History in the Making

Document Type



The article will explore women’s sexual experiences during the Holocaust, specifically the experience of those who were targeted by the Nazi regime for being “inferior” to the Aryan race. During this period, Jewish women, women categorized as “asocial” despite their German citizenship, women who identified as Romani, and Soviet or Ukrainian women were targets of sexual violence mostly at the hands of members of the Nazi Party.1 However, these women were also assaulted by the partisans who helped hide them, liberating soldiers, and male prisoners because of the vulnerable situations many women found themselves in. This article focuses first on the importance of the female experience during the Holocaust, the dangers of the “hierarchy of suffering,” and the various forms of sexual violence women faced regardless of if they were in ghettos, extermination camps, or in hiding. This article also touches on the debate about whether consensual sex existed under Nazi occupation and introduces the concept of “limited choice,” a concept that expresses women’s reduced choices and emphasizes that the reduction of choices forced them to choose options they would not have chosen normally when laws and morality applied. Women during the Holocaust had to make difficult choices to survive, and when faced with sexual assault or death, many women chose sexual assault; however, that does not make the sex consensual.