They were ugly, contagious and stupid.
They were certainly not in love, because love was not allowed.
"Tyskerjentene" or "Tyskertøsene" - "German sluts" - Norwegian women who got involved with the German enemy.
After the liberation in 1945, it would take another 73 years for the Norwegian government to officially apologise to these women in October 2018.
published by Kilden (Gender Research Norway) on the 30th October 2018
I have been granted permission to translate this article by both the authors.
In 2007 Kilden wrote about the thirst for revenge affecting the Norwegian girls and women who had relationships with German soldiers during the occupation of 1940–1945. In the article "Simply in love" (see below) Terje A. Pedersen talks therein about his master thesis in history: "The treatment of the "tyskertøsene" ("German sluts") right after the war."
Pedersen had studied archives from state detention camps, as well as court documents and readers' posts in newspapers to research the revenge against the "German sluts" in Norway. Best known from this time are the so called "hair-cutting actions" in which mobs of Norwegians were shaving off the hair of those suspected "Tyskerjenter". However there was much more that happened to these women.
The "revenge" of the Norwegian authorities took other means. Thousands of women were detained in detention centres on the outer skirts of the cities. The apparent intention was to protect the women from these revenge actions but also to stop them from spreading sexually transmitted diseases. Many of these women were as a result held in prison-like institutions for several months without any legal basis or judgment.
This short film of the internment camp on Hovedøya (island off Oslo) visualises their situation very well:
The shattered myth
Many myths circulated around the topic of the "Tyskerjentene". They were less gifted, contagious or even prostitutes which were of course simply not true. Pedersen is clear that they were just normal girls and women who simply had fallen in love with the "wrong" men.
While the women who married German soldiers were deported and lost their Norwegian citizenship, the 28 Norwegian men who married German women that were employed by the Wehrmacht, did not receive any punishment.
Another myth Pedersen wants to dispel is how many of these "German sluts" actually existed.
Immediately after the war, the authorities estimated that 30-50,000 girls and women had had "intercourse with" Germans. This number is still considered official. But Pedersen, who is also a trained mathematician, has calculated that there were far more of these "tyskertøser" - up to 100,000, which corresponds to around 10 to 15 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 at the time!
It is important to mention that, during the Nazi German occupation, there were roughly as many German soldiers as young Norwegian men in Norway. The German soldiers also lived close proximity to the local population most of the time.
Women's sexuality as a national issue
A third myth is that forcibly shaving the hair off these women was a common punishment.
Pedersen has calculated that only 5 percent of the "tyskerjenter" were affected by this treatment. The forced shavings had, however, still a strong symbolic meaning, namely to purify the female Norwegians.
One has to remember that it was only the suspected women, never the men, who received this punishment.
While women who married German soldiers were deported and lost their Norwegian citizenship. The 28 Norwegian men who married German women, that were employed by the German Wehrmacht, were never punished.
Also, Norwegian companies that had profited from trading with the Germans were never penalised.
In a Kilden article from 2005, Kjersti Ericsson explains the strong reactions to the "German sluts" as follows:
"The idea that women served the nation, both sexually and through the role of being a mother, was widespread. Thus women were vital to the survival of the nation, both biologically and culturally. Hence, their bodies and sexuality were a national matter. "
The children ("tyskerbarn") these women had given birth to received an official apology for their treatment from the Norwegian Prime Minister back in 2000.
It was about time then - in 2000 - that their mothers should have been given an apology for the treatment they had received.
That however took a lot longer, and was only announced on October 18, 2018, 18 years after their children.
Simply in love
(Written by Kristin Engh Førde, published September 11, 2007)
"Prostitute." "Traitor". "Infectious". "Inferior".
According to the post-war myths about the so-called "tyskertøser" ("German sluts"), they were morally corrupt, inferior people. Historian Terje A. Pedersen, on the other hand, believes that most of them just found love.
"Yeah girl, you were the worst of them all. A swastika should be burnt onto your forehead. "
"X" wrote this in a letter to the editor of Arbeiderbladet May 29, 1945. In the weeks after the liberation from German occupation, this anonymous person "X" was not alone in his thirst for revenge on the "German sluts", Norwegian girls who, during the war years, had been in a relationship with German soldiers.
These "German girls" had committed the classic betrayal: they got in bed with the enemy.
Hate against them was widespread among large parts of the population, and many believed that these girls and women should suffer for this betrayal.
Terje A. Pedersen found out much around this topic. He wrote his masters thesis on the topic "The Tyskerjentene in Norway - reactions and haircutting actions from 1940-46".
«[...] These German bitches, those brutal, calculating, unsocial individuals who were kept by the German war stallions. [...] Who would be more appropriate to be covered with the dirt of this 'master race' than these women who got in bed with them. [Who would be more appropriate than] those who lived of their money, their food, their drinks and their cigarettes? "(Arbeiderbladet June 27, 1945)
The suggestions in the letter to the editor above were not unfounded, they actually were implemented in a several places across Norway and the estimated 100,000 "German sluts" who had entered into a relationship with a German noticed this public anger against them and their female bodies in a different ways.
The most widely known practice was probably the "hair-cutting", in which a mob of people publicly cut the suspicious "tyskerjenter" 's hair. Although this "haircut" had in retrospect become the symbol of the unrest against these "tyskerjenter", according to Pedersen's calculations it was only a small minority of the girls who fell victim to such actions.
"There is no doubt that revenge was a major motive for internment."
Probably less than five percent of the "tyskerjentene" were affected by these actions. However, the fact that these "hair-cuttings" are remembered that well is more likely due to their symbolic meaning as a kind of purification process, says Pedersen.
Forced shaving was a popular vengeance.
The authorities officially distanced themselves from these measures. At the same time, however, it was often emphasized that the anger was "understandable".
"Even when these "girl-shaving mobs" were brought to court and convicted, the verdict emphasized that the court fully understood that this was likely to happen," said Pedersen.
The revenge of the authorities
Pedersen believes that the treatment of the "tyskertøser" by the authorities in the first year after the liberation must also be seen as a form of revenge.
"Those women who did not reject the Germans, will pay a terrible price for the rest of their lives " warned Toralv Øksnevad, aka "The Voice of London", during the war BBC radio station.
Although relationships between Norwegian women and German soldiers were officially not forbidden by law, Øksnevad's statement was not just an empty saying. Thousands, probably up to 14,000 alleged "tyskerjentene", were imprisoned in internment camps between May 1945 and April 1946. Many of them were detained for months.
The "tyskertøser" were detained on the basis of so-called "provisional agreements" and "temporary laws". A tactic known as a "police order" provided an opportunity to arrest the women so they are protected from the mob. The second, called "health order", allowed the authorities to incarcerate the "German girls" in order to prevent them transmitting sexually transmittable diseases.
Officially and legally, detention was therefore not a punishment. Still, there is no doubt that vengeance was a major motive for this internment.
This vengeance is also unmistakably portrayed in the magazines of the time: Here the interned women were often referred to as "prisoners" and the camps as "prisons" or "prisoner camps", says Pedersen.
"When I go into the individual cases, it became clear that the orders were often a mere pretext for the arrest of these "German sluts"," says Pedersen.
In his research he found very few examples of German girls who actually expressed the need for protection.
The risk of infection by a "German slut" is also exaggerated. Only 20 percent of the women who arrived at the internment camp for women on Hovedøya (near Oslo) were infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Admittedly, some of them had received treatment prior to their arrival.
In the Hovelåsen camp (near Kongsvinger), 20 percent of the women had become infected, half of them in the last year.
"It would have actually been enough to have been to a café with a German to be considered contagious."
"Although fear of infection was based on a proven increase in sexually transmitted diseases during the war, there is much evidence to suggest that he most feared, was the moral infection by 'indecent' women" comments Pedersen.
"The infection control propaganda fits in well with all these myths that the "tyskerjentene" had to endure. They are prostitutes and morally offensive women."
Another common notion was that the "tyskerjentene" were stupid, which some experts actually tried to prove.
For example, Doctor Augusta Rasmussen carried out a study testing the intelligence level of 310 women interned on Hovedøya. Her conclusion was that just over half of them had low levels of intelligence and that only eight were normally intelligent.
The director of Gaustad Hospital Ødegård even stated that there were disproportionately high numbers of ungifted, unsocial or mentally ill people among the tyskerjentene.
"The "tyskerjenter" were also said to be ugly.
Overall, it was important to portray these girls as the" lowest class" and inferior to the Norwegian women.
This has probably a lot to do with male pride and male self-esteem.
Norwegian men had suffered a military loss and that the Germans would now "take their wives" as well, could be seen as an additional defeat. So it was important to make it very clear that a "tyskertøs" is woman that a Norwegian man would never want to have as a wife.
But these myths about the "tyskerjentene," which portrayed them as stupid, ugly, sick women, or as prostitutes. They had great ideological significance in other ways, according to Pedersen.
It was very important for the authorities to refer to the relationship between Norwegian girls and Germans as something other than love, although many of these relationships were so serious that they ended in marriage.
To come to this conclusion, Pedersen has read many newspapers articles, opinions, as well as a wide variety of official Norwegian documents. He examined reports sent within the Norwegian ministries as well as approximately 1,000 police reports from the archives of the two state detention camps.
The word "love" is nowhere to be found.
"If you were to admit that these relationships had been a normal love relationships between ordinary young people, you would have shaken the black and white image of the Germans and the deeds they permitted during the war. It would have normalised relationships with Germans in a way that was completely unacceptable in the post-war period", says Pedersen.
Pedersen believes it therefore time to demystify the "tyskerjentene" and the decisions they made.
"Hundreds of thousands of young men came to Norway during the German occupation. Most of them were neither Nazis nor cruel perpetrators. Many were in the same place for a long time and felt comfortable in the local community. That love developed in this situation is hardly surprising," concludes Pedersen.
Read the story of Anna Deichmann, a real "tyskerjente" and an inspiration to a norwegian novel here