How many rapes occurred inside the walls of the main camp of Ravensbrück is hard to put a figure to: so many of the victims—already, as Ilse Heinrich said, half dead—did not survive long enough after the war to talk about it. While many older Soviet women were reluctant to talk of the rape, younger survivors feel less restraint today. Nadia Vasilyeva was one of the Red Army nurses who were cornered by the Germans on the cliffs of the Crimea. Three years later in Neustrelitz, northwest of Ravensbrück, she and scores of other Red Army women were cornered again, this time by their own Soviet liberators intent on mass rape. Other women make no excuses for the Soviet rapists. ‘They were demanding payment for liberation,’ said Ilena Barsukova. ‘The Germans never raped the prisoners because we were Russian swine, but our own soldiers raped us. We were disgusted that they behaved like this. Stalin had said that no soldiers should be taken prisoner, so they felt they could treat us like dirt.’Like the Russians, Polish survivors were also reluctant for many years to talk of Red Army rape. ‘We were terrified by our Russian liberators,’ said Krystyna Zając. ‘But we could not talk about it later because of the communists who had by then taken over in Poland.’ Nevertheless, Poles, Yugoslavs, Czechs and French survivors all left accounts of being raped as soon as they reached the Soviet lines. They talked of being ‘hunted down’, ‘captured’ or ‘cornered’ and then raped.In her memoirs Wanda Wojtasik, one of the rabbits, says it was impossible to encounter a single Russian without being raped. As she, Krysia and their Lublin friends tried to head east towards their home, they were attacked at every turn. Sometimes the approach would begin with romantic overtures from ‘handsome men’, but these approaches soon degenerated into harassment and then rape. Wanda did not say she was raped herself, but describes episodes where soldiers pounced on friends, or attacked them in houses where they sheltered, or dragged women off behind trees, who then reappeared sobbing and screaming. ‘After a while we never accepted lifts and didn’t dare go near any villages, and when we slept someone always stood watch.

~ Sarah Helm