Cruel Treatment of Women After World War II

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Cruel Treatment of Women After World War II

Although not as brutal as their Red Army allies, soldiers of the Western nations mistreated and exploited European women after World War II.

Soviet troops raped, killed and mutilated about two million German women and about half a million more in Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, the French, American and British forces, while not acting as brutally, also abused the women of the occupied territories.

In addition, many citizens of nations formerly occupied by the Germans, singled out women as the perfect target to show their patriotism and hate toward the Nazis and collaborators. The ill treatment of women varied somewhat from nation to nation and according to military organization.

The French

In France women charged with horizontal collaboration – taking on German lovers – were particularly abused. The main punishment was head shaving, a form of degradation dating back to the Middle Ages. Many of the women, were then paraded through the streets of cities frequently with very little clothes on, painted with swastikas and smeared in tar.

In many cases the French Resistance tried to prevent the reprisals, whch were, more often than not, performed by either former minor collaborators or those envious of the benefits the women received from their German lovers during the occupation. Countless prostitutes were punished for entertaining German clients. But some resistance groups were vindictive. Fully a third of the civilians executed in acts of vengeance at the end of the war in Brittany were women.

As many as 200,000 children were born of he unions between French women and German soldiers. In the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark the figure is in the tens of thousands. After the liberation the French Army accompanied the Allies into Germany. There, the French soldiers behaved very much in the same way the American soldiers did. French soldiers fathered over 10,000 children with German women.

The Americans

American GIs set the pattern for Allied treatment of women, Their behavior toward women in the liberated countries and Germany was perhaps more benign but no less humilliating.

The rapes, beating and occasional murders were regularly reported. American soldiers usually gained the favors of women by enticing them with food and material goods not readily available in the territory. Cigarettes and chocolate bars were a particular popular brand of currency.

Some 36,500 children were fathered by American soldiers during the 10 year occupation of Germany. The GIs, however, took no responsibility because, under military policy, they denied paternity of the child and the German woman had no further recourse. It was the same in all occupied territories. Even in cases when the soldier took on the responsibility of fatherhood, an order to redeploy elsewhere would end all contacts between him and his partner.

Particular problems arose over the offspring of African-American troops and German women.

British and Canadians

About 8,500 children were born to British fathers and German mothers during the occupation. Clear figures do not exist regarding the offspring of Canadians in Germany, but while stationed in Britain, 22,000 children were fathered by them. In the Netherlands, some 4,000 babies were born of Canadian fathers and Dutch mothers. Authorities in London and Ottawa discouraged intimate relations, but if they happened, they ignored the relationships, fully protecting the soldier.

Repercussions

In Italy, Greece and many other European nations, women accused of collaboration were treated in the same manner as in France, prompting some American and British commanders to interfere.

Allied troops behaved in the same manner in the countries were they were stationed, such as Italy, France and Austria, using abundant material goods to buy companionship and sex. . Women in the sector of Austria occupied by the Soviets suffered much worse treatment.

Women and their children were treated as outcasts in their own countries for at least half a century. They suffered isolation and name calling (German whore and German kid were fairly common labels ), unemployment, beatings and harassment. Many ended up in interment camps, at least for the short term.

Official action was not taken to bring closure to the issue. However, most of the women who suffered ill treatment are now dead and their children are on their 60s.