Black and white photograph of men and women at the Belsen trial. Irma Grese in center of front row.

Justice Slow in Coming

I wonder how many people realize that there were female perpetrators of the Holocaust in Nazi Concentration and Death Camps. There have been reports that a female secratary who served in the Stutthof Concentration Camp has been charged. This woman, aged 95, served at the camp, situated near the now Polish city of Gadansk, in an administrative role. Having been a minor at the time, she will be tried as such.

There were some instances of women guards behaving worse than their male equivalents. Names such as Irma Grese and Ilse Koch have become synonymous with the worst brutality of the Nazi state. Though outnumbered by their male counterparts, the women involved certainly underscore the damage Nazism wrought to German civilization.

Often Young and Brutal

As in destructive regimes in history, the young are over-represented in such travesties. Often being willing, but, by virtue of their youth, rather ignorant of their exploitation in the bigger picture. In other words, being encouraged to commit crime, perhaps against their better judgment, for the convenience of the state.

In such a way, young people are groomed to be state-sanctioned criminals.

A colored photograph of a young female U.S. Army Reserve soldier in navy uniform with navy cap and American flag in background. Female Perpetrators of the Holocaust.

This reminds me of a modern equivalent to the young female perpetrators of the Holocaust – the regrettable behaviour of the female guards at Abu Ghraib Prison during the First Gulf War. Lynndie England, the young woman forever linked to this was of humble origins and average education. It is fair to say that the derelcition of duty of those officers responsible helped incite her reprehensible behaviour. She was party to inflicting gross de-humanisation and a certain degree of torture to the Iraqi detainees.

A Perverse Generation

Within the employ of the S.S. Camp system, those young German women had surprisingly similar origins. Often from lower middle-class families and of limited education, these women sometimes could not resist the tempation to embrace the ‘master race’ ethos. In an environment where brutaity was seen as a virtue, and the constraints of a Judeo-Christian society suspended, there was a substantially greater scope for evil.

My book of Holocaust short stories, Tiergartenstrasse 4 , will be looking at this element of women’s participation in the Holocaust. Nazism enveloped the German nation, and those who did not agree were marginalised at the very least and persecuted at most. With the specter of Abu Ghraib so recently added to the historical record, it is obvious humanity has the potential to degerate again.