How has rape been dealt with throughout history


Whatever type of physical or psychological violence one looks at, the war winter of 1944/45 is one of the series of bloody "climaxes" in the history of violence in the 20th century. Everything speaks in favor of understanding the time as a sequence of permanent states of emergency that began in the 1930s and did not come to an end until the late 1940s. [1] In the last months of the war in Germany it was no longer just a state of emergency of annihilation, but also of self-annihilation, which is part of the history of the Nazi regime and only began with the suicide of Adolf Hitler on April 30th and the unconditional surrender on April 7th . and 8 May 1945 came to an end. That did not mean an end to the state of emergency.

The areas occupied by the Allies since September 1944 were under martial law, de facto a form of sovereign dictatorship of the military governors supreme authoritywhich was confirmed again in the Berlin Declaration on June 5, 1945. [2] A few weeks later, the general goals of Germany's policy were determined at the Potsdam conference: the elimination of the Nazi state, its personnel and Nazi law, then the political and state reorganization of Germany, including Germany's return to the constitutional rule of law.

The - very unequal - ways of normalizing the situation in the western zones and in the Soviet occupation zone (SBZ), which became apparent at an early stage, have often been described, but not so much that these normalizations took place under the auspices of a prevailing state of emergency. Of particular importance in this context is that specific violence constellation during the transition from rule, which initially spanned the winter of 1944/45, but then continued throughout Germany into the summer. It was a state of emergency of a "zero hour" (always in the history of German statehood), when relations of rule and power were reversed, old bills were often settled, but sovereignty was also renegotiated and established. This does not only apply to Germany. In other countries this constellation of 1945 resulted in bloody civil wars and conflicts.

State of emergency of (self-) annihilation

The Nazi state and the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler were founded in the declared state of emergency when he came to power in 1933. [3] The safeguarding of the rights of the "national community" on the one hand and the lack of rights with the disposal of the life of the "community strangers" as well as the internal and external "enemies" on the other hand were closely related from the beginning. The bloody trace of the murders since 1933 shows that such progressive border crossings, the expansion of the right of exception and the disenfranchisement of ever new groups were inherent in the Nazi system and, long before the end of the war, had reached a "climax" with the murder of the Jewish population of Europe . The "total war" with its "military necessities" and the "lessons" that were drawn from the First World War had the effect of a fire accelerator.

In the winter of 1944/45 the war returned to where it had started in Europe in 1939 and where it was to end in the destroyed Berlin. [4] The experience of excessive violence in a state of emergency during the war was no longer restricted to distant locations, even for Germans. With over 450,000 in January and around 900,000 dead in the months to April, the number of casualties in this short period alone added up to around a third of all German soldiers killed during the war, a large proportion of them on German soil. This also included the cohorts of hastily trained, inexperienced 17-year-olds who were "burned up" in the last battles. Hundreds of thousands more deaths added to this, including members of the so-called Volkssturm. [5] The streets were places of everyday emergency.

In the east of the German Reich there was a picture of chaos and dissolution, similar to that in many German cities, whose populations were affected by the intensified bombing attacks. After the last murder campaigns in dissolved concentration camps and satellite camps, a stream of concentration camp inmates classified as fit for work moved through the country on "death marches", visible to large parts of the German population, even before they saw the genocide through photo and film documents of the occupying powers was faced. In this unusually cold winter, the path of millions of refugees crossed with the withdrawal of the Wehrmacht and the advance of the Red Army. Rumors and news about excessive violence by Russian soldiers against the civilian population, including mass rape, spread like wildfire and were grist to the mills of Goebbels’s perseverance propaganda. At least half a million refugees died on the way west. [6]

Helping yourself to save your own bare life and that of your loved ones, not to be drawn into the vortex of annihilation - worries like these dominated the precarious life in a state of emergency. At the same time - apparently paradoxical - efforts to achieve "normality" went hand in hand, where everyday life was still determined by work and well-established routines. This can be seen in the last economic war efforts in the form of "emergency armaments", but then also in the control of the millions of foreign forced laborers in the camp system throughout the empire until the last weeks of the war; in supplying the population with food or when it came to putting out fires, looking after the sick or holding final war weddings; that even applied to military operations. This normality in the general state of emergency helped to prolong the war, but then, as it turned out, made reconstruction possible under the adverse conditions of the post-war period. [7]

The Nazi leadership, followed by parts of the military and the bureaucracy, forced the state of emergency of total war, which in the last months of the war resulted in a state of emergency of self-destruction. Like much in the history of National Socialism, this process is quite unique. [8] Such self-destruction, which neither a civilian government nor the military (as in 1918) could stop, has been on the horizon since the military disaster in Stalingrad. Everyday propaganda slogans such as the "fight to the last man", "fight to be or not to be", "rather let yourself be killed than surrender to the enemy" were just as much a part of it as the systematic destruction of the economic infrastructural lifelines in the Reich. Hitler himself had outlined the apocalyptic end-time scenario when he spoke to his armaments minister Albert Speer that "if the war is lost, the people will also be lost"; It is therefore "not necessary to take into account the foundations that the German people need for their most primitive survival. On the contrary, it is better to destroy these things yourself" if, as he said, the German people see themselves as "that weaker ". [9] The fact that the "all or nothing" of the doom prophecies first and foremost affected the Nazi state could hardly be overlooked.

With the "besieged fortress", the archetype of the military and legal state of emergency emerged more and more: as a justification for a comprehensive, even violent disposal of property, life and basic rights, including the mobilization of young people, women and the elderly for the Volkssturm and fortification work as well as the subordination of the population and the economy to military law. [10] As an end times scenario - with an untimely happy outcome - this siege image was brought to the screen in Veit Harlan's propaganda film "Kolberg", produced in 1943/44. The heroized defensive struggle of the Prussian city against Napoleon should serve as a model for the Germans. What that meant in reality is shown by the example of the city of Breslau (Wrocław), which was declared a fortress and held out for weeks until the beginning of May, with an estimated 50,000 deaths among the civilian population remaining in the city alone. This was not an isolated case in a state of emergency of self-destruction. [11]

In many German cities, shortly before the end of the war, this last - existential - question of possible (for civilians usually involuntary) self-sacrifice arose. Terror threats of the military state of emergency were in the room: hurriedly created special courts and tribunals of the military and the party imposed and executed death sentences, even for minor offenses, which killed hundreds of people in the last months of the war. The extent of the individual and collective murders of fanatical fighters in the final battle, who were directed against foreign workers, concentration camp inmates, German civilians and soldiers alike, remains largely in the dark. "Civilians and soldiers, strangers and locals, hung from the trees in the Reich," wrote the military historian Rolf-Dieter Müller. [12] Neither such special courts nor the self-authorization of individuals in the service of the state, the party or the people, for example in the form of denunciations, were new.

The basically logical consequence of this state of emergency of self-annihilation was undoubtedly the suicide of numerous large and small Nazi functionaries: "The demand for poison, for a pistol or other means of putting an end to life is great everywhere. Suicides out of real desperation are over the catastrophe that can be expected with certainty is the order of the day, "reported the SS security service in one of the last reports from the Reich. [13] The fact that most Nazi party supporters, like the overwhelming majority of the population, preferred saving their own lives to death, testifies not only to the will to survive, but also to how cynical the previous justifications for comprehensive disposal of life and property were in the final battle.

State of emergency of the "zero hour"

For soldiers, civilians, forced laborers and concentration camp inmates, the war ended at different times in 1944/45, and there were almost always dangers associated with it. This was true when soldiers surrendered, but especially for the moment when the previous rulers - the party and security apparatus, the military, the police organs, but also in many cases officials and high church dignitaries - withdrew in a hurry, as well as for the critical transition period, in which the allied troops established themselves as the new power of order.

This process was repeated in one way or another everywhere, not only in the previously occupied Europe, but also in the colonies of the European powers. [14] In abstract terms, it was a "liminal state" of the transition of systems of rule, specifically: a time between two military states of war and states of emergency, when the last commandos of the police, SS, but also fanatical party members caused a lot of mischief and the new military one The power of order had not yet been established, and beyond that, it gave soldiers carte blanche to act in a self-empowering manner.

As problematic as the term "zero hour" is in its common, often criticized reading as a new beginning without preconditions, [15] a sui generis state of emergency comes into view. Autobiographically, this moment is described and circumscribed in very different ways: as a strange state of nature, even as a "wolf" or "no man's time", [16] as a moment of freedom, namely as liberation from domination and terror - and with Terror could mean very different things, including the "bomb terror" intensified in this last phase of the war - or as a standstill of the state-administrative apparatus of power, far more frequently on the part of the German population, but also as a moment of the loss of established systems of meaning and absolute defenselessness. The former Leviathan and its laws became invisible for a short time. [17]

Liminality here also describes a threshold state in which the status as well as the power and violence relationships of victims and perpetrators are reversed. Wasn't that actually the moment of that "real state of emergency" of the oppressed in response to the "state of emergency" in which we live ", from which the writer and philosopher Walter Benjamin occupied a few months before his suicide on the failed escape from the German troops France had spoken? [18] Those who in one way or another had suffered the violence of the state of emergency of the Nazi regime saw themselves, if they were not too demoralized, placed in a position to settle old scores. If you consider who saw themselves as "victims" of the war in the winter of 1944/45, it becomes clear how complicated these constellations could be under the conditions of a state of emergency.

In previously occupied Europe, partisan and citizen committees went everywhere in 1944/45 to settle accounts with the former henchmen and compliant collaborators of the Nazi regime, with an estimated 10,000 deaths in France and up to 15,000 in Italy. Their forms of action in a "real state of emergency" were diverse: shaving women, threats, execution and confiscations of assets. In countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Greece, but especially in Yugoslavia, these clashes turned into new violent clashes and civil wars, which also involved ethnic and national supremacy. [19]

Such excesses of direct violence also existed in Germany, with tens of thousands of civilians dead in the wake of looting and violent assaults by soldiers who searched homes and (at best) sought trophies of victory such as watches and other valuables. The real victims of this lawless condition were girls and women of all ages. The sexual violence inflicted on many illustrates, more than anything else, this widespread state of exception in which law and morality appeared to be suspended. In addition to the physical pain, the violence of the victors was permanently inscribed in the lives of hundreds of thousands of women. As numerous representations show, the areas occupied by the Red Army were most affected; However, forms of sexual violence as a mass phenomenon also existed in the French occupation zone. What was tolerated by the Soviet military leadership in the course of the occupation of the country, and even fueled by targeted propaganda of revenge, developed into a problem for military discipline, which could hardly be mastered in the Soviet Zone well beyond 1945 and which eventually became a problem could only be solved by barracking and isolating their soldiers. [20]

From the beginning, the humiliating experiences of those affected, but also those of the relatives who knew about it, were accompanied by silence, at least in public. It was different with the issue of violence emanating from so-called displaced persons - i.e. former forced laborers, prisoners of war as well as concentration camp and other camp inmates who were outside their state as a result of the war. The end of the war in the sense of the "zero hour" meant for these people first of all liberation - all the more so since they had to fear for their lives up to the last minute. Tens of thousands of them fell victim to the last excesses of violence by the Nazi state and its henchmen.

As an American observer noted, there was an "exuberant holiday mood" among the around 10.8 million forced laborers on German Reich territory: [21] Work in the factories had ceased and the previously guarded camp gates opened. Freedom also meant that these people were often left to their own devices in the first few weeks of the occupation and were thus initially without care. Looting took place throughout the entire Reich, which dragged on well into 1945 and remained a public issue afterwards. It was not just about "payment by beating". [22] People in rural areas in particular were affected and often resorted to "self-help". A large number of murders and acts of manslaughter are documented, but also rape committed by displaced persons that received a lot of attention. [23]

Violence by individuals was offset against, or equated with, the violence of the Nazi state from the start. This becomes clear in a letter from Ernst Jünger to Carl Schmitt, in which the writer mocked a conversation in 1948 that he had had shortly after the occupation in 1945 with American journalists who were evidently still under the impression of a concentration camp visited shortly before .While Jünger referred to a nearby manor, where a man had been murdered "by Poland (...) under terrible circumstances", he had the impression that the journalists hardly wanted to see the place, yes, that the sight was unpleasant for them: "To the Victim must be added to the topicality, the legitimation through common sense ", so his conclusion - for the lawyer Schmitt a" delightful "illustration of the" changes that occur immediately with every word and concept as soon as they come into the realm of a concrete friend-foe situation. "[24]

But had the fronts really only been reversed? It was not until 1948 that the issue of criminal prosecution was raised. The initial forbearance of the occupying powers quickly turned into impatience in this case too. In order to get the "problem" under control and not to endanger public order, some of the displaced persons were again placed in temporary camps. The first twelve death sentences by the US military courts in Hesse concerned displaced persons who had committed armed robbery and / or murder in the summer of 1945. [25]

Germany was spared a civil war in 1945. There were many Germans who had suffered from the reprisals of the Nazi state and who pressed for a speedy settlement with their tormentors. Citizens' committees and anti-fascist committees were formed in many cities. Moral outrage, coupled with feelings of revenge, was just as much a motive for its foundation as the safeguarding of order and law. An American observer of an anti-fascist committee in Frankfurt-Riederwald felt like "the emotionally lashed reaction of the French Maquis [guerrilla organization in the resistance, Note d. A.] Against collaborators in the first phase of liberation ". [26] When the language came to old Nazis, the mood was radical to revolutionary: the aim was to avenge the suffering inflicted on them. The guilty should not be simply executed and locked away ", but are used for forced labor; women apparently repeatedly complained of their husbands forbearance towards National Socialists. [27]

In addition to forms of action such as the confiscation of apartments and allotments or beatings and fights, with which Nazi party members were intimidated, there was debate - not only in these circles - whether forms of vigilante justice - i.e. forms of direct justice in the hands of the victims of Nazi violence - were appropriate would be. A well-known proponent is the Social Democrat Hermann Louis Brill, who had been an inmate in Buchenwald concentration camp since 1943 and co-initiator of the Buchenwald People's Congress. As President of the Province of Thuringia (appointed by the American occupying power), he called for a rigorous moral and legal self-purification of the German people through people's courts instead of through the judiciary of the victorious powers: Those who had used the exceptional right should be punished with such an exceptional right become. This served the "establishment of a new judiciary with the involvement of the women of the executed", and a "jurisprudence over the Nazis according to their own principles": "The widows of our executed and our comrades, who have lived for years in the shadow of the scaffold, become assessors have the necessary keen eye. "[28]

Apart from the fact that it was more of an isolated voice, such forms of vigilante justice in the sense of a real state of emergency were also extremely limited in Germany. The anti-fascist committees were banned with reference to the military governments' ban on political organizations. For Walter Ulbricht in the Soviet occupation zone, too, many of the former KPD members and members of left-wing organizations who emerged from the underground were suspected of being "sectarians": For plans for revolution or efforts to establish council-democratic structures, he determined early on and unequivocally, there were beyond the Soviets -communist instructions from the military authorities no room. [29]

Normalizations in a state of emergency

The examples given show the different efforts of the occupying powers to somehow control forms of self-help and vigilante justice. Whichever aspect one looks at, the main focus was on maintaining the sovereign authority of the military governments in their respective zones of occupation, even after administrative and legal tasks were delegated to local and regional authorities and the re-launched political bodies. Even if one hesitates to speak of "normalization" with regard to the Soviet occupation zone / GDR and other countries occupied by the Soviet Army, the relatively rapid transition from war to peacetime, in which violence was contained, is just as remarkable as that Fact that this was done under conditions of a state of emergency.

Political, including constitutional normalizations, do not rule out violent forms of violence, including those directed against individuals and groups; at best, they limit them according to the rule of law. And not only that: violence can become an endemic phenomenon of the political system, be it in the form of the legal normalization of individual aspects of the state of emergency in the form of security laws, or in the form of state of emergency mentalities with specific enemy images. A gateway for far-reaching measures was the dramatization of the - endangered - public, state and military security, initially in the occupation zones and then later in the Federal Republic and the GDR. With the onset of the "Cold War", it was thrown wide on both sides of the "iron curtain".

With a view to normalizing the state of emergency, the divergence of developments in the Soviet Zone compared to the western zones is relevant from the start: the declared "anti-fascism" was of central importance. The amalgamation of an ideological, ideal and (constitutional) political norm can be seen not only in terms of political and military security aspects and notions of political reorganization, but also in the tradition of communist-proletarian mobilization. In the case of the Soviet occupation zone, the KPD / SED's experiences and memories of the repression in the wake of the political emergency of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi era played an important role. [30]

There were impeachments, internments and judicial persecution of Nazi criminals in the western zones, too, which led to enough complaints about "victorious justice" and "arbitrary right". But the dealings with former NSDAP members and all those who - rightly or wrongly - were held responsible for Nazi fascism were far more severe in the Soviet occupation zone. This was not only demonstrated by the various forms of deportation and internment in camps at home and abroad (with high mortality rates until the 1950s), but also by the way in which political opponents were silenced - and not least by turning into arbitrariness and Forms of state terror. [31]

The expansion of the group of supposedly internal "enemies" who were now in the sights of the political campaigns of the SED as well as the security organs of the Soviet military administration, has received a lot of attention in recent research. "Antifascism" functioned as the justification for a selective state of emergency directed against individuals and groups. [32] For example, the handling of the "werewolf hysteria", ie the fear of German partisans behind the advancing troops, which the Allies had gripped in 1944/45, is revealing. While the Western powers quickly eased their assessment of the situation, in the Soviet Zone this issue flowed into campaigns against alleged "fascist underground organizations", social democrats, and not least against non-conformist or even suspicious young people. The land reform, the so-called sequestration of companies, the show trials that soon began, the expulsions and arrests of supposed economic and political "saboteurs", of "junkers" and "henchmen of fascism" are now part of a well-described history of violence, both large and small .

Many actors were involved: activists who often only seem to act "from the grassroots"; the emerging security agencies that Carte blanche had; later also new organizations such as the control organizations, which had state sanctioning power; Courts that negotiated in show trials. A pronounced state of emergency thought spread in order to enforce the supposed "popular will". [33] And not only that: It was about the establishment of a permanent, albeit constitutionally, state of emergency.

One can only imagine what the left-wing nonconformist Walter Benjamin would have said about it, including about the role of Hilde Benjamin, the wife of his brother Georg Benjamin, who was probably murdered in Mauthausen after long straying through concentration camps and labor camps. As the presiding judge in a series of political show trials and then as Minister of Justice of the GDR, when she also campaigned for constitutional normalization, she also reflects the fundamental problem of rule, dictatorship and violence in real socialism: the " Protection of the socialist achievements "in the name of the formerly oppressed proletariat and anti-fascism and thus also repression of all those who turned against the new socialist state. That this repression was directed against the workers of all people became evident on June 17, 1953 when the Soviet occupying forces declared a state of emergency to put down the popular uprising. [34] Even if this state of emergency was temporary, it illustrated the violent constellation that was to overshadow the GDR in the years that followed.

Final considerations

The state of emergency on June 17, 1953 not only illustrates how precarious the political situation was eight years after the end of the war, but also the role that the Soviet military administration still played in the Soviet Zone. Despite social and political "normalizations" in all areas of political and social life, very comprehensive - secret - plans for the state of emergency can be found in the Federal Republic at the same time. Leading the way in the Federal Ministry of the Interior was the ministerial staff who had already been active in this area in the past and who were often arrested in older thought patterns of the exceptional states of the interwar period. [35] It is not surprising that political resistance quickly arose when plans to incorporate emergency articles into the constitution became known in the 1950s. Against the background of the experiences with earlier states of emergency during the Weimar period and the Nazi state, the prevailing - mostly skeptical to negative - understanding of this political instrument of constitution and rule can be explained.

History illustrates only too well that violence was not limited, but rather unbounded, with all the incalculable consequences that were described in this article with a view to the year 1944/45. It is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that after the total defeat and the anarchic transition period in 1944/45 until the establishment of the military governments, the restoration of law and order and then the reconstruction of the sovereign statehood of a peace society (as different as these in the two parts of Germany then looked) was only possible under these conditions of the military occupation. In the history of the states of emergency in the 20th century, this process of containing violence and re-establishing political, economic and social order is an important, little-noticed case. It describes the beginnings of Germany's history after 1945.

Like the two German states, each European country has its own sequence of states of emergency with different conflict situations. This always concerned not only questions about the loss and regained (or lost) state sovereignty, but also about damage to individuals and victimization. [36] The people of the post-war period did not find the past states of emergency in the truest sense of the word only in their bones. [37] These deep traces can be recognized to this day, across the generations affected, regardless of whether you look for it in a post-story of individual or collective fear, distrust or cynicism. But that's only one side of the coin. Another aspect of this history of the states of emergency is no less significant: survival and the will to survive, the efforts to achieve normality in the state of emergency, the mobilization of resilience with which the path to reconstruction societies was taken.