The atrocities carried out by the Nazis against the Jewish people have been well documented in the decades since the Holocaust. However, until now, no single work had closely studied the impact those atrocities had on women, their bodies, and their children. A new book by Beverley Chalmers, an expert on pregnancy and birth in difficult social, political, economic, and religious settings, fills that void. Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices Under Nazi Rule took Chalmers a grueling 10 years to compile. It is deeply researched and brings to light some of the true horrors Jewish women and non-Jewish women suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
“It was emotionally draining,” Chalmers, 65, told the Times of Israel about researching the book. “My children suggested I write about something happier, but I kept going because these stories needed to be told. These women’s experiences needed to be brought to light and honored.” Chalmers said now was the time for a book like this. One of the shocking statistics she includes is that some 350,000 to 400,000 German men and women were subjected to forced sterilizations. In a quest to build a “master race,” the Nazis had deemed these people “non-Aryan” or otherwise mentally or physically unfit to procreate. These strict standards were forced on Jewish and non-Jewish men and women alike, Chalmers said, adding that she was adamant about presenting the atrocities non-Jewish women were subjected to as well. She notes, though, that the experience for Jewish women was far worse, “horrifically unspeakable.”
The converse of the mass sterilizations was that the Nazis put intense pressure on women they deemed worthy of reproducing to give birth to as many children as possible, effectively turning them into “baby machines.” And once these women surpassed their child-bearing years, Nazis encouraged their husbands to divorce them — or seek sex outside of marriage to keep the birth-rate high.
Technically rape was not an official Nazi policy, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Women were forced to work in brothels inside concentration camps, though it is still unclear whether or not Jewish women were subject to this given the goal of a “master race.”
Read the full story at The Times of Israel.