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Michele Otake

Professor Wertz-Orbaugh
UWRT 1102-03
A Womans Experience through the Holocaust: A Research Review
Sexualized violence was common in concentration camps but, yet, a topic rarely
mentioned is the experience of women who were not persecuted who had to go through a
different kind of horror. My inquiry topic focuses on the experience of victimized women both in
and out of concentration camps. My research concluded with two works. An article written by
Myrna Goldenberg describes sex-based violence and the politics behind these acts. Another
article written by Anna Rosmus who has researched abortions of forced laborers committed in
the town she grew up in. These articles gave me the insight I needed to compare the different
experiences of women.
Goldenberg states in her article that Jewish women were vulnerable in different ways
than men were, gender and sex cannot be dismissed (100). This is why I believe it is important
to discuss women and mens experiences independent from one another. They were treated
separately in the eyes of the perpetrator, the Nazi party.
The Nazis had a law which prohibited sexual contact with non-Aryans. Doing so was a
violation of the Law for Protection of German Blood and Honor (Goldenberg 100). The law
prevented any sexual contact between Aryans and non-Aryans leading to racial-mixing. The rape
of Jewish women was proof of German mens power and a reiteration of their complete
dominance. The rape of Jewish women was unlike the rape of women that occurred in other
genocides. Jewish women were already made powerless and targeted for elimination

Michele Otake
Professor Wertz-Orbaugh
UWRT 1102-03
(Goldenberg 101). The men who carried out the torture of these women knew they would not be
punished by the law. They were protected by the fact that the women would eventually be
murdered in the gas chambers. After reading what Goldenberg had to say about the matter of
abuse and rape of women during the Holocaust I came to a conclusion. The acts committed by
German men was an excessive use of terror and racial dominance.
Another source I found useful was research by Anna Rosmus. During the Holocaust, to
supplement the men who left to fight in the war, farms were in need of laborers to tend to the
fields. People were brought in from countries such as Poland and the Soviet Union to do forced
labor in Germany (Rosmus 77). Many women and young girls became pregnant and their
offspring were usually unwelcome. Many of the children had been fathered by local men who
took sexual advantage of these young foreign girls (Rosmus 78). This surprised me because I
read earlier in Goldenbergs article about a law that made interracial courtship illegal. I assumed
because of this law that the children and children yet to be born needed to be removed in some
way to hide evidence of any sexual contact. Later I learn that the solution the townspeople came
up with were forced abortions.
Rosmus described an experience of a nun who had to help a doctor perform forced
abortions of foreign laborers. Nuns working under a doctor named Clarenz at Hutthurm Hospital
would often object to the practice. On one occasion the assisting Sister even broke out sobbing,
declaring that her conscience was being placed under unbearable strain (Rosmus 80). When an
individual refused to assist in an abortion they were threatened by Dr. Clarenz. Dr. Clarenz

Michele Otake
Professor Wertz-Orbaugh
UWRT 1102-03
would warn them about turning them over to the Gestapo if they continued to refuse. Many
sisters, midwives and women were threatened in this way. They were unwilling to perform what
they believed to be immoral and unethical out of fear that they would face the Gestapo. Many of
the pregnant women taken to the hospital were unaware of what was to happen. I cant imagine
the feelings of the pregnant nor the nurses at the time.
Violence toward Jewish women is known and well talked about in different levels of
education. We tend to forget about the other stories of those affected by a common tragedy. I
never heard of a story of a woman not in a concentration camp. I asked myself, How were
people not affected by something so dreadful? Through my research I was able to find that
answer. I read a story of a nun who could not bear to witness an abortion because it was against
her faith. She still had to assist because the threat of the Gestapo was enough to scare her. Many
other women were most likely also forced, out of fear, to commit unimaginable horrors. The
Holocaust not only affected those targeted but also those who did not believe in Nazi ideals.

Michele Otake
Professor Wertz-Orbaugh
UWRT 1102-03
Works Cited
Goldenberg, Myrna. Sex-Based Violence and the Politics and Ethics of Survival. Different
Horrors / Same Hell: Gender and the Holocaust: 99-127. Seattle: University of
Washington Press, 2013. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
Rosmus, Anna. Involuntary Abortions for Polish Forced Laborers. Experience and Expression:
Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust: 76-94. Detroit: Wayne State University Press,
2003. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.