How many women were raped during World War II

Where does this number come from?

In a cooperation with Facebook, CORRECTIV checks the accuracy of articles that are shared on the social network. Among the reported links this week was a text from the website "news-for-friends.de", which was published on April 29, 2018. He claims that "Allied soldiers [raped] more than a million German women and girls after World War II". We find the topic interesting and therefore want to know whether this estimate is correct.

In the text, the website writes: “After the war, at least 860,000 women and girls were raped by soldiers who occupied the region and their assistants. It happened in turn in each part to note that previously it was believed that all these atrocities were committed only by Soviet soldiers, whom Stalin had asked to do the greatest damage to Germany in retaliation for the invasion of the USSR, but also by the US and British".

"News for Friends" does not name any source. However, we found several articles from 2015 in which over 860,000 German victims of rape were reported. At that time, the German historian Miriam Gebhardt had published the book "When the soldiers came: The rape of German women at the end of World War II".

As can be seen in the introduction to the book (p.8), the author calculates that “at least 860,000 women (and quite a few men) were raped in the post-war period. At least 190,000 of them, but perhaps more, witnessed the sexual violence by an American army member, others by British, Belgian or French soldiers ”.

In the first chapter of her book, Miriam Gebhardt admits that “based on the sources and research, it is impossible to even roughly determine the number of rape victims. The topic has not yet been systematically dealt with by any of the occupying powers, even if American researchers have taken serious approaches ”. The historian mentions the various estimates made by other experts:

“Sometimes it is assumed that 11,000 cases were perpetrated by Americans (J.Robert Lilly), sometimes two million were perpetrated by Soviet soldiers (Helke Sander), or two to 2.5 million rape cases during flight and displacement (Ingeborg Jacobs ). A wide variety of numbers were already circulating during the events. In the fight for Berlin alone, between 20,000 and 100,000 women are said to have been raped. "

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The historian explains her calculation method to Deutschlandfunk in 2015 as follows:

"We know exactly how many so-called occupation children there were in the Federal Republic, that is, children of occupation soldiers, and we know that almost five percent of them were caused by violence in the post-war period."

“We know that if we take the factor 100, we can extrapolate these so-called rape children to the number of rapes. A child has arisen from every 100th rape, a pregnancy has arisen from every 10th rape, and a child out of every 100th, and so at least one can determine an approximately decent number for the Federal Republic of Germany. "

"But we are in the dark when it comes to the GDR, and I managed to do this by simply taking the number two more times, and so in the end I have a total of 860,000 rape victims."

When the book was published in February 2015, it got a lot of media coverage. Many journalists praised the fact that the historian not only limited the image of the rapist to the Soviet soldiers, but also expanded it to include the Western allies (and especially the GIs). But Miriam Gebhardt also received criticism precisely when assessing the women raped by American troops.

Journalists and PhD historians Klaus Wiegrefe from “Spiegel”, Klaus Wiegrefe, and Sven Felix Kellerhoff from “Welt” criticized Gebhardt's “implausible” or “at least questionable projections” of the 190,000 victims of American soldiers.

“If the number were really that high, there should be more tracks. In files of hospitals or health authorities, as eyewitness reports or statements from victims. Gebhardt cannot present any of these in sufficient measure, ”writes Wiegrefe. For Sven Felix Kellerhof, the problem is the extrapolation, which is based on the factor 100: “Establishing this has nothing to do with relativising the crimes - there could just as well have been twice as many cases of sexual violence by GIs or half as many. You simply cannot quantify it, ”writes the“ Welt ”historian. In his opinion, the number of German victims of rape after the Second World War cannot be ascertained.

Note, June 28, 2019: We have changed the last two paragraphs to correct that Sven Felix Kellerhoff was involved in the world works, not at Focus.