Moffenmeid is a designation for women who had relationships with German soldiers during the occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, or there was suspicion of their doing so. The word mof is a swear word for German—the English equivalent is Kraut. The women in question were sometimes pro-German or prostitutes, but often they were women who happened to like a German man. After the liberation, many Moffenmeiden had their hair cut off or their heads shaved publicly.
In the Netherlands, many places exhibited hatred, anger, sadness and frustration during the five long years of occupation. The Dutch unleashed their venom on these women.
Some people may disagree with me, but, I think this was another despicable chapter in Dutch history. Many women sought out relationships with German soldiers to ensure their survival.
It is easy for people to judge when they have not been in a similar situation. I understand how some may say, especially survivors of camps, that these women got what they deserved. On the other hand, there was an element of hypocrisy because many of those, mainly men, who took it upon themselves to become judge, jury and executioner, had been collaborators. Additionally, some women who had been members of the resistance and had romantic relationships with Nazis only did this as part of their resistance duties, and yet, some of them were also treated like the other Moffenmeiden.
In 1948, an investigation was conducted into abuses in the camps where collaborators were interned after the war. It showed that women accused of collaborating with the occupiers in particular had been systematically abused, humiliated and raped in these camps. This only became clear when the National Archives was able to make the entire research file public for the first time in 2023.
The negative image of women that existed during the occupation was implicitly adopted by historians after the war; they introduced the term sexual collaboration for the phenomenon of Dutch women having a relationship with a German. In the Netherlands and other occupied countries, more extensive research was done in the 1990s into these women and their experiences. This showed that a large proportion of the women had hardly considered the fact that a relationship with a German soldier during the occupation could be a problem. They had just met a nice man. There was often no question of political motivation or opportunism but of naivete.
There was a reason for the public shaving or cutting of the hair. it seemed to be a punishment for a moral misdeed already at the beginning of the Christian era. For example, the Bible says that hair is a woman’s adornment. When this is taken away from the woman, her femininity is gone. People may have remembered that the phenomenon also occurred at the end of the First World War. In Belgium and France, the cutting of hair of women also took place in retaliation
Studies by historians Monika Diederichs and Rianne Oosterom show that an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 women walked with a German. From those relationships, 12,000 to 15,000 children were conceived in the war. The moffenmeiden were often only 16, 17 or 18 years old.
Often as old as the German soldiers, who especially at the beginning of the war exerted a great attraction on the girls. They are, unlike the stiff Dutch boys, romantic, courteous and look good in their tight Wehrmacht uniform. The girls paint a picture of boys who are homesick and reluctant to do military service. Ordinary girls who just fall in love at that age. Little did they know that there was going to be a price to be paid for it.
The women were publicly shaved; often to the point of bleeding because of blunt hand clippers. The heads were then rubbed with pitch or rust-resistant red lead. Some were first locked up in empty buildings before being shaved and examined for possible venereal diseases.
During the humiliations on the street, bystanders cheered or even joined in. Other people were ashamed and couldn’t watch. They did not want to behave as the occupier did.
The persecution of these women is what they call “low-hanging fruit.” There were many Dutch Nazis who got away with murder. Men like Pieter Menten* or Siert Bruins.**
*Pieter Nicolaas Menten (26 May 1899 – 14 November 1987) was a Dutch war criminal, businessman, and art collector. Menten was a Nazi collaborator who committed numerous crimes, including murder, on behalf of the regime. After World War II, he was only found guilty of working as an interpreter and served just eight months in prison. Menten lived lavishly in the Netherlands for over 25 years, often storing and selling stolen artwork, before the new evidence was used to re-try him, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released in 1985 due to old age and good behavior, and he died in 1987.
**Siert Bruins (2 March 1921 – 28 September 2015), also known as Siegfried Bruns and nicknamed the Beast of Appingedam, was a Dutch member of the SS and SD during World War II. He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Dutch court in 1949 for his murder of Dutch farmer and Resistance member Aldert Klaas Dijkema. Germany refused to render him to the Netherlands. The death sentence was later revised into a lifelong sentence.
Siert Bruins died in September 2015 at the age of 94 in Breckerfeld, Germany.
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