Just how closely the past may be connected with the present and how quickly – and appallingly – history can catch up with us is underscored in the research of our new URIS fellow Dr. Marta Havryshko. Russia's war against Ukraine, launched in 2014, entered a new, brutal phase at the end of February 2022. Pluralistic forms of violence, including sexual violence, are a hallmark of this war. In her research, historian Marta Havryshko looks back 80 years to when the territory of modern-day Ukraine was a theatre of conflict in World War II. Then as now, the war was marked by various forms of sexual violence.
The phenomenon of sexual violence during World War II and the Holocaust has been studied in depth in recent decades. Most of these studies look at German perpetrators in the SS, the SD (Security Service) and the Wehrmacht, and consider their crimes in the context of the ideology and the military and political objectives of the "Third Reich". And yet there has still been little research on the subject of sexual violence towards Jewish women and men during the Holocaust in Ukraine, with offenders, some of them local, often not coming to light.
During her year-long URIS fellowship at the University of Basel, Dr. Marta Havryshko will work on her book War, Power and Gender: Sexual Violence during the Holocaust in Ukraine. The study focuses on dynamics and typologies of sexual violence against Jews of both genders during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine. It explores perceptions and discourses around femininity/masculinity, considers gender roles, and looks at the offenders' motives and strategies as well as the experiences of the victims and survivors. The project seeks in particular to give space to the individual voices of Jewish women and men who have had traumatic sexual experiences.