An 80-year-old German woman has broken an old taboo of silence over the rapes she endured at the hands of Soviet soldiers in the second world war with a searing book about the crimes of the Red Army as it marched towards Berlin.
By Allan Hall in Berlin
Published: 28 Feb 2010
“Why Did I Have To Be A Girl” by Gabriele Koepp is the first book published about the rapes under a victim’s real name. Mrs Koepp was one of an estimated two million German girls and women raped by Soviet soldiers, encouraged by their leader Josef Stalin to regard the crime as a spoil of war after Hitler’s invasion had left 26 million Russians dead.
“Frau. Komm,” was a phrase that women dreaded hearing from Red Army soldiers. In the weeks after the city fell the rape epidemic was so bad that even the Catholic church countenanced abortion for some victims.
Even today, Mrs Koepp has trouble sleeping. “I was hardly more than a child. Writing this has not been easy, but I had no choice: who else would do it?”
Mrs Koepp told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine at the weekend that it was on the evening of January 25 1945, when she was 15, that her mother told her to pack quickly as she had to flee.
They lived in Schneidemuehl, in the former German region of Pomerania which is now a Polish town called Pila. She and her sister left the next day aboard a cattle train that was supposed to head towards Berlin. But it went in a different direction and the engine was soon blown up by Russian artillery. “The freight car door was locked,” she said. “I managed to climb up and crawl out of a high window. My sister was left behind: I have never seen her again.”
Her ordeal of multiple rape in a nearby village went on for two weeks until she was taken in at a farm and hid from the Soviets.
She was reunited with her mother 15 months later in Hamburg but says her mother was cold to her when she tried to talk of her pain and shame. British historian Antony Beevor chronicled the mass rapes in his 2002 book about the Soviet onslaught on Germany. Mrs Koepp’s book will be translated into English at the end of the summer.
Published in the Telegraph: