Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Joyce Madancy




rape, war crime, military, WWII, public memory


This thesis examines why mass wartime rape occurred during World War II, as well as examining the reasons for the denial or elimination of rape from public memory. For purposes of analysis, the thesis has been broken down into four cases: rape by Japanese soldiers ⎯ the “comfort women,” rape by German soldiers, rape by the Russian Red Army, and rape by American soldiers in France. The study looks at different reasons that could help explain why soldiers rape during wartime and what provokes them to rape. Rape was quite prevalent during World War II, yet it is rarely acknowledged in discussion of the atrocities during this war. So why did the perpetrators cover up their actions? At the conclusion of the war, countries were either deemed the victors or the defeated aggressors and this decision assisted in determining what a country’s narrative will be. All four perpetrating countries chose to repress the issue of rape from public memory because rape disrupts its narrative of World War II in one way or another. Both Russia and the United States repress the memory of rape because it contradicts their heroic narratives. Japan desires to claim victim status due to the dropping of the atomic bombs, therefore acknowledging the “comfort women” or essentially sex slaves disrupts their identity as victims. In contrast, Germans openly admit their role as victimizers of World War II, yet still deny their rapes of Jewish women during the Holocaust. However, German women were the victims of mass rapes when the Russian Red Army invaded Germany. Only recently has wartime rape been declared a war crime, following the instances of mass rape during the Bosnian War. This brought wartime rape into the public media for discussion. In an effort to determine why soldiers rape, I examined four theories: the pressure-­‐cooker theory, the cultural pathology theory, the systematic rape theory, and the feminist theory. I also hypothesize that rape occurs as a result of soldiers doing what they are taught to do, conquer, occupy, and dominate. The attitude the military fosters in men gives them the feeling that women are a right of conquest upon dominating a territory.