Betrayed: Child Sex Abuse in the Holocaust

  • Review
By – November 21, 2022

Char­ac­ter­ized by its author as a com­pendi­um of hor­rors,” this dis­qui­et­ing book took an intense six­teen years to com­plete. While it is sup­port­ed by 1,056 foot­notes and 314 cita­tions, it reflects just the tip of the ice­berg of this aspect of the Holocaust.”

At the book’s core is the sto­ry of 160 sex­u­al­ly abused Jew­ish chil­dren who expe­ri­enced some of the worst geno­ci­dal­ly-based emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal abuse the world has ever imposed.” The author insists that there is no way to tell these sto­ries gently … ”

Much to the author’s cred­it, the book fills a major knowl­edge gap; for as of 2020, there was no com­pa­ra­ble text about a hid­den hor­ror that was far more preva­lent than we would ever like to acknowl­edge.” Indeed, due to aca­d­e­m­ic uneasi­ness, child-focused abuse sto­ries have often been ignored, sup­pressed, or hid­den, leav­ing the children’s expe­ri­ences unrec­og­nized and their per­pe­tra­tors unscathed.”

The book mod­els the way that future aca­d­e­m­ic inves­ti­ga­tions into the sub­ject should go. First, Chalmers brings per­plex­ing sur­pris­es to the sur­face. For exam­ple, although child sex­u­al abuse was ille­gal under laws of the Third Reich, it was con­ve­nient­ly over­looked before, dur­ing, and even after the war.

Sec­ond, the book goes on to name all known Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish per­pe­tra­tors — not just the noto­ri­ous ones like Dr. Josef Man­gele. We now learn that the head of the juden­rat in the Lodz Ghet­to, Chaim Rumkows­ki, alleged­ly raped Jew­ish chil­dren. Sim­i­lar­ly, so-called Child Mas­cots,” or brain-washed young Jew­ish boys in the camps, were turned against their own peo­ple and exploit­ed to mur­der Jews themselves.”

Third, Chalmers gives recog­ni­tion to Jew­ish upstanders who tried to pre­vent or alle­vi­ate child abuse. Typ­i­cal were moth­ers who dis­guised their pret­ty daugh­ters by dis­fig­ur­ing their faces and clothes with dirt or some kind of paste“ in the hope they would be less vul­ner­a­ble if less attrac­tive. Like­wise, sex slaves in camp broth­els secret­ly slipped sweets giv­en them by Ger­man sol­diers to near­by starv­ing children.

Final­ly, the entire sub­ject is sit­u­at­ed in a glob­al per­spec­tive. War-based sex­u­al bru­tal­i­ty is not unique to the Holo­caust and WWII, but it can be found today, in war-torn regions includ­ing Burun­di, North­ern Ugan­da, Sier­ra Leone, Soma­lia, Sudan, and Uganda.

Betrayed asks read­ers to be upstanders when it comes to mat­ters of sex­u­al vio­lence. They must hold per­pe­tra­tors to account, there­by heed[ing] the chil­dren who had the courage to reveal their sex­u­al abuse.”

Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Soci­ol­o­gy, Pro­fes­sor Arthur B. Shostak is the author in 2017 of Stealth Altru­ism: For­bid­den Care as Jew­ish Resis­tance in the Holo­caust. Since his 2003 retire­ment from 43 years teach­ing soci­ol­o­gy he has spe­cial­ized in Holo­caust studies.

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