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Bringing the Women's Holocaust to the Front

Israeli group seeks testimonies regarding sexual abuse during Holocaust.

By: Elad Benari
Published: April 18th, 2010 in News » Israel
The Secrets CrewPic: The Secrets Crew

The Holocaust. One of the most significant yet at the same time horrifying events in Jewish history. Six million Jews killed just because of their Judaism – an unintelligible concept, one which has baffled many, Jews and non-Jews, for many years.

More than 60 years after World War II, there is probably not one of us who has not heard of this horrific event. Many of us have relatives who went through the concentration camps, and most of us have had a chance to read, hear, and see the testimonies of some of those who lived to tell about their experiences.

Yet there is still one aspect of the Holocaust about which little is known: the stories of women who suffered from sexual abuse in the camps. So many years later, this subject is still considered taboo but one group in Israel, Secrets, is trying to change that.

Secrets was founded approximately three years ago by Roni Aloni Sadovnik, a Tel-Aviv attorney who heads a women-oriented law office. As part of her practice, Aloni Sadovnik formulated a unique niche of legal service aimed at women and adjusted to fit women. The office is the only law office of its kind in Israel and was established based on a belief that women often avoid the legal system as a means of solving conflict, due to the fact that the characteristics of the legal system speak in terms of men and to men. Aloni Sadovnik and her team of lawyers provide legal services to women using a feministic approach.

Due to the nature of her work, it only made sense that Aloni Sadovnik delve into the complex issue of sexual abuse of women during the Holocaust. Secrets is, in fact, a public service that is run by the law offices of Aloni Sadovnik, which attempts to collect testimonies about this very difficult issue.

It has now become common knowledge that Jewish women and children were sexually abused during the Holocaust. The Nazis picked out the young and beautiful females and they were transported to the Officer Quarters where they were raped daily. Some were tattooed with the words “Nur Fur Offiziere” (For Officer Use Only).

At every concentration camp there existed a whorehouse at the outskirts of the camp where women would be taken to serve as prostitutes for the locals, including Kapos who had gained the favour of Nazi officers, and the women were their “reward”. Among these brothels was one in Auschwitz which was established in the summer of 1943 by order of Heinrich Himmler. This is only one of many such brothels, all approved by senior SS officers and which used the female camp prisoners as sex slaves. Jewish women were also the subject of cruel experimentation in camps, often while pregnant. All this does not include migrating women and children who, while on the run from the Nazi atrocities, were also subject to sexual abuse.

Sadly, this very serious aspect of the Holocaust has not received the attention it deserves. This is where Secrets comes in: this group of women has taken upon itself to document the stories of female Holocaust survivors, be it in writing, or through personal and video interviews. The testimonies will be collected onto a website which would allow any individual to research the topic and view the testimonials. At a later stage the testimonials will be collected into a book.

Aloni Sadovnik and her partners in this project emphasize its importance at the present time, since the Holocaust survivors are passing away, and this could be their final opportunity to tell their story. The members of Secrets have put together a personal appeal to anyone who might be able to help them:

“Many Jewish women and children underwent sexual abuse during World War II, both in the camps and outside the camps. This side of the Holocaust has been silenced and covered to this day, due to a lack of understanding of the additional Holocaust of women. The silencing of the women’s voices on the grounds that documenting sexual abuse embarrasses the victim and violates the dignity of the victims is an archaic approach which silences women and erases their history.

“Brutal sexual crimes take place in every war. The occupation of weak people and the destruction of their memory are many times expressed by ethnic rape and atrocities whose purpose is to destroy the seed of the conquered nation and degrade its daughters. Ethnic rape was the fate of women in Sarajevo, Darfur, Japan during World War II and yes, during the Holocaust as well.

“We call on you, female Holocaust survivors, family members who have stories of female survivors who have passed away, or witnesses to these horrors of the Holocaust, to contact us in order to document the Holocaust of the women of Israel.

“For more details, please contact the Secrets team (Roni, Efrat, or Vital) at 972-52-5727776 or ronione@netvision.net.il

“Donations to the project are gladly accepted."

Shalom Life has taken on itself to assist this extremely important historical campaign. We will translate and publish the testimonials right here on our website for posterity.

Related articles: women holocaust, secrets
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