Protection from the protector: Court-martial cases and the lawlessness of occupation in American-controlled Berlin, 1945–1948
The nation is proud of the fine record that its soldiers have made in this war. The victories they have won in combat are the result of character, training, and discipline. The manner in which they have conducted themselves has reflected the highest credit on the American Army. Offenses by soldiers against either civil or military law are the exception rather than the rule. Our men have won the respect and admiration of civilians with whom they have been in contact, both at home and overseas. While walking home one afternoon, a twenty-four-year-old office worker encountered two U.S. Army soldiers on Kaiserallee in southwest Berlin. Forced into an adjacent apartment complex where three other soldiers were waiting, Else P. was hurled to the ground and gang raped. In response to her cries for mercy, the soldiers allowed her to retrieve her clothes on the condition that she “dress on the street.” According to a police case file logged later that evening, Else was eight months pregnant at the time of the attack. Due to the involvement of U.S. personnel, the German police could not act alone, and as a result, according to protocol, “the Military Police Station was made aware of the occurrence.” This example, drawn from a 1946 municipal police ledger, provides the disturbing details of one encounter between GIs and Germans a year after war's end. The uniquely chilling story of Elsa's rape is but one example of the ubiquitous violence that marked the city's occupation. At first glance, it follows the usual tropes that frequently defined such crimes: a young woman, on her way home, is attacked and raped by occupation soldiers. The reader is surprised to learn that the soldiers are American and that this incident took place in the middle-class neighborhood of Friedenau, not Mitte or Pankow, or any of the other eastern districts where police and health office files documented the overwhelming occurrence of Soviet excess at war's end. Else's case suggests that Americans, like the Soviets, committed brutal sexual assaults, perhaps not as frequently but with equal disregard for the body and soul of the victims. Moreover, it points to the brazen and often arbitrary exercise of power over the domestic population.
Evans, J.V. (2011). Protection from the protector: Court-martial cases and the lawlessness of occupation in American-controlled Berlin, 1945–1948. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139020695.010