Secret Holocaust files may finally see the light of day
We know that thousands of women were raped during the Holocaust. We also know that rape was never part of any charges against anyone responsible for the era’s atrocities. In a thrilling new turn of events, files long locked away at UN headquarters in New York have revealed details of investigations into the use of rape by Nazis. Could this lead to justice for women brutalized in other wars?
British and American researchers, as well as the U.S. Holocaust Museum, are pushing for public access to the files, which rest in an archive that was part of the United Nations War Crimes Commission. Allied countries established the commission in 1943 to look into charges against 37,000 people accused of war crimes. A year after it was shut down in 1948, the UN Secretariat decided to only allow access to governments on a confidential basis, according to The Associated Press. Then, in 1987, limited access was given to researchers and historians.
But it’s taken until now to bring to light documents that lay out potential legal precedents for rape as a war crime. AP reports that among the reels and reels of microfilm stowed in the archive’s metal cabinets are minutes from 1947 committee meetings that “document cases in Greece and Poland involving rape and mass murder. Another document, signed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific, details the conviction of a Japanese commander for permitting or inciting his troops to rape a woman.”
To have such specifics is invaluable in trying to build legal precedents for the prosecution of rape as a crime against humanity or a war crime. While tribunals on genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia introduced the use of such charges in the late 1990s, these previously unexamined files could help solidify legal precedents that would allow courts to go after governments that use sexualized violence as a tool of war today.
More articles by Category: International, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: War, Criminal justice, Sexualized violence, Genocide