Violent Frauen: Manhood and Womanhood on Trial For Nazi Atrocities at Bergen-Belsen, 1945
Stimits, Megan Lynn
Chaos ensued after the Second World War. Investigations of Nazi atrocities took center stage throughout Europe. Britain, France, the United States, and Russia. Each held their own war crimes tribunals in their zone of occupation. From these trials knowledge of the inner workings of the Nazi agenda as well as the day-to-day occurrences at concentration and extermination camps has been exposed. Over the years, examining history through the lens of gender has become a topic of interest. Looking back at trial records from the Second World War, historians have found that German women camp guards, also known as Aufseherinnen, participated in Nazi atrocities as Schutzstaffel (SS). At the time of the trials, prosecutors from Britain, France, and the United States had difficulty comprehending that women could commit crimes of violence extending to torture. Judge Advocate C. L. Stirling, Esq., lead prosecutor Colonel T. M. Backhouse, and the defense lawyers each had a different view of German women perpetrators. Each of their views along with their arguments on the idea of women and motherhood are examined in the trial. Although British courts brought equal indictments against German women perpetrators, the judges did not hold the women accountable for their crimes. British ideas of coverture and manliness shielded the British prosecutors from believing that women were capable of murder. Men were supposed to have characteristics of civility through strength and self-discipline. Whereas, British judges believed women were supposed to hold characteristics of submissiveness, beauty, kindness, and youthfulness. For women it seems that violence to keep order in the camp was allowed by British judges, but murder, torture, and disregard for human life was deemed as beastly. German men would spend around ten to fifteen years in prison whereas; German women who committed the same crime spent less than a year. Not only were the German men at the Belsen trial treated unfairly by the weak sentencing of German women, but also the survivors who brought forth evidence against their cruelty. In essence, the British judges allowed the German women on trial freedom from their crimes based solely on their gender.
Stimits, Megan Lynn. (January 0001). Violent Frauen: Manhood and Womanhood on Trial For Nazi Atrocities at Bergen-Belsen, 1945 (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/5091.)
Stimits, Megan Lynn. Violent Frauen: Manhood and Womanhood on Trial For Nazi Atrocities at Bergen-Belsen, 1945. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, January 0001. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/5091. December 08, 2023.
Stimits, Megan Lynn, “Violent Frauen: Manhood and Womanhood on Trial For Nazi Atrocities at Bergen-Belsen, 1945” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, January 0001).
Stimits, Megan Lynn. Violent Frauen: Manhood and Womanhood on Trial For Nazi Atrocities at Bergen-Belsen, 1945 [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 0001.
East Carolina University