The Rape of Germany

Part 3/4

The invasion of Germany has historically marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War or, put differently, the beginning of the triumph of good over evil. Yet history seems to have forgotten the wave of evil that accompanied the invasion and subsequent occupation of Germany. When Soviet forces broke through German lines, they unleashed a wave of merciless horror on to German citizens. When these massacres were reported to the international community, events were simply ignored. How has such a systematic and widespread crime managed to remain concealed for so long?

NEXT POST: 4/4 Rape in the Bosnian War

Mass Rape in Germany

The origins of this massacre can be traced back to the 21st of October 1944. It was on this day that the Red Army’s first managed to break through German lines. The small German village of Nemmersdorf was first to fall victim to Soviet atrocities. After only a few hours fighting, Nazi troops returned to their besieged village which was littered with the corpses of those trying to flee. The women were found stripped naked and some had their wrists nailed to the wooden carts in which they were trying to flee.[1]

Once word of these crimes reached German high command, a series of impartial observers were drafted in to observe and document what had occurred. Once the report eventually reached international media, it was ignored and set aside by world powers.[2] As a result, the Soviet trail of destruction was left to continue further inland, with troops directly ordered to kill all German men, women, and children, but not before taking women for their own pleasure first. [3]

As the Red Army advanced further towards Berlin, more reports began to emerge of new massacres, where women were gang-raped in front of their own homes and families before being slaughtered.[4] Anybody attempting to defend victims were killed, or in some instances, castrated.[5]

One witness recalls a group of German women pleading with a Soviet officer for protection from his troops. The officer then directed them into a nearby church for ‘sanctuary’. Soviet troops then surrounded the church and repeatedly raped the women and girls inside for over 48 hours, this report cites victims as young as 8.[6]

Other reports emerged of the capture of the Women’s Reich Labour Service camp. Upon their arrival, Nazi troops were greeted by corpses with swastikas burnt into their stomachs.[7] Some girls were even found with their intestines cut out, whilst others with their breasts mutilated or removed altogether.[8]

In total, the estimated number of German women and girls raped ranges from 100,000 – 2,000,000.[9] The figure is hotly debated as many victims were subsequently murdered, never reported what happened to them or died of natural causes. Despite this, the remains of German medical records set the number at 2,000,000, with 100,000 occurring in Berlin alone.[10]

Establishing Accountability?

According to Antony Beevor, files of the Russian Internal Affairs Commission (NKVD) revealed that Stalin himself knew what crimes Soviets were committing, yet failed to do anything about it.[11] In the immediate aftermath of the war, the international press was occupied with the unfolding horrors of Nazi concentration camps and the upcoming Nuremberg trials. Meanwhile, in Eastern Germany, German women still continued to be repeatedly assaulted. It is important to remember that US, French and British troops were also reported to have raped, yet these were isolated cases on a much smaller scale.

On the whole, solid historical evidence of these atrocities has only come to light recently with the release of Thomas Goodrich’s book Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany 1944-1947 and the release of Anonyma, a movie documenting the events of female German’s diary. To date, these events still lack rigorous research, never mind accountability. As most witnesses are now either dead or elderly, we may never know the full extent of what occurred. To add to this, Russia still denies what took place, and in 2015 even banned Antony Beevor’s books reporting on this mass rape from Russian educational institutes.[12]

Sophie Jackson is a graduate student from the University of Groningen. With a background in gender equality, philosophy, international criminal law and human rights, she writes about sustainable development through issues arising from serious human rights violations.


Part 1/4: Eradicating Sexual Violence as a Tool of War: Why has Impunity Existed for so Long?

Part 2/4: The Rape of Nanking: A Forgotten Holocaust?

Part 3/4: The Rape of Germany

Part 4/4: Rape in the Bosnian War: An End to Impunity?

ViissiArt: Signe Westi, Made for Viissi


[1] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[2] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[3] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[4] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[5] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[6] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[7] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[8] Hellstorm Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9prP_FhVx0

[9] E. Heineman, The Hour of the Woman: Memories of Germany’s “Crisis Years” and West German National Identity, American Historical Review 101 (2): 354–395

– https://www.jstor.org/stable/2170395?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

[10] T. Remme, World Wars: The Battle of Berlin in World War Two, BBC History

– http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/berlin_01.shtml

[11] L. Ash, The Rape of Berlin, BBC News

– http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32529679

[12]  A. Beevor, By banning my book, Russia is deluding itself about its past, the Guardian

– https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/05/banning-book-russia-past-holocaust-red-army-antony-beevor

Useful Resources






Anthony Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall 1945, 2007, Penguin

Thomas Goodrich, Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany 1944-1947, 2010, Aberdeen Books