Showing posts with label violent women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label violent women. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lost German Girl

I am currently reading Hitler's Furies, which examines the role German women played in the killing machine of the Third Reich.  Perhaps the greatest revelation is how few of them were held accountable for their murderous and sometimes sadistic deeds, and how even after the war, German justice was reluctant to credit the testimony of Jewish survivors against these women.  The few women who were actually brought to trial lied blatantly about what and where they had been; they tried to pin their crimes on their husbands or lovers; they were pregnant at the time (and therefore, for some reason, incapable of shooting Jews in the forest like rabbits); they "forgot" where they were or what they were doing; they were just following orders. They returned to civilian life, some of them in the very same occupations they had held while they were committing their most cold-blooded crimes (i.e., nursing).  

Perhaps it doesn't matter.  They're mostly all dead now, these Germans of my parents' generation, or else very, very old.

I am not a World War II buff by any stretch.  What fascinates me is human cruelty, and identifying the social and psychological circumstances in which human cruelty emerges and flourishes.  Women's capacity for violence has, until recently, been overlooked.  They are seen either as victims or in thrall to a dark masculine force, rather than as people who participate in murder or genocide willingly, even enthusiastically, in service of their own ambition or sadistic pleasure.

On a related note, I cannot quite shake my fascination with "the lost German girl" who was filmed during the evacuation of Germans from Czechoslovakia in 1945.  She has been beaten, and seems exhausted and disoriented.  She is wearing military trousers and braces that seem to fit her too well to have been discarded by a male soldier.  She is clutching a deck of cards (or a bible? or a stack of worthless currency? or identification papers?). She has never been identified, and -- assuming she survived -- probably never wished to be.

A case has been made over at another blog that the photograph below is of the girl in the film, and, having compared the images over and over, I am also persuaded that they are the same person. The photograph is of an as-yet unnamed German woman who was serving in some capacity in the Wehrmacht apparatus in Czechoslovakia. (On the other hand, "the lost German girl" captured on film may simply have been one of millions of ethnic Germans expelled from various countries during this period.) 


It's difficult, watching the film clip, not to feel great compassion for the young woman, who, with her loose, blonde, blood-caked hair, snug jumper, somewhat cynical expression, and meandering gait, appears to be utterly contemporary.  And yet I am also haunted by what she has done, the choices she has made that have brought her to this dark place along a sunny stretch of highway.