Perpetrator Studies Network


Sex and the Nazi Soldier: Violent, Commercial and Consensual Encounters during the War in the Soviet Union, 1941-45

By Regina Mühlhäuser. Translated by Jessica Spengler.

Examining the sexual crimes committed by German troops in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

  • Covers all types of sexual encounters: from violent and coerced practices to commercial and consensual relations
  • Reveals differences and complexities in the responses of the Wehrmacht and SS, ranging from tacit acceptance to regulation or institutionalisation
  • Highlights contradictions between Nazi racial ideology and policies on different groups of eastern European women and ‘occupation children’

Sexual violence was a widespread reality during the war and the occupation in the Soviet Union: Wehrmacht soldiers and SS men made women and girls victims of sexual torture, committed rape and sexual enslavement. They also visited both ‘secret’ prostitutes and official military brothels, and had encounters with women who were forced to trade sex for protection or food. In some areas, they engaged in consensual relations, which sometimes led to applications for marriage permits.

This book dispels the myth that military leaders, in adhering to the Nazi ideology of ‘race defilement’, strictly repressed soldiers’ sexuality. Regina Mühlhäuser opens up new perspectives on the complexity of wartime sexual practices beyond the Nazi case by looking at the whole spectrum of heterosexual encounters—forced and consensual, violent and non-violent, commercial and non-commercial. In doing so, she develops a more nuanced understanding of soldiers’ sexual behavior and the ways in which military commands assess soldierly sexuality and integrate it into their strategic thinking.

Regina Mühlhäuser is a Senior Researcher at the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture and a founder of the ‘International Research Group “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict”’.

Jessica Spengler is a German to English translator specialising in the humanities and social sciences, who has worked as a translator and copyeditor on numerous museum exhibitions, academic publications and other projects.

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