The Women of Berlin

Soviet Occupied Berlin

Soviet occupied Berlin during the 1940’s is accounted as gruesome and violent place to live being a woman; the mass rapes that took place still leave a generation in fear today. Famously the Soviet 8th Red Army and Western allies occupied Nazi Berlin in 1944, the armies delight and relief that they had defeated Hitler’s regime lead to the outrageous ‘celebrations’.


The women of Berlin are often said to be the individuals who were the worst effected of the battle of Berlin; they took the brunt of the bombing and had to watch their sons, husbands, fathers leave to fight the hopeless war. After this ordeal the women of Berlin would then be subject to some of the most violent and numerous cases of rape in history.


During 1944-1945 the soviet red army took control of the streets of Berlin, after years of fighting in the war the soldiers believed they were free to take “their rightful spoils of war” (Frei, 2009). Whilst trying to fight their way into the Third Reich, the Western Allies and Red Army ‘let off steam’ by abusing the women left in berlin. The estimates of numbers of soviet soldiers range from the tens of thousands to 2 million, who all most repeatedly abused, many women and sometimes up to 60-70 each. At least 100,000 women were believed to be attack which lead to a surge in the abortion rates in the following months. These ‘back street abortions’ per say, lead alone to the deaths of up to 10,000 women, and 240,000 deaths linked with the Soviet Army. Antony Beevor, in his published book The Downfall of Berlin labelled the events as “the greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history”(Beevor, 2002) referring to the concluded 1.4 million women that were raped in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia alone. In the book “The Downfall of Berlin” recently adapted into a film “A Woman in Berlin” the gruesome events of soviet occupied Berlin are depicted through the writings of a woman who is anonymous to us. The events film is accurately portraying what the women wrote in her diary, now a published book after her death. Through the film a house containing many women is raided by the Red Army ending in the brutal rapes of many women. During the summer of 1945, soviet soldiers were usually punished when caught abusing women ranging from an arrest to execution; however attacks were said to continue until the winter of 1948 when the Soviet authorities moved the troops.

Clean Up: Trümmerfrau

In post war Berlin the Job of rebuilding and removing the masses of rubble fell to those who were left; the women. The term, Trümmerfrau translates as ‘rubble women’, during 1945-1946 all women able bodied between 15-50 years of aged were ordered to begin removing the rubble left from the bombing. Recruiting women was particularly useful at this time due to the loss of male live, there were an estimated 7million more women than men in Germany.
All buildings deemed unsafe or unfit to use again were to be torn down, and a chain of women would pass bricks to be cleaned, reshaped ready to be reused again. The unusable rubble was used to fill in holes and still stands today in Berlin creating many artificial hills.



In Berlin the clean-up operation was indeed much more intense than many others across Germany, in the central districts of Berlin such as Mitte, Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg, Teurgarten and Wedding up tp 35% of building were destroyed, making much more work for the Trümmerfrauen. This work however did not go unrecognised; in 1946 Allied troops published a series of stamps named Bärenmarken. Created by designers Alfred Goldhammer and Heinz Schwalbe are four images of a bear, one with a brick and others with a shovel or beamed and a young oak tree in front of the ruins of the Belle-Alliance Square; each image represents the reconstruction and therefore praised the Trümmerfrauen nationwide. Although now it is often forgotten what the rubble women did for Berlin, there lies a monument and mark of respect in Berlin today in a park. As Berlin as we know it now would not exist without the Trummerfrauen



Film: “A Woman in Berlin” (2009)
The Downfall of Berlin (2008)


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