There are many Holocaust survival narratives and autobiographies that deal with brothels and forced sex in the camps. But Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices Under Nazi Rule by Beverley Chalmers stands alone. It is not about one brothel, but many; not one instance of forced sex, medical experiments, sexual cruelty, but of all that could possibly have occurred in such environments. A combination of medical, historical, and social science, it is more than a reference book; it is about women as sex objects providing relief to soldiers; about women giving birth and viewing the murder of their live babies; and on and on. It is based on 12 years of study that incorporates women’s history, Holocaust studies, social sciences, medicine, and recording the personal narratives of women who experienced, observed, or read about this. It is the secret knowledge of those who had the courage to hold on to such a memory without going insane in order to testify, to permit all that had been witnessed to be recorded for posterity. The book was written by a doctor/sociologist who has dedicated her life to studying women’s experiences of giving birth in difficult social, political, economic, and religious environments. Her expertise encompasses both the medical and social areas. The print is small and the space between lines miniscule, but each word, each bit of information is precious and unlikely to be found elsewhere with such clarity and comprehensiveness. Many of the books quoted as references are readily available, but this book has collected the line or two, the scattered paragraphs dealing with this subject, into a central repository.
It is a library within a library — where tragedies and examples of courage are organized by topic and gathered in one book.