Sex-Based Violence and the Politics and Ethics of Survival

TitleSex-Based Violence and the Politics and Ethics of Survival
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsGoldenberg, Myrna
EditorGoldenberg, Myrna, and Amy H. Shapiro
Book TitleDifferent Horrors, Same Hell: Gender and the Holocaust
PublisherUniversity of Washington Press

This chapter focuses on Jewish women who were subjected to unthinkable cruelties, including rape and torture, at the hands of the Nazis and who were also victimized by Jewish and other non-Aryan men. By no means can we equate the treatment by Nazis and their Eastern European allies with that by Jewish men, but neither can we ignore the fact that some Jewish women were “used” by Jewish men, particularly in ghettos and camps. The chapter briefly examines the sexual violence done to Jewish women by Nazis, including the policy on race mixing, or Rassenschande, and then discusses the situation in which Jewish women, though essentially powerless, responded to offers of food or shelter in return for sexual favors. The former involved rape and torture (and almost always murder of the victim) and reflected German betrayal of both the civil law governing the Third Reich and the higher laws that hold human life valuable. The physical abuse of Jewish women by Jewish men was non-violent yet coercive as the circumstances were neither neutral nor balanced. Though the Holocaust was not about gender or sex, however, because Jewish women were vulnerable in different ways than men were, gender and sex cannot be dismissed.

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