They were Germans. They deserved it.

In the post-war Soviet sector, many women were put in prison who had not committed any crime. More than 123,000 Germans were incarcerated in Soviet “special camps” such as Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald or Bautzen between 1945 and 1950, and over 42,000 didn’t survive the experience. The 1950 official final Soviet report of the Department of the Special Camps states the death toll as 42,889, a death rate of 36%.

There were babies and children born in these camps. Children of the incarcerated pregnant women did not receive food, clothing or diapers, and the mothers had to share their own scanty food rations with them and sew their clothing from scraps. When the Soviet-run camps were finally handed to the GDR, although some captives were deported to the Soviet Union, 1,119 women and about 30 children were handed to GDR authorities to serve the rest of their sentences in East German prisons, 42 children came from the notorious Sachsenhausen camp alone. Most were sent to Hoheneck.

Here, they would join the female victims of the Stasi secret police in East German who operated a political persecution ring where they arrested opponents of the ruling communists. Among punishment offenses were: desire to travel, open criticism of state politics, political association formation, contacts to western politicians, public demonstrations, escape into the west and/or assistance with the escape of others. They employed wiretapping, room bugs, informers, letter interception, long-term observation, threats and entrance to all data from patient documents to school notes. A special method was “decomposition,” the use of psychological warfare on an individual basis, including the use of anonymous letters, starting rumors, visiting work places and intimidating employers, causing controversy within friendships, threatening the family, financial ruination, harassing citations and destruction of life on an everyday basis.

Unruly females were stuffed behind the walls of terrifying, dank, dark Hoheneck castle, an old 13th century fortress overlooking the town of Stollberg in Thuringia, Saxony. Used as a jail for female political dissidents until 1989, the castle was a nightmare with features like a pitch-dark, underground chamber where female prisoners were hung waist-deep in frigid water for days at a time and forced to sleep on concrete floors between intermittent torture sessions, even those women pregnant from rape of the guards. Thousands of young women died here or languished in filth, hunger and overcrowding, plagued by tuberculosis and other illnesses.

For 40 years, the GDR ran Hoheneck Prison, left, for female political prisoners: women and young girls, who by Soviet and East German military courts received long prison sentences for alleged espionage, anti-communism or because of “defamation of the socialist state” by attempting to travel. These women and girls were robbed of their dignity and degraded daily with physical and psychological punishments. Many children were born here as products of rape during occupation.

There was no place for children within the East German prison system, and to conceal the fact that many had been born to mothers already incarcerated in Soviet labor camps or East German prisons, they were not sent to live with relatives, but were taken away from their mothers and brought to the city of Leipzig where they were regarded as orphans with no names or date of birth, and only a number for identification. They were soon separated and farmed out to several children’s homes, but all of their birthplaces said Leipzig

But in Hoheneck, even more babies were born, products of the abusive guards, and these children were only allowed to live with their mother for a few months before they were separated and sent to children homes in the GDR. Most of the women at Hoheneck who were condemned by Soviet military tribunals had been released by 1956, but the place was then filled up again with women who had been condemned the communist East German “courts,” many of them for political reasons, and political and criminal prisoners often lived together in rooms of 24 women in deplorable conditions.