Sex Crimes under the Wehrmacht

Sex Crimes under the Wehrmacht

Sex Crimes under the Wehrmacht

Sex Crimes under the Wehrmacht

Synopsis

In this groundbreaking work, David Raub Snyder offers a nuanced investigation into the German army's prosecution and punishment of sex offenders during the Second World War. In so doing, Snyder restores balance to the literature regarding the military administration of justice under Hitler and to the historiography of sexuality and the Third Reich. Although scholars have devoted considerable attention to military offenses, the literature is largely silent about crimes punishable under civilian law. In many cases, the Wehrmacht's response to rape, sexual assault, homosexual "offenses," child molestation, incest, "racial defilement," and bestiality often depended on the willingness of the offender to continue to bear arms for his country. Snyder notes that, contrary to conventional wisdom, soldiers on the eastern front often received severe punishments for sexual assaults on Soviet civilians. He demonstrates how military expedience and military justice became entangled and conflicted during the war. Snyder also analyzes the Wehrmacht's unique penal and parole system, the first treatment of this important topic in the English language. The Wehrmacht's system functioned as a filtering mechanism that rechanneled willing soldiers back to the front while simultaneously channeling recalcitrant or "incorrigible" soldiers in the opposite direction-to concentration camps for destruction through work at the hands of the SS. Supported by research in Germany and detailed accounts largely unavailable in English until now, Snyder offers new perspectives on justice under the Wehrmacht and the situations of homosexuals, women, and children during wartime.

Excerpt

This project began as an investigation into the Wehrmacht’s role as an agent of social conformity under National Socialism. Assuming that courts-martial would have been the ultimate arbiter of appropriate behavior in the Wehrmacht, I turned my attention to the relevant secondary literature. Although scholars have devoted considerable attention to desertion, insubordination, and other military obstructive acts, the literature is largely silent about nonmilitary offenses, offenses that the civilian penal code threatened with punishment.

Although homosexuality under the swastika has attracted the attention of scholars, no book-length studies have been written on the Wehrmacht’s treatment of homosexuals. Franz Seidler devotes forty pages to homosexuality in Prostitution, Homosexualität, Selbstverstümmelung (Prostitution, homosexuality, self-inflicted wounds), but he approaches the issue from the problems homosexuality posed for the army medical services rather than the military leadership. in fact, in the pages that Seidler devotes to homosexuality, only ten pages deal directly with the Wehrmacht, with the remainder focusing on other issues such as homosexuality and the ss or Hitler Youth. Beyond this example, one must search the secondary literature diligently for a mere mention of sexuality and the Wehrmacht.

Scholars of sexuality may discuss the Wehrmacht, but more often than not they do so tangentially or by generalized extension from their work on civilian issues. For example, Susan Brownmiller, in her landmark study Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, provides an analysis of sexual assault during the Second World War, with nine pages devoted to the Wehrmacht. She contends that Nazism’s exaggeration of values that “normal society held to be masculine” and Hitler’s perception that the Bolshevik masses were “weak and feminine” naturally made rape an ideal means of repression. “It was not surprising,” concludes Brownmiller, “that the ideology of rape burst into perfect flower as Hitler’s armies goose-stepped over the face of Europe.” She reaches this conclusion, however, apparently on the . . .

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