WEIGHT: 50 kg
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We would eat well and have enough to drink. If we behaved and fulfilled our duties nothing would happen to us. So begins the wrenching account of Frau W. Those prisoners who had a privileged place in the camp hierarchy — exhibition curator Michael Sommer estimates about one percent of the forced labourers - could buy up to a quarter of an hour with one of the women for two Reichsmarks from the pittance they earned in the Nazi-run factories.
No Jews worked at the brothels or were allowed to patronise them, and separate facilities were created for camp guards. Prostitutes were regularly tested for sexually-transmitted diseases to prevent outbreaks at the camps. Pregnancies were compulsorily ended by abortion. Some women volunteered for service in the brothels, which were heated and had slightly better hygienic conditions, after being promised early release from the life-threatening conditions of the camps.
Another woman whose testimony is featured in the exhibition, identified only as Frau B. Although the months in the brothel left her permanently scarred, Frau B. Sometimes, the men just wanted to talk. Many of the political prisoners boycotted the brothels. Communists at Buchenwald were convinced the bordellos would be used by the SS to spy on prisoners.
Although nearly all the sex workers survived until the camps were liberated, there is scant evidence any were released early for service rendered. After the war, most of the German women kept their experience hidden, out of shame or trauma, while foreign victims feared being seen as collaborators.
None received recognition from the German state as victims of sex slavery or compensation for their ordeal. Few, if any, are still alive today.