March 3, 2010: A German woman has become the first of an estimated 2million victims of rape by Soviet soldiers in the Second World War to break the taboo on talking publicly about the crimes.
Gabriele Koepp, now aged 80 and as a 15-year-old
Gabriele Koepp’s book Why Did I Have To Be A Girl, about the rapes carried out by the Red Army as they marched on Berlin, is the first to be published under a victim’s real name.
The soldiers were encouraged by their leader Josef Stalin to regard the crime as a spoil of war after Hitler’s invasion had left 26million Russians dead.
The Russian establishment continues to deny the events.
’Frau, komm’ - ’Woman, come’ - was a phrase that females dreaded hearing from Red Army soldiers.
In the weeks after Berlin fell, the rape epidemic was so bad the Roman Catholic Church considered abortion for some victims.
Even today, Miss Koepp, 80, has trouble sleeping. She never had a romance after her ordeal.
’I wouldn’t have been able to feel anything anyway,’ she said. ’For me, sexuality was just violence.’
Only one other account of the mass rapes, A Woman In Berlin, was published after the war. Its author remained anonymous but its veracity is now doubted.
’But that woman was 30,’ said Miss Koepp. ’I was hardly more than a child. Writing this has not been easy, but I had no choice: who else would do it?’
Miss Koepp’s book speaks for all of the victims.
Experts, who interviewed some of them, say they were raped an average of 12 times as the 5million soldiers of the Red Army advanced on the Nazi capital in 1945.
The victims ranged from eight to 90, with many raped to death.
Miss Koepp told Der Spiegel magazine it was on the evening of January 25, 1945, aged 15, that her mother told her to pack quickly as she had to flee from the Russians.
They lived Schneidemuhl, in the former German region of Pomerania which is now a Polish town called Pila.
’In a sense, she allowed me to run headlong on to a knife,’ Miss Koepp said. She and her sister left the next day aboard a cattle train that was supposed to head towards Berlin.
For some reason, it went in a different direction and the engine was soon blown up by Russian artillery.
’The freight car door was locked,’ she said. ’I managed to climb up and crawl out of a window. My sister was left behind: I have never seen her again.’
The next day, in a small village, Soviet troops scoured houses for prey.
She was raped twice that day and twice again the next morning. She said she hid under a table in a room filled with refugees.
When the soldiers came to the building, asking for girls, the older women called out: ’Where’s little Gabi?’ and pulled her out from underneath the table.
’I feel hatred rising up inside of me,’ she wrote. She was dragged off to a ransacked house. ’I have no tears,’ she remembered.
’The next morning, it was the women, once again, who pushed me into the arms of a greedy officer. I despise these women.’
Her ordeal went on for two weeks until she was taken in at a farm and hid from the Soviets.
She was reunited with her mother 15 months later in Hamburg but says her mother was cold to her when she tried to talk of her pain and shame.
Miss Koepp thinks she felt guilty for letting her and her sister leave home alone. The book will be translated into English later this year.