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the grave of the unknown rapist.
May 9, 2002 5:07 AM   Subscribe

the grave of the unknown rapist. does the brutality of war result in man sinking to the depths of depravity
posted by johnnyboy (25 comments total)

 
As the article says, context is important. You can't condone it in any case, but most of this war, the largest there has ever been, happened in Russia and in the back yards of many of the people fighting. Imagine an enemy fighting from the eastern seaboard of the US as far inland as the Mississippi forcing the government to move as much industry and workers as possible (at gunpoint) west of the Rockies to keep up the fight. What's left either gets torched by you or by the enemy. The civilians left behind become forced labour, or statistics in a massacre, and if you're in the army and are captured your treatment is a little worse than you can expect if you're British or American, namely you're left in a field surrounded by machine guns with tens of thousands of your compatriots and the only thing to eat is each other.

That's what WWII looked like to the Russians, and this was going on immediately after these things happened.

Does the brutality of war result in man sinking to the depths of depravity? Not ordinarily I don't think, particularly with a well-trained professional army which by this stage of the war the Red Army most certainly was. If you take the rules away then yeah, probably. The USSR didn't sign up to the Geneva convention, and the Germans used this as an excuse for not abiding by it themselves.

The real question is (to me at least), if the Germans had behaved themselves as well as you can when you're invading your blood enemy (Nazis / Communists rather than Germans / Russians) would the Red Army have behaved differently?
posted by vbfg at 5:51 AM on May 9, 2002


"The real question is (to me at least), if the Germans had behaved themselves as well as you can when you're invading your blood enemy (Nazis / Communists rather than Germans / Russians) would the Red Army have behaved differently?"

Two wrongs never make a right. Beyond that, as the article clearly states, the women raped were not just Germans! "Beevor, the author of the best-selling Stalingrad, says advancing Soviet troops raped large numbers of Russian and Polish women held in concentration camps, as well as millions of Germans." Your question makes no sense.

I do not agree with Marilyn French's summation that all men are rapists - from what I have read of her (including her own words from a women's studies class) she is a bitter, angry woman suffering the effects of her own rape as a young woman. To condemn ALL men because of the actions of one is reprehensible. To blame the actions of the Red Army raping women on Nazi Germany and the invasion is also reprehensible. War does NOT give an excuse for carte blanche behavior.

" 'By the time the Russians reached Berlin, soldiers were regarding women almost as carnal booty; they felt because they were liberating Europe they could behave as they pleased.' " Also, in the article it clearly states that Stalin condoned such actions - that to me, is what is horrific here. To condone it after a battle when Germany lost 1 million soldiers and 100,000 civilians and the Russians lost 300,000 only solidifies the insanity of the time and of Stalin. There is no justification for this.

From what I remember from the numerous campus leaflets handed out all over Duke, rape is not about carnal pleasure - it is about power. A person rapes when they have no power - this is their way of seizing it. Ergo, logically, this simply does not make sense - the Russians had power at this point. Germany had been defeated - had they raped and then maimed or killed the women, we could begin arguing revenge. Perhaps though, I am being too simplistic here...
posted by gloege at 6:45 AM on May 9, 2002


Unfortunate as this may sound, rape (and plunder) has been around as long as people have conquered one another. 'To the victor go the spoils.' In fact, it is said that in the 'early days' of civilization, rape was an important part in the diversification of genes.

And from a man's perspective, I can tell you that rape is not just about power. Violent rape, maybe, but not all rape.
posted by eas98 at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2002


I do believe that war numbs men's senses so much that they disconnect with reality eventually. That's why rape happens so often during wartime. It happened everywhere... Read "The Rape of Nanking," Jesus, that's a horrible story. Hundreds of thousands of women were raped and killed. All the current wars in Africa...rape is the prize of the victor. America's soldiers are not good-guys in wars either. The stories of them raping women in the Vietnam war are legendary, and I'm sure it's happened in wars since, even though we don't hear about it. It happens in all wars. It seems like the soldiers don't have any power over their life or the forces that are shaping it, so they find "power" where they can.

Interesting that the only thing that stopped Stalin from condoning it was his soldiers were getting sick.

Wars strip away any civilization we have built up. What you have then is ugly and horrible. However, even with the awfulness of war, I still can't understand how can men possibly do such a thing? I will never, ever understand it. If it's just about sex, eas98, then why don't they just service themselves? I believe rape is about power more than sex. Especially during wartime.

A little aside: Personally, I wish we could castrate, slowly and painfully, any man who's committed rape. Rape is one of the most horrible offences a man can do.
posted by aacheson at 7:02 AM on May 9, 2002


Two wrongs never make a right.

You're right of course, but often the first goes a long way towards explaining the second.
posted by vbfg at 7:07 AM on May 9, 2002


The real question to me is the nature of rape, power and sexuality. I'm not somebody who thinks all women are angels and all men are bastards, but the idea of using sex as an act of power or revenge (as opposed to manipulation, which women are very capable of) is totally alien to me and I'm think most women.

What is it about armies and war time that brings this out in men? Is it the fact that war time is the first time most men experience a bit of absolute power and they express that power by asserting sexual dominance over the women, no matter what side they're on? Is it that war allows soldiers to see entire populations as a conquered unit rather than individuals and therefore not care about the consequences of their actions? Why are most men able to keep sexual violence in check during peace time but a tiny minority aren't? Do men ever look into themselves and ask what circumstances, if any, would bring out their inner rapist?

I'm not trying to set up a gender war, I just think it's an issue that's rarely discussed sensibly and honestly.
posted by Summer at 7:08 AM on May 9, 2002


Unfortunate as this may sound, rape (and plunder) has been around as long as people have conquered one another.

That's the naturalistic fallacy; "it has always been, therefore it has some legitimacy."

It is possible to put an end to (or make marked progress against) something that has "been around as long as (fill in the blank)." Just declaring that something is immutable human nature doesn't make it so.

Personally, I don't know why more men aren't profoundly offended by the idea that "boys will be boys," and rape is just something with which humanity will always have to live, because men can't control themselves. I know that I'm offended by it, on behalf of the many gentle, decent men in my life.
posted by Fenriss at 7:27 AM on May 9, 2002


Beyond that, as the article clearly states, the women raped were not just Germans! "Beevor, the author of the best-selling Stalingrad, says advancing Soviet troops raped large numbers of Russian and Polish women held in concentration camps, as well as millions of Germans." Your question makes no sense.

Sorry, I missed that.

In this particular instance rape was used as a weapon against the USSR's enemies. 'Enemies' is the key word, there were very many people indeed, mostly Soviet citizens, who were 'liberated' from German camps and were then force-marched all the way to Siberian gulags because they had 'opportunities to collaborate with the infamous enemy'.

My question, which isn't meant to belittle this crime at all, for viscious crime it certainly is, is more a question of how much of this was planned and indoctrinated into the soldiers in the first place.

There are all sorts of factors *in this specific instance* that could be thought of as a contributory factor, not the least of which is that the Commissar who's had the power of life and death over you for most of your recent past is telling you that the only good German is a dead one. While he's telling you this you're through over 1,000 miles of your own country that has been absolutely devestated by the actions of the inhabitants of the country you're marching towards.

I worded it wrongly, my question isn't the real question at all. It's just something that's occurred to me in the past when I'm in eastern front geek mode.

Also, in the article it clearly states that Stalin condoned such actions - that to me, is what is horrific here. To condone it after a battle when Germany lost 1 million soldiers and 100,000 civilians and the Russians lost 300,000 only solidifies the insanity of the time and of Stalin. There is no justification for this.

Those are the known figures for the Battle of Berlin and only Berlin. On the scale of things that had gone before Berlin wasn't a battle. It lasted a week and happened right at the end of the war when just about everyone else who was anywhere else had stopped fighting.

In the first month of their involvement in the war the Soviet Union lost more, in both raw numbers and percentages, of their armed forces than the British, French and Americans combined in all theatres in the whole of WWII. The three Western Allies casualties, i.e deaths and the kinds of injuries that make you unfit to serve, amounted to about 1 million in total. For Germany it's thought to be about 5 million. For the USSR estimates vary wildly but the lowest I've seen is close to 30 million. The official Russian figures (actually Soviet figures) put it closer to 60 million.

There is no justification, but lets put it this way. The Red Army had a neat way of dealing with insurrection. Ahead of you is a German division and possible death. Behind you is an NKVD division (forerunners of the KGB) and *certain* death. If the powers that be in the Red Army of that time didn't want you to do something they weren't shy in saying "Don't do that!" But it happend anyway and on a near industrial scale. That tells me a lot about what happened and why. It also makes my original question jump up and down to me. If the German army had behaved as an army liberating people from Communism, rather than an army of annihilation determined to wipe out sub-human Slavs, would the Red Army have behaved differently once in Germany? And in the context of the original posters question, and this being his example, I think that's relevant.

Rant over. :)
posted by vbfg at 7:38 AM on May 9, 2002


Summer asked: "Why are most men able to keep sexual violence in check during peace time but a tiny minority aren't?" Statistically, men are not able to keep their sexual violence in check according to these statistics.

vbfg states: "If the German army had behaved as an army liberating people from Communism, rather than an army of annihilation determined to wipe out sub-human Slavs, would the Red Army have behaved differently once in Germany? And in the context of the original posters question, and this being his example, I think that's relevant. "

You argue that the Red Army suffered greater loss (as did the Soviet Union in civilian casualties) than any of the other Allies in the war. Taking that into consideration I would harbour that it did not matter the aim or intent or behaviour of the German army. The purpose of the Nazis were NOT to wipe out sub-human Slavs but to create a perfect Aryan race; hence why they killed what they deemed undesirables - this is NOT just confined to the Slavics. However, you did not see the wealthy Germans who were incarcerated or whom watched their families killed nor the Jews nor any other group rape and pillage as they were liberated. But then the argument could be made they did not have a leader nor an army condoning their actions.

Rape is horrific - no matter what happened to create the situation for vindication, we as higher, social animals do have the mental capacity and control to choose a higher form of retribution and one that does not needless harm innocents.
posted by gloege at 8:28 AM on May 9, 2002


make that needlessly... oops!
posted by gloege at 8:35 AM on May 9, 2002


I remeber the day after finishing stalingrad I sank to new depths of depression reeling at the inhumanity of one fellow human being to another, it certainly was a powerful piece of literature. I have no doubt that 'berlin' will reach those same stratospheric highs as an excellent book and a somewhat disturbing snapshot of humanity at his debauched worst.
posted by johnnyboy at 8:50 AM on May 9, 2002


You argue that the Red Army suffered greater loss (as did the Soviet Union in civilian casualties) than any of the other Allies in the war. Taking that into consideration I would harbour that it did not matter the aim or intent or behaviour of the German army.

You don't think that maybe the latter led directly to the former? I realise Slavs, as a race, weren't specifically targetted other than for being 'sub-human'. But being sub-human makes you expendable and whilst there are big tasks ahead like, say, defeating the Red Army, expendable is a bad status to have hanging over your head.

How can it not matter though? It's a bit trite of me to put it this way, but let's say someone flew a plane into a building in New York. That'd piss people off. Some would want revenge, some might argue for the nuking of Mecca and Medina (and I've seen that said around here by people I'd previously respected).

It might not seem it, but this is related, because that incident affected everyone who saw it. And everyone saw it. The majority of Russians in June '41 (when this started) lived west of the longitude (or is it latitude?) of Moscow, and in December '41 there were German soldiers in the suburbs of Moscow.

I had some *wierd*, complicated feelings about what I saw on Sept 11th. If I saw that amount of death and destruction happening on a near daily basis for a few years then I think it would screw with my head a little, especially if one of the places I walked through on my way to Germany was the smouldering remains of my own home town.

Again, I'm not justifying this at all. You don't think I am do you? Jeez, I hope not.

However, you did not see the wealthy Germans who were incarcerated or whom watched their families killed nor the Jews nor any other group rape and pillage as they were liberated. But then the argument could be made they did not have a leader nor an army condoning their actions.

True, but then they didn't form the core of the largest and most powerful land army in the world. Nor did they answer ultimately to Stalin (yet). Nor did they have NKVD making sure they toed the party line. Nor could they make any attempt at organising themselves in any kind of meaningful way (to do damage that is, some organised to stay hidden and were successful to the end) until the Nazis were out, and by then they were under Red Army, French, British or American military government where looters faced a firing squad and where an often indoctrinated public at large still thought you were the embodiment of evil.

Opportunity + motivation = crime. My point, which I thought I was making clear, was that the Red Army soldiers had both the opportunity and myriad motiviations to do bad things to Germans. What a phrase like 'bad things' means to a Red Army soldier who'd fought from June '41 until May '45 is different to what it means to me and you. *Very* different.

Gloege, I think fundamentally we agree on a lot here. It would be overly-simplistic of me to state that Germany did bad things, therefore the Russians went ape as soon as they arrived in Germany. It's equally simplistic to say that a man with a gun will fuck whatever or whoever if he thinks he can get away with it. That war, specifically the eastern front, was the most fucked up thing that ever happened on the face of this planet, it left some fucked up people in its wake.

Anyhoo, that's all I have to say on this. :)
posted by vbfg at 9:25 AM on May 9, 2002


Interestingly, The Codebreakers (amazon.com ref), a historical work on the history of cryptography documents that one of the keys to Sweeden's neutrality was their ability to crack the codes of the German occupation force in Norway. The key to this was radio operators spreading recommendations for specific women imported from the concentration camps.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:48 AM on May 9, 2002


Take years and years of helpless, body-ripping , soul destroying, mind numbing hopelessness. Combine with the elation of victory and the presence of your enemy's women. Subtract discipline and self respect. Multiply by ten million. Inject into a Russian peasantry already brutalized by Stalin's great ideas.
posted by hob at 12:02 PM on May 9, 2002


I know this is off-topic, but I cannot let gloege's aspersions against men as a group lie.

According to the statistics you quote, there were 307,000 sexual assault attempts (successful or no) in the US in 1996. There are approximately 278 million people living in the US, and 48% of those are men (CIA World Fact Book).

Simple math tells us there are 133,440,000 men in this country, and that if each sexual assault attempt were attributed to a unique man (unlikely, but let's assume the worst case scenario) then only one man in 434 is a attempted rapist. That's less than a quarter of one percent of the sample. If, as I suspect, each attempted rapist is responsible for more than one attempt, the numbers go even further south.

That's pretty slim numbers for indicting 48% of the species in this country, dont you think? If I made the statement that all women are whores (which I do not believe, by the way) based on the same kinds of numbers, I would be assaulted for such illogical thinking.
posted by Irontom at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2002


There must be many rapes that go unreported though and so don't make the cut into hard numbers.
posted by vbfg at 1:21 PM on May 9, 2002


I think hob hit the nail on the head with "Subtract discipline and self respect".
It was not/ is not the norm for troops to get away with this volume of rape and pillage. Looting is disastrous for army discipline, and decent officers will do all they can to check it.
A ruling class has its uses, after all.
posted by Catch at 1:50 PM on May 9, 2002


Part of what is difficult to see here is the concept of women as objects (not humans or living creatures) that can be taken as "spoils of war." Sadly, perhaps that's the point. Other men, as enemy soldiers, are objectifed as the uniform they wear.

It is frequently a tactic to demoralize a culture to rape - take away the precious virginity! - of women and girls and impregnate them with the sperm of another race.

And I cannot see how rape is about anything other than power. If's it sexual release you want, you've got two hands at the ready. It can't be about pleasure if the object you're screwing is screaming, crying, fighting, or dead.
posted by Red58 at 1:59 PM on May 9, 2002


Same would apply for the number of whores that are not reported. Same thing. Only numbers and when it comes to sex it's usually a mouthful of different theories and numbers ..nobody really know what happend, in which conditions and with what motivation. Sex seems to be far too tied to emotions to be explained rationally by equations.
posted by elpapacito at 2:17 PM on May 9, 2002


And about the dilemma of : was raped caused by war or was it built-in into man ...let me add this experience:

I was into the military, not because of my free choice but because there is still conscription in my country. I witnessed total destruction of personal identity ..in layman terms people felt obliterated by the rules and by the way rules were enforced : screaming , a lot of screaming , forced obedience to often clueless people. I've seen a weak run man cry in desperation banging his head on a closet because he didn't want to be there , another guy that was borderline insane always talking ALL the time, and I mean ALL the time about sex , even during training and with instructors : guess what they didn't kick him out.

What was communicated to me were not skills needed in a war, like duck and cover or survival techniques, all notions that many intelligent people LIKE by instinct : it was the FEAR of consequences, do that or you'll be punished..do whatever I said or you will be punished. Well I tell you that they have been somewhat successful with me, because if I'll ever find an officier in need of help , I'll just look the other way even if he/she screams for help. That doesn't apply to soldiers or common civilians.

Multiply the effect of this in a war, with thousands of people scared by officiers, scared by bombs, scared by enemy, scared of their own companions because you can't trust anybody when it comes to save your ass..and it seems to me OBVIOUS that man will turn into a wild beast that cares nothing about anything. Now imagine a wild beast that is sexually active and has NO remorse and has suffered more pain that humanly tolerable...I don't condemnd him for raping, I condemn those who sent him to war and returned him to a status that is much worse then being an animal, it's being a deeply scared , frustrated, paranoid quasi-human being.

War is total negation of rules and worse then return to wild state.
posted by elpapacito at 2:36 PM on May 9, 2002


"I know this is off-topic, but I cannot let gloege's aspersions against men as a group lie."

Whoa - did I EVER say anything about men as a group were rapists? No I did not. Do NOT put words in my mouth - I provided a link and some commentary on ONE particular quote from another Mefi'er. That is ALL!
posted by gloege at 8:26 PM on May 9, 2002


The concept of war is not victory, it is defeat. How does a conquering army/defeater(sp?) do this, look at the old notion of prehistory, man, club, woman's hair, pulled. You can not define rape in the context of modernity. Defeat is the aim, can you find a better offering. To crush is the concept, shared by men and women alike, it amazes me that (most women, generalization in context, I apologize) do not get this. The concept of "amazon", is it not the same? (no offense intended) To answer the original question, no, war is the result of the depravity, brutality, is only the behaviour of the current conqueror.
posted by bittennails at 8:43 PM on May 9, 2002


Well, if "all men were rapists" then wouldn't the british and US forces have commited mass rapes as well?

I don't know, I mean stalin was an evil dude plain an simple and that might have had something to do with it, but you really have to look at the desperation in the 'lives' of these people... their humanity was stripped away and what was left was this industiralized animal.
posted by delmoi at 3:37 AM on May 10, 2002


Certainly had an effect I'm sure. Some parts of the Ukraine didn't really notice the start of the war, it was more of the same with men in different uniforms.
posted by vbfg at 4:36 AM on May 10, 2002


And I cannot see how rape is about anything other than power. If's it sexual release you want, you've got two hands at the ready. It can't be about pleasure...

But power is pleasurable to some people - and I think what some people worry about is that power is the part of sex that is most pleasurable to men in general. Pornos so commonly have a dominant guy who "marks his territory" by coming on the woman, etc. Obviously this doesn't work for all guys, but it does for some percentage & while clearly that doesn't make them rapists, it does mean that power turns them on. Maybe in some desperate circumstances they wouldn't check themselves & their animal instinct would be toward rape. There is a difference between truly not being inclined toward something, and being inclined toward it but overcoming it through reason / will.

While we're on the subject... I just got this piece of spam for a site dedicated to "rape sex". It probably doesn't deserve a front page post, but I'm too depressed by it not to post it somewhere ...
posted by mdn at 9:26 AM on May 11, 2002


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