Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Woman in Berlin

From The Age:
""Frau, komm"They mean "woman, come" and for an estimated 2 million women and girls at the end of World War II, it was the precursor to savage, multiple rapes.

Now Germany is searching for survivors of the hideous orgy of abuse committed by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army. The quest began in the same week as a film called A Woman in Berlin opened to the acclaim of critics.

The film is based on a book of the same name by Marta Hillers, an autobiographical account originally published in the 1950s, which describes her experiences between April and June 1945.

Most have hidden their agony and shame since those terrible days in 1945, when girls as young as seven and grandmothers as old as 90 were attacked by hordes of drunken, depraved and diseased soldiers.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin saw rape as a weapon to crush German resistance. Whole legions of women lived in shattered, bombed-out buildings, skulking in the ruins like rats as the Soviet troops came for them. Suicides soared and Catholic priests in Berlin and other cities occupied by the Soviets counselled on abortion.

After more than 60 years, academics have begun recording the experiences of the victims. Since Monday, nine survivors have begun speaking to researchers with Professor Phillipp Kuwert of Greifswald University. "A systematic scientific processing of the trauma released by the rapes and the long-term silence over them is missing in our knowledge about them," he said.

In conjunction with the Cologne-based Medica Mondiale association, which works with traumatised women, his team hopes to interview hundreds of survivors for a lasting record of what occurred.

After starting their research in and around Berlin, the team will move to Ukraine and other areas of Eastern Europe to get the testimony and experiences of victims of German wartime rapists in the Nazi army and the SS.

But it was in eastern Germany in general, and in Berlin in particular, that rape became a sinister weapon in modern warfare."

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