Hundreds of thousands of German women were raped by British, American and French soldiers after the end of the Second World War, a German historian has claimed.
In a new book, Professor Miriam Gerhardt, a well-regarded German academic, challenges the established view that Soviet troops were responsible for the vast majority of rape cases in occupied Germany.
“The assumption that Western Allied soldiers would not do such a thing turned out not to be true,” she said, to the broadcaster Deutsche Welle. “In the method and violence of rap there was no different between American GIs and the Red Army, as far as I can see.”
Prof Gerhardt drew on detailed accounts kept by Bavarian Catholic priests on individual cases for her book – When the Soldiers Came.
“The saddest event during the advance were three rapes, one on a married woman, one on a single woman and one on a spotless girl of 16-and-a-half. They were committed by heavily drunk Americans,” wrote one of the priests, Fr Andreas Weingand, in July 1945
She said she had also studied the records of “war children”, the illegitimate children born to German mothers and Allied fathers.
German records include specific details of those conceived in rape cases. Prof Gebhardt assumed that there had been 100 rapes for each birth, coming up with a figure of 190,000 rapes by American soldiers alone.
But Antony Beevor, the author of The Second World War, disputed her numbers.
“It’s almost impossible to come up with figures, but I think to say there were hundreds of thousands is a great exaggeration,” he said.
The most notorious instances of rape by Western Allied forces were by French troops during the sack of Stuttgart.
Of the Allies, British troops appear to have been responsible for the least rapes.
“Not because of any morality or respect for woman, but because the NCOs wouldn’t allow the soldiers to go off on their own,” Prof Beevor said.
He added that Soviet archives had confirmed that around two million German women had been raped by Soviet soldiers, while Prof Gerdhardt put the figure at 500,000.