Betrayed: Child Sex Abuse in the Holocaust
by Beverley Chalmers (DSc(Med); PhD)
Grosvenor House Publishing Limited

"Antisemitic Nazi policy established Jews as legitimate targets for extermination, targeted children as primary subjects for eradication and destroyed Jewish families."

How many naively believe that all the worst stories from the Nazi era have been revealed? Perhaps the author did before researching her awarding-winning book Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices under Nazi Rule on the abuse of women under Nazi rule. However, that search uncovered enough evidence on child sex abuse that she was led to write this second book specifically regarding children. Nazi policy regarding homosexuality, including men having sex with young male children, was regarded as criminal. However, leaders were concerned that killing Jewish parents and leaving their children alive could result in a generation set on revenge against Nazis. Jewish families were so desperate that, in a few instances, they were willing to let rescuers smuggle their children out of ghettos and transit camps in the hope that they would be safer in hiding than in the camps.

Some teenage boys became sex slaves to an SS officer or his kapo (block leader), being forced to trade sex for food. Children in hiding were unsafe and vulnerable to abuse, including sexual abuse, because they were trusting, looking for affection, and intimidated with threats of being turned over to Nazis if they reported abuse. Worse yet are the horror tales of Nazi experiments on children.

Chalmers' persistent efforts to find testimonies of child sexual abuse survivors received little help at first as the subject was considered taboo. Eventually, stories were discovered through archival sources, testimonies, and memoirs, often from grown-up kids, bringing to light 160 accounts that substantiate child abuse. The author carefully separates these accounts by category: abuse by fathers or siblings of hiding families, German officers, rescuers (including Russian soldiers), and more. Then, the information is helpfully summarized in tables in an appendix. What proves to be an eye-opening account is also highly disturbing. Nevertheless, this is a good, detailed book that might greatly benefit Holocaust historians and interested readers.

A 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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