Forced Prostitution in WWII Camps Highlighted in Hamburg Exhibit

Current research suggests that some 220 women were forced into prostitution by German SS to reward workers.

The abuse of women prisoners as prostitutes in German concentration camps during the Nazi period has received too little attention in previous studies, German sociologist Christa Paul believes.

The German SS, who ran the camps, set up brothels in 10 camps, according to the 47-year-old researcher at Hamburg University.

The aim was to reward prisoners who had shown high productivity in the forced labor camps, which were a major part of Adolf Hitler's armaments industry during World War II.

Paul's work is being highlighted in a special exhibition at the memorial to the Neuengamme concentration camp that opened Wednesday and runs to January 18 next year.

Speaking to Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Paul said the women were largely recruited from the women's concentration camp Ravensbrueck to the north of Berlin.

"There was a so-called whores' block there," she said.

Current research suggests that around 220 women were forced into prostitution.

"The brothel was the biggest reward that the prisoners could receive to promote their work motivation," Paul said.

Big companies making use of concentration camp slave labor, such as the notorious IG Farben, had come out in favor of this incentive in 1942.

SS leader Heinrich Himmler was also in favour of the scheme, contradicting the widespread notion that the Nazis had banned prostitution.

Paul acknowledged difficulties in researching her theme as many of the victims were reluctant to speak of their experiences as sex slaves.

She added that while concentration camp brothels were now receiving more attention, "the establishment and operation of Wehrmacht (German army) brothels in occupied Eastern Europe remains a large blind spot."