where V2 rockets were built.
It was pure survival that forced these women
After the war, there is scant evidence of what happened to the surviving women.
Most of them kept their experience hidden, out of shame or trauma, while foreign victims (Ukrainians, Byelorussians, etc.) feared being seen as collaborators just kept silent and lived a life marked by the shame of what they?d endured. And none received recognition from the German state as victims of sex slavery or compensation for their ordeal.
Yes, while these women were treated a bit better than other prisoners and given additional food from the SS kitchen, good clothes, and clean underwear coming from the goods stolen from the people who were killed in the gas chambers, the fact remains that, they had no choice. It was either the brothels or dying in the gas chambers. It was a question of survival, and selling their bodies made surviving the camps a bit easier.
That said, the severe physical and mental damage as a result of their experiences was traumatic, to say the least, and the wounds endured by them are just too deep to be healed back, even for the few survivors, 75 years after the war.
As Sherrilyn Kenyon has rightly said.
?The worst wounds, the deadliest of them, aren?t the ones people see on the outside. They?re the ones that make us bleed internally.?
About the author-:
Mythili is a programmer by passion and a connoisseur of fine arts like painting, calligraphy, and pottery. She writes in the twilight between relationships, creativity, and human behavior.