Historian fined over SS guard-prisoner sexual relationship claims

UK-based Holocaust writer is fined £3,700 by German court over claim that Nazi prison camp survivor had a lesbian relationship with SS guard

  • German court fined University of Warwick academic Dr Anna Hájková £3,700 
  • Dr Hájková had claimed in a research paper that a concentration camp prisoner had a lesbian relationship with one of her SS guards
  • The prisoner’s daughter was granted an injunction in April after judges ruled the research ‘violated the dignity’ of her dead relative
  • Dr Hájková was then sued in October for allowing the material to remain online 

A German court has fined an academic for claiming that a Jewish concentration camp prisoner had a lesbian relationship with an SS guard.

Dr Anna Hájková, an historian at the University of Warwick, has been fined €4,000 (£3,700) for breaching an injunction that prevents her from naming the prisoner.

The injunction was granted to the woman’s daughter back in April after a judge ruled Hájková’s research had ‘violated the dignity’ of her dead relative, under a German law that protects a person’s reputation from harm even after their death.

Dr Hájková was then sued in October for allowing the information to remain online without the daughter’s permission.  

A German court has fined an academic over claims that a Jewish concentration camp prisoner had a lesbian relationship with an SS guard. Pictured: Female SS guards being guarded by Allied soldiers after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945

The verdict was first reported by The Guardian. 

Last year, Hájková reportedly named both the prisoner and the guard in her research, suggesting that they might have had a sexual relationship based on the testimonies of survivors and legal documents from the guard’s trial.

Her work did acknowledge, however, that there was no concrete evidence of a sexual relationship, whether consensual or otherwise, between the two women.

Hájková’s research concerns queer aspects of the Holocaust, asserting that LGBTQ+ relationships in concentration camps have been left out of historical accounts because of homophobia.

A Holocaust survivor who slept opposite the prisoner reportedly named in Hájková’s research told The Guardian that she did not believe that the woman had had any kind of sexual relationship with the guard, though she acknowledged that such relationships did exist.

She told the paper that the guard would sit on the prisoner’s bed in the evenings and they would talk and sometimes laugh ‘but there was no chance of undressing or anything like that’.

Dr Anna Hájková, associate professor of modern continental history at Warwick University, reportedly named the two women last year and claimed that they had had a sexual relationship. This week, she was fined £3,700 by a German court

She added that the women’s relationship inspired ‘titillating gossip’ within the camp but not from anyone who had shared a room with the woman or had first-hand knowledge of the meetings, as she did.

The survivor, who detailed the women’s relationship in her own memoir, told The Guardian that it would be ‘unthinkable’ for the prisoner to have refused the meetings with the guard, explaining that ‘a prisoner cannot afford to reject a warden who is interested in you.

‘You hope she will help you to be put to easier work and maybe sneak some food to them.’

In the earlier court proceedings in April, the reportedly named prisoner’s daughter said that her mother met the Nazi guard in a concentration camp in Hamburg in 1944.

The court heard that the guard fell in love with the woman’s mother and hoped they might have had a future together after the war.

The guard followed the prisoner when she was taken to two other concentration camps, with the last being the notorious Bergen-Belsen, in northern Germany.

The survivor who spoke to The Guardian agreed, saying that she had seen the two women again at Bergen-Belsen towards the end of the war:

‘We were sitting on the wooden floor in a hut with no beds, no food and no water, full of lice and waiting for our death. We were abandoned by the staff, locked in and left to die.

‘It was most strange that [the guard] chose to enter such a horrible situation. I thought she must be very much in love with [the prisoner] to be ready to suffer so much.’

When the camp was liberated after the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the guard was arrested while trying to pose as a prisoner.

She was sentenced to two years in prison by a British military court.

The survivor who spoke to The Guardian said Hájková had never contacted her but thought she must have been aware of her memoir.

Hájková’s research considers the LGBTQ+ history of the Holocaust. She says stories of queer relationships in concentration camps have been erased or omitted due to homophobia .Pictured: Bergen-Belsen inmates queue for food in after liberation in April 1945

The woman’s daughter said Hájková’s apparent failure to interview an eye witness to the events included in her research was ‘inexplicable’.

Hájková is said to have been told by the daughter in 2014 that her mother’s relationship with the guard had not been sexual.

The academic allegedly promised at the time that she would not use the survivor’s full name in her research.

However, in 2019, in promotional material announcing lectures about the research, Hájková allegedly named the two women and said they had had a lesbian relationship.

She is said to have claimed that she ‘simply forgot’ her previous agreement not to name the woman.

When promoting one of her lectures, she also included a photo of the woman. In another she wrote, in German, ‘the inmates of the … women’s satellite camp observed the relationship between the guard and the prisoner woman with fascination and loathing’

After the daughter took Hájková to court, the academic’s lawyer invoked her right to academic freedom and freedom of opinion.

The prisoner reportedly named in the research has now died but her daughter asserts that she did not have a sexual relationship with the guard. Pictured: Female inmates at Bergen-Belsen shortly after British troops liberated the camp in April 1945

The daughter also made a complaint to Warwick University, which she has called on to take disciplinary action against Hájková.

The university is investigating whether or not Hájková’s conduct fell short of its ethical research standards.

The academic will reportedly be required to have training to ensure she follows the university’s research code of practice after initial findings by the university suggested that there was insufficient evidence of a physical relationship between the two women, according to the daughter.

Hájková has been approached for comment by MailOnline.

In October, Hájková told the Guardian that she had complied with the German court ruling, even referring to the woman using a pseudonym, rather than just an abbreviated name as required, when describing her relationship with the guard.

The horrors of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp: Where Anne Frank was taken after she was captured

Bergen-Belsen was first established by the Nazis in 1940 as a prisoner of war camp, but was later turned into a concentration camp.

It was the first major camp to be liberated by Allied Forces, on April 1945. 

Anne Frank died  in 1945 while being held in Bergen-Belsen

Bergen-Belsen did not have gas chambers, but became exceptionally overcrowded and many prisoners died through starvation, overwork or disease.

Towards the end of the war the camp had a typhus epidemic, which would lead to the death of Anne Frank, whose wartime diary later became world-famous.

It is estimated around 50,000 people died at Bergen-Belsen, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.

When British forces arrived, they found thousands of bodies unburied around the camp and some 60,000 starving and mortally ill people packed together without food, water or basic sanitation. 

The British were forced to bury thousands of corpses in mass graves hastily excavated on the site, while, despite their best efforts, many of those liberated from the camp would die from their ill-treatment.

Sources: The Imperial War Museum and Encyclopedia Britannica 

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