Women’s rights violation during the Holocaust

The untold stories

“We usually have people dying to talk, and no one will listen. Now, we have people dying to listen, but no one will talk.”

Jessica Neuwirth, a women’s rights lawyer, said this of the victims of sexual violence during World War II. The issue of women’s rights violation during World War II only began to surface about 20 years ago. In the past, survivors were too ashamed to talk about their past. Now, however, psychologists, scholars, authors, and lawyers are seeking the survivors’ stories, and some survivors have come forth voluntarily to demand apologies.

Along with concentration camps, gas chambers, and crematoriums, sexual violence was prevalent during the Holocaust. Due to lack of personal accounts and data, the exact death toll is unknown, but what is certain is that many young girls and women were raped regardless of their age and nationality. Much of the violence also happened outside of the camps.

Stories of sexual violence are a sensitive issue for both the speakers and the listeners. The problem in the past was that women were too embarrassed to tell their stories. Now, more than 60 years have passed since the Second World War, and there were concerns that the stories will never be told before all the survivors pass away. Now is the time to acknowledge the fact that accounts of sexual violence are also a part of history.

When such a terrible thing happens, you expect an apology. It was important for my healing process. It takes a lifetime to get over a thing like that.”
– Jan Ruff-O’Hearne, comfort women from Dutch Colony


Ravitz, J. (2011, June 24). Silence lifted: The untold stories of rape during the Holocaust. CNN.com Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/06/24/holocaust.rape/

Wolfe, L. (2012, February 8). Holocaust. In Women Under Siege Project. Retrieved from http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/holocaust