The Most Atrocious Thing You've Never Heard
Updated: Sep 29
When I wrote Songbird, I wanted to learn and write about what life was like for men and, in particular, women on the home front - the sacrifices that they made, the struggles they faced, and the changes they were forced to embrace. Now, I am researching for my next book, and it has taken to me to an odd place. What was life like for German women as the war was coming to an end? As a result, I learned about an atrocity that I didn’t know until last week even occurred.
When the war was ending and the Allied forces began to occupy Germany, millions of German women were raped by conquering soldiers. Like American women, these women had lost loved ones to the war and learned to do things for survival that up until this point only men had done. They were also faced with rebuilding a war-torn country and dealing with the consequences of corrupt leaders. Now, put on top of all that the fear of being raped.
The raping of German women at the conclusion of War World II has been called by some historians “The Greatest Mass Raping” in history. It is estimated that as many as 2,000,000 German women were raped with 100,000 of these occurring in Berlin alone. While most of the rapists were from the Soviet Army, it is reported that men from all the Allied armies participated. Many of the men were said to have been encouraged to participate, seeing it as part of the spoils of war.
The horror stories are difficult to comprehend with girls as young as 8 to 10 and women as old as 80 being victims. Many women were gang raped, raped multiple times in one day, and raped repeatedly for weeks at a time. No woman was out of danger. There are even stories of Soviet soldiers entering convents and raping nuns. More than 200,000 women are estimated to have been killed for resisting or died as a result of rape. Life for German women in the 1940s was one of great hardship both during and after the war. This is an atrocious, often unheard of part of the suffering caused by World War II.