Women, not victims

New exhibit covers “overlooked and trivialized” topic of sexualized atrocities during genocide

Students tour the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Nassau County, New York. (Instagram).

A new exhibition at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau Country in Glen Cove, New York, titled “Women, Not Victims: Moving Beyond Sexualized Atrocities During Genocide,” consists of videos of survivors’ testimonies, and 30 panels of texts, artifacts and photographs that document rape, sexual slavery, sexualized medical experiments and other atrocities perpetuated against women across several countries and eras.

“This is a topic that has generally been overlooked and trivialized,” even by genocide scholars and historians, says Beth Lilach, the center’s senior director of education and community affairs. One section on the Holocaust takes on “the myth of ‘brothels,'” a term Lilach says has been “perpetuated by some male survivors and male historians” in order to imply that the women involved were prostitutes, when in fact they were kept as slaves “in a rape barrack” and faced execution if they resisted their attackers.

Foreshadowing the Holocaust were events in 1905, when the Herero and Nama peoples were gathered into concentration camps, including a special rape camp, by the Germans in what was then known as German South West Africa. Children of the rape victims were “used for pseudo-experiments to ‘prove’ white supremacist ideology,” Lilach explains. The Herero had started a revolt in 1904, the Germans retaliating with a genocide that killed all but 15,000 of the 80,000 Herero.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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