Thursday, April 14, 2011


In 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the first brothel to be opened in a concentration camp.  It was opened at Mauthausen, and a short time later, another was opened in Gusen.  Many women from Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for all women, were forced to work in these brothels as prostitutes where they were sexually abused. 
Male prisoners could visit the brothels if they worked especially hard and pleased the guards.  Later on, these prisoners said that the women in the brothels received more, better food, better clothes, and a more frequent opportunity to bathe.
            The fate of the women in these brothels is hard to hear: once they retunred to Ravensbruck, many of them had sexually transmitted diseases or were pregnant, subjecting themselves to the medical experiments, and forced abortions and sterilizations (Halbmayr).

1.  Brothel at Mauthausen 
2. Forced women "prostitutes" in Mauthhausen.
“The existence of camp brothels makes clear how women during national socialism were sexually humiliated and exploited as well as robbed of all self-determination. Women were forced into sex work with male prisoners in a total of ten concentration camps" (Halbmayr).
This YouTube video is an interview between an American woman and a German man who survived the Holocaust from 2008.  He is talking about his experiences with the brothels at Auschwitz.  He never actually went inside to be with a woman, but several times he was sent to do jobs in the brothel, such as washing and changing sheets, and picking up the body of a woman who killed herself outside one.  He made it seem as if no one cared about these women at all.  

Before doing this project, I had no idea there were brothels in a lot of the concentration camps during the Holocaust.  I knew that women were sexually abused and harassed, but I never knew that it was ever as organized as a real brothel.  I learned that though the Nazis banned brothels and prostitution overall, many of the camps, including Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Gusen ignored those laws and set them up anyways. I truly could never imagine being one of those women picked to work as a prostitute.  Sure, they were sometimes given more food and sometimes given more frequent opportunities to bathe, but the result of being a prostitute for all of the SS soldiers to take advantage of, and even some prisoners had major consequences.  When many of the women returned to other parts of the camps, they had sexually transmitted diseases or were pregnant and had forced abortions.  The mental pain these women went through surely was enough to put a damper on their spirits and cause them to give up.

Pictures: 1. Halbmayr
2. . Newly Discovered Death Camps Horrify Civilized World


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