That’s the shocking claim in a new book. But is the German feminist behind it exposing a war crime – or slandering heroes?
- Book claims Allied troops raped 285,000 German women during invasion
- There are numerous cases of rape recorded by Allied officers during war
- However, the alarming figure is based on assumptions and lacks evidence
- British and U.S. soldiers could, and were, executed for committing rape
There were rules against Allied soldiers fraternising with civilian women during the Second World War but they were routinely ignored
There was no doubt that Private Blake W. Mariano of the 191st Tank Battalion was a brave man. As part of the American Army’s 45th Infantry Division, he had killed many Germans as he fought through Africa, Italy and southern France, before finally, in March 1945, he and his Sherman tank had crossed the Rhine into Germany.
By April 15, 1945, Mariano had been away from his home in New Mexico for nearly three years. A father of three, the 29-year-old was divorced, although he did have a girlfriend in England.
His loved ones, however, were far from his mind that evening. During the day, his unit had successfully overrun the large village of Lauf on the edge of the Black Forest in south-western Germany, and Mariano decided it was time to celebrate.
Accompanied by another American private, Mariano went out drinking. After finding a well-stocked cellar, the two men quickly became inebriated on cognac, at which point they went looking to complete their evening.
They found what they wanted in an air raid shelter under the town’s castle. Huddled there were 17 villagers, two of whom were children.
Mariano pointed his rifle at a young woman called Elfriede. Aged just 21, Elfriede worked in an office, and had a fiancé who was away fighting. Mariano took her outside and raped her. After he had finished, his companion did the same.
Still not sated, Mariano returned to the shelter and chose a 41-year-old woman called Martha. When it became apparent that she was menstruating, Mariano shot her. It would take Martha until the following morning to die.
In a final act of savagery, Mariano selected one more woman, a 54-year-old shopkeeper called Babette, who he also raped. His ‘entertainment’ now over, Mariano finally returned to his tank.
The following morning, Martha’s husband returned to the village after being discharged from the Army. He might have thought that he and his wife were now safe, having survived six long years of war.
As soon as he had discovered what had happened, the widower went straight to the Americans, who immediately launched an investigation.
Just over three weeks later, on May 8, Mariano was arrested and charged. In his defence, he claimed not to remember a thing. The villagers of Lauf would have no such problem. What Mariano had done in a few hours that one night would remain with them for decades.
Never mind that the German population was complicit in countless horrors.
One of the enduring narratives of World War II is that during the invasion of the Third Reich, British and American troops largely behaved well, and it was the soldiers of the Soviet Union’s Red Army who raped hundreds of thousands of German females, aged from eight to 80.
However, a new book published in Germany makes the shocking and disturbing claim that the Americans raped a staggering 190,000 women in the decade from the invasion until West Germany became a sovereign country in 1955.
In When The Soldiers Came, historian Professor Miriam Gebhardt also suggests the British raped 45,000 German women, and the French a further 50,000.
It should be stressed that Dr Gebhardt is not a specialist World War II historian, but is better known for her works on other topics, such as the feminist movement in Germany, the philosopher Rudolf Steiner and the history of education.
She has also spoken at conferences on Left-wing politics, and it is therefore tempting to regard Dr Gebhardt as one of many academics who is not entirely minded to view countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom in a positive light.
But, if these figures are correct, then we would not only have to alter dramatically the way we look at how the Allies overran Germany, but also need to make a radical reassessment of what we call ‘our greatest generation’.
Is it really possible that the numbers are so high?
In her new book When the Soldiers Came, Professor Miriam Gebhardt (pictured) suggests the Americans raped 190,000 women between 1945 and 1955
Naturally, it would be naïve to deny that the British and American armies had bad apples who carried out such atrocities. But these figures are huge, and would suggest that rape was almost as unexceptional as it was in the Red Army.
What then, is the truth?
When American troops first arrived in Britain in early 1942, they brought with them not only stockings, money and chewing gum, but also sex. For many young GIs, the prospect of being far from the strictures of home in a place where there were many single and available women, was an appealing one.
As is well known, countless relationships developed, from quick flings to marriages that have lasted until today. A huge, open resentment built up against the figure of the ‘oversexed’ GI, but what was barely discussed was the fact some of the Americans were rapists.
According to an official U.S. Army report, American troops committed 121 rapes when they were stationed in Britain.
Because rape is a notoriously under-reported crime, the true figure is doubtless far higher.
According to the criminologist Sir Leon Radzinowicz, only five per cent of rapes are ever reported, which suggests the Americans could have raped some 2,400 British women.
It is impossible to ever know the truth, but such a figure, although distressing, does seem low compared to the fact 1.5 million U.S. troops were eventually stationed here.
However, it was during the invasion of continental Europe after D-Day that an increasing number of GIs turned to rape.
Although France was an ally, that did not stop U.S. troops from raping an estimated 3,600 French women.
It was during the invasion of Germany (pictured) that incidences of rape grew much higher. File image used
A total of 152 American soldiers were tried for the crime, of whom 29 were hanged.
But it was during the invasion of Germany that incidences of rape grew much higher. As the Americans stormed into the crumbling Reich, troops would shout out at terrified German women: ‘Sleep with me!’
And indeed, many German women did sleep with GIs, partly to obtain luxuries, and partly because they wanted to.
However, many sexual encounters were not consenting, and were also accompanied with particularly brutal violence, as some GIs used the act of rape to hit back at a hated enemy.
Many examples are too distressing to report in detail, especially the rapes carried out on children, with one victim being just three years old. Frequently, the crimes would be committed by marauding gangs of drunken GIs, such as the rapes of a woman called Katherine and her 18-year-old daughter, Charlotte, in Sprendlingen, about 40 miles southwest of Frankfurt.
Shortly before midnight one night in March 1945, a group of GIs burst into their home. The two women were forced upstairs, where they were repeatedly raped in the same room for two hours by six Americans, during which Charlotte kept desperately crying out: ‘Mama, mama!’
Many such incidents were reported to parish priests. In his journal for July 20, 1945, Michael Merxmüller, a priest near Berchtesgaden, recorded: ‘Eight girls and women raped, some of them in front of their parents.’
British troops march through the streets of Udem, Germany, in 1945
A few days later, Father Andreas Weingand, from a village near Munich, noted how ‘heavily-drunk Americans’ had raped a married woman, a single woman, and a ‘spotless girl of 16-and-a-half’.
Such acts were not exclusively committed by Americans — British troops also raped German women.
On April 16, 1945, for example, three rapes were reported to have been carried out by British soldiers in the town of Neustadt, 30 miles west of Heidelberg.
Elsewhere, in a village called Oyle, two soldiers dragged a girl into some woods. Unsurprisingly, she started to scream, whereupon one of the troops shot her dead.
But such horrific acts appear to have been rare. As one soldier pointed out years after the war, there was no ‘need’ to rape women, as many were available for little more than a packet of cigarettes.
One Army major later recalled that he had never come across an incidence of rape by a British soldier, although he acknowledged ‘it may well have happened elsewhere’.
In both the British and American armies, the punishment for rape was usually life imprisonment, and in particularly brutal cases, perpetrators were hanged.
Commanding officers, however, were often keen to avoid their men being found guilty, as it would bring shame to a unit, and there are some instances of rapes being covered up.
Nevertheless, courts-martial were by no means reluctant to convict. There is one recorded instance of a British officer being charged with rape, and convicted on the flimsiest of evidence in 1945.
Busted to the ranks, he was imprisoned, and then divorced by his wife. However, two years later, he received a full pardon from the King.
In fact, much of the sex that took place between the British and Germans appeared both consenting and in violation of Montgomery’s strict non-fraternisation orders.
‘Non-frat was as dead as a Dodo from the time Montgomery closed his mouth,’ said one junior officer. ‘I didn’t go out and chase my chaps away from the women. I didn’t have time — I was doing it myself!’
The breaching of the order was so flagrant, that one soldier recalled seeing a ‘No Fraternising’ sign adorned with six condoms, while another spoke fondly of how buses would be organised to collect German girls to attend parties.
Although it would be wrong to paint a rosy picture, the image that emerges seems somewhat less grim than that painted by Professor Gebhardt.
It was during the invasion of continental Europe after D-Day (pictured) that an increasing number of GIs turned to rape
So where does she get her high figures of 190,000 rapes by the Americans, and 45,000 by the British?
According to the U.S. Army’s figures, American troops carried out 552 rapes in Germany. Even if one applies the ‘five per cent rule’, then this would mean that the total figure is around 11,000.
This is a shockingly high number, to be sure, but nowhere near that of nearly 200,000 by U.S. troops alone.
Instead, Dr Gebhardt has looked at childbirth statistics in West Germany, and has assumed that five per cent of the children born to unmarried women from 1945 until 1955 were as a result of rape.
Of these, she says 1,900 were born to American men.
Even if one were able to accept these assumptions, Dr Gebhardt then takes things to an implausible level. Estimating that for each of these 1,900 births there were 100 rapes, she arrives at her bizarre figure of a total of 190,000 German rape victims.
This number is far too high, and is not supported by any documentary evidence whatsoever. One can only assume that Dr Gebhardt is motivated more by some Leftist anti-American agenda than by proper historical inquiry.
Such absurd claims distract from the nature of the horrors that did occur.
The 21-year-old Elfriede never recovered from her rape by Private Mariano. Her fiancé refused to marry her and she ended up as an alcoholic recluse and died unmarried several years later.
Her rapist, meanwhile, was convicted of murder and rape. During his court-martial, it was revealed that he had a history of sexual offences, and a medical board had classified him as a ‘high-grade moron’.
At 11.02am on October 10, 1945, Mariano was asked if he had any last words to say before he was hanged. He did not.
He was declared dead 20 minutes later. In a way, his demise was more merciful than the fates of those he and so many others had destroyed.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3011930/Did-Allied-troops-rape-285-000-German-women-s-shocking-claim-new-book-German-feminist-exposing-war-crime-slandering-heroes.html#ixzz3VZ5LwgPK
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