HALLE, Germany—“Leave it alone,” she was warned, “you will only harm yourself.” Sixteen-year-old Elke Bauer, as we’ll call her, wasn’t supposed to ask too many questions: not about her sexual assault, not about her mysterious injections, not about the vaginal probing that amounted to torture, not about her virtual imprisonment.
It was springtime in 1968, and Elke had gotten pregnant after a Russian soldier raped her in a forest near her home town of Halle, a city that back then had the bad luck to be in the Soviet-backed East German surveillance state, otherwise known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR).
One year later, she had dropped out of school and was working around the clock in a department store to support herself and her new-born son. Bauer repeatedly tried to appeal for child support from her attacker, who, she says, was a “big guy” in the occupying forces. But she would never see or hear from him again.