Nazi Germany and Abortion Rights

*Trigger Warning (rape)

Ingelore Herz Honigstein is a survivor. She was born in Germany in 1924. She is Jewish. She is also deaf. In Nazi Germany, either one of those characteristics was grounds for persecution and murder. The HBO Documentary “Ingelore” tells her compelling story.

The Documentary is powerful and moving. Ingelore’s story, her strength, and her wisdom shine through the screen. Despite her deafness, she is bilingual in German and English. She explains how she learned to speak, read, and sign as a young girl; a yearning and dedication to make us all ashamed for not sharing her zeal.

In 1940, Ingelore went through a lifetime’s worth of experiences in the span of less than a year. Walking home in Berlin, Ingelore was brutally attacked and raped by two Nazi soldiers. At the same time, her father managed to secure his release from a concentration camp in Dachau. Shortly thereafter, Ingelore and her family were of the very fortunate few allowed to leave Germany, and her family immigrated to the U.S. Once in America, Ingelore saw a doctor and learned she was pregnant. After threatening to take her own life rather than give birth to her rapist’s baby, she had an abortion.

In the past few years, the U.S. has witnessed a concerted effort to roll back abortion rights. The attack on women is obvious to anyone willing to look; Personhood Amendments, Fetal Heart Beat Bills, attacks on Planned Parenthood, even Birth Control became an issue in the last election. Two U.S. Senate Candidates tried to redefine rape and justify forcing a rape victim to carry her rapist’s baby to term. The assault women are facing is not new. It is deeply rooted in historical, cultural, and religious motives. Regardless of the intent, the effect these policies have is to reinforce the sexist, patriarchal, racist, and homophobic cultures in this country. Rape culture and violence against women is not mutually exclusive from these efforts.

When I started to watch Ingelore, I expected a story of bigotry and triumph. I was expecting to hear an amazing story of a deaf, Jewish woman beating all the odds to make it out of Nazi Germany alive. While those expectations were met, I was unexpectedly moved to tears when she told the story of her rape and subsequent abortion. Ingelore did not survive a concentration camp. She survived an attack by two Nazi soldiers. I was not expecting this 41 minute documentary to make me think about rape, abortion, and women’s rights, but I am glad it did.

Women’s Rights = Human Rights

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