Historians have plumbed nearly every aspect of the Holocaust – but one needs further exploration, according to historians. The Nazis' crime of forced abortion and sterilization should be highlighted, studied, and used to understand modern totalitarian regimes, a panel of Holocaust historians said at a recent forum.
“A lot of women’s experiences during the Holocaust had to do with the biology of being a woman – not only vulnerability of sexual violence but menstruation and childbirth and forced abortion and forced sterilization,” historian Rochelle Saidel, the director of Remember the Women Institute, said at a panel at the American Jewish Historical Society in October. “All of these things are women’s experiences that need to be talked about.”
“Even if it be assumed that all [Nazi] abortions were voluntary, they still constitute a crime,” Associate Counsel Harold Neely said at the Nuremberg Trials. Prosecutors classified abortion under any circumstances as a “crime against humanity.” One of the defendants even admitted it constituted “a special violation against life.”
The threat of forced abortion and sterilization was a fact of life for female members of disfavored groups living under Nazi occupation.