"It is Unfair to the Animals to Call the German Rapists Animals": Jewish Resistance to Rape at the Hands of Nazis in Polish Ghettos

  • Kastle Michael Van Der Meer University of Victoria


Despite the close examination of Nazi brutality in the postwar years, certain atrocities remain relatively understudied. Crimes involving sexualized violence in particular were neglected by scholars until recently for a variety of reasons, including the incorrect notion that German laws prohibiting Rassenschande (racial defilement) prevented “Aryan” Germans from raping Jews. As a result, certain forms of violence such as rape have not traditionally been considered part of the Nazi terror apparatus. In an effort to shed light on the topic of sexualized violence in the Holocaust and to emphasizethe agency of victims and survivors, this paperinvestigates how Jews resisted rape and attempted rape in ghettos across occupied Poland by members of the Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces) and Schutzstaffel (Protection Squad, SS). An analysis of survivor testimony belonging to Jewish survivors who either experienced such violence at the hands of Nazis in Polish ghettos or were witness to it shows that rape in this context was resisted with vigour and in various ways.