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Wehrmacht Brothels
By Vincent Milano


The following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter & was done so with permission of the publisher.  We would like to thank him for his generosity as well as thank all those who have contributed to this article.  It is with their efforts, we are able to share this valuable research with the rest of you.

Lifestyles of the Feldgrau
"Offizierdecke" and German Military Efficiency

The German Army recognized early in the war that its men, like all those from every other army, would at any moment they could take advantage of the nearest town that offered women and alcoholic beverages.  The booze was not so much a problem but the women were.  Local prostitutes carried several diseases which at times took out several men from duty.  In reality it might be said that the French prostitutes incapacitated more German soldiers than their Army in the 1940 campaign.

In order to stem the tide of disease, and provide quite a moral-booster to the troops, Military brothels were established.  There were generally two types, Garrison brothels were set up in large towns that has high volumes of troops present or passing through.  Field brothels traveled behind the lines to give comfort to the men just rotated in from the front but at rest for only a day or two.

These "units" were administered by the Feldgendarme and Medical troops.  The women fell into several different categories.  Professional prostitutes were recruited from all over Germany and the occupied countries.  Some wee women convicted of crimes, civil or political, that opted for this rather than serving in a work camp such as Dachau.  Others were female prisoners of war, mainly Russians (there must have been some good-looking ones).  There were reported cases of "forced labor" from the local populace but this seems to have occurred only in the East.  One of the collective terms for these women was "Offizierdecke" - Officers Mattress.

It should be made clear that these "units" were generally for enlisted men.  Officers had separate "facilities", especially in garrison situations.  In both the field and garrison brothels the procedure was much the same.  First the soldier went to the Sanitatssoldat to be certified clean and healthy.  He was given a pass which stated this and which was stamped and dated.  On the pass was the name and number of the brothel it was good for and a line for the woman to sign and place her number.  The soldier was issued his condom and a small grey or green spray can of disinfectant.  Armed for service, he went on his way.  The "Chained Dogs" (Field Police) checked his pass and then he waited in line.  The wait was always longer than the time spent with the "service" women.

The events can best be described by those men who were there:

Obergrenadier Martin Eichenseer of Stabs Kompanie, G.R. 916:

"The first time I went I was a lad of 17- and still somewhat of a virgin, I never had intercourse but had done other things with the local girls.  With my pockets filled with the 'regulation equipment', I went to the brothel in St. Laurent.  I was very nervous and did not know what to expect.  When my turn came I went into a room with a very good-looking girl about my age from Slovakia.  She had dark hair and big breasts.  Sex with her was great even though I didn't know what she was saying.  We weren't supposed to pay them in the Army brothels but I gave her some money anyway.  The worst part was when she spread her legs and I had to spray her with the can of disinfectant.  Only then would she sign my card.  You had to bring back the empty can with the pass.  If you didn't spray or bring it back you got two weeks extra labor and guard for punishment.

The next time I went I was excited at seeing this Slovak girl again but to my disgust I got this German woman who was in her late thirties, although I wouldn't mind her now, ha ha.  She was big-breasted but flabby and had "a lot of wear on her tires" if you know what I mean.  I just couldn't do it.  She finally told me to close my eyes and she performed oral sex on me.  It wasn't too bad as I thought of the other girl.  She signed my pass and I left.  On the way back I realized I still has a full can.  In order not to get in trouble I sprayed it empty in the woods.  I would have gone again but the war got in the way."

 
Obergefreiter Josef Brass, Nr. 1 Kompanie, Pionier Bn. 352:

"In Russia we didn't get to go to any but in France they were quite plentiful.  The women were about average in appearance but certainly knew how to please a man.  But as young and virile as we were then it didn't take much.  Many of the younger men, 17-19 year-olds, didn't go because they were embarrassed by the things they were required to do, such as disinfecting the (woman's genitals).  I always felt that the army procedures were a bit too much but then again no-one I know of ever got a disease from an Army brothel.  And if you did they knew which girl gave it to you and who ever else she had sex with and everyone could get cured.  Some of us did go to the local civilian ones, the girls were prettier and acted like they enjoyed it.  However if you got V.D. from one of them it was bad luck.  You got cured then sent East to serve in a Penal Battalion for two weeks to three months.  Being a "500" (Slang for military prisoner) was no easy life and chances were slim you would make it back anyway.  In any event the Army tried to give us the best it could under the circumstances."

Government-provided sex for their soldiers, not a bad idea.  Although I'm not sure it would fly in today's politically-correct world.  In 1944 it was a reality and part of the soldier's life in the German Army.  Obergrenadier Karl Wegner, Nr. 6 Kompanie, G.R. 914, also a benefactor of the system, puts it the following way:

"Was it right or wrong?  All irrelevant questions for the time.  The girls were nice to us, we had some fun and it made us feel, at least for little while, that our Army really appreciated us.  That's all we ever wanted then."

Sources:
- M. Eichenseer - Letter dated Dec. 12, 1988
- J. Brass - Letter dated April 16, 1987
- K. Wegner - Interview on June 9, 1988
 

Archival Support for Mr. Milano's Article:
 

In Hubert Fischer's comprehensive work on the German Medical Services entitled, "Der deutsche Sanitatsdienst 1921-1945", there appear a number of official records dealing with the topic opened in Mr. Milano's article.  Some of those which would provide additional information would include:

(from page 3510):  By 1942, the Wehrmacht was running over 500 so-called "Wehrmachtsbordellen", and that setting-up, running, and supply of these establishments was the responsibility of the Area Commander (Ortskommanturen).  Disease control was the responsibility of the area medical officer, and the girls would be checked twice a week by local doctors.  There were "special rules" for Officer's facilities, for which a "hotel character" was to be maintained.

Every Army brothel was required to have a prophylactic station (Sanierstube), the detailed regulations for which can be found in the Bundesarchiv/Militarachiv manuscript MA 388 S.727234ff.  There were to be marked with a small blue light marked with the red cross.

A bordel pass for troops stationed in Holland is also reconstructed:

A. Authorization to enter Army Brothel
Date..............................................................................................
Control-book number................................................................
Intercourse only with condom!
Prophylactic treatment immediately after!
Have dogtag ready!
B. At Brothel
Name of partner..........................................................................
C. Certificate of subsequent prophylactic treatment
Number and unit on dogtag.....................................................
Field-post number of recipient.................................................
The above received prophylactic treatment at......... hours under a control number of prophylactic station no. ............ and is thus certified by:

                                                                    Rank, name
This document is to be kept for 3 months and is to be presented in the event of sickness.

 
(from page 3511): 
Between August 1939 and August 1943, there were a total of about 250,000 reported cases of venereal disease in the German Army alone.

There is also an Army-regulations pamphlet (Heeresverordungsblatt 1943, Richtlinien fur die Einrichtung von Sanierstellen und Durchfuhrung der Sanierung) which lays down the official procedures for setting up prophylactic stations and carrying out the prophylactic treatments themselves.  One small note of interest here is that the regulations prescribed that in all of the (typically-German) detailed records which were to be kept on the patrons of Army brothels, the soldier's name would appear nowhere on any of these records; at most, only his dogtag data and a control-book number.  There was also a manual dated Nov. 1, 1943 under the Army ID of "HDv 59" named "Merkblattes uber Sanierungen", which provided additional information on the same subject.

(from page 3515):  Venereal disease is to be found (in the summer of 1942) in France, Poland, particularly in Warsaw, and in the home territory.  The Russian civilian populace is seldom a source of infection.  Spread of disease is aggravated by the HIWIS, because exact information regarding their sex-partners is not available in many cases.

It also appears that the "Osttruppen" were also covered under a separate set of regulations: Manuscript RH 36/v.491 in the Bundesarchiv/Militararchiv has a section covering "Bordels for Osttruppen!"

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