The author is accused of arriving at the figure through assumptions not backed by evidence. She extrapolated the figure from records indicating rape victims had 1,900 children due to rape.
|Miriam Gebhardt. (Screen capture from YouTube video)|
There was no doubt that Private Blake W. Mariano of the 191st Tank Battalion was a brave man. As part of the American Army's 45th Infantry Division, he had killed many Germans as he fought through Africa, Italy and southern France, before finally, in March 1945, he and his Sherman tank had crossed the Rhine into Germany.
By April 15, 1945, Mariano had been away from his home in New Mexico for nearly three years. A father of three, the 29-year-old was divorced, although he did have a girlfriend in England.
His loved ones, however, were far from his mind that evening. During the day, his unit had successfully overrun the large village of Lauf on the edge of the Black Forest in south-western Germany, and Mariano decided it was time to celebrate.
Accompanied by another American private, Mariano went out drinking. After finding a well-stocked cellar, the two men quickly became inebriated on cognac, at which point they went looking to complete their evening.
They found what they wanted in an air raid shelter under the town's castle. Huddled there were 17 villagers, two of whom were children.
Mariano pointed his rifle at a young woman called Elfriede. Aged just 21, Elfriede worked in an office, and had a fiancé who was away fighting. Mariano took her outside and raped her. After he had finished, his companion did the same.
Still not sated, Mariano returned to the shelter and chose a 41-year-old woman called Martha. When it became apparent that she was menstruating, Mariano shot her. It would take Martha until the following morning to die.
In a final act of savagery, Mariano selected one more woman, a 54-year-old shopkeeper called Babette, who he also raped. His 'entertainment' now over, Mariano finally returned to his tank.
The following morning, Martha's husband returned to the village after being discharged from the Army. He might have thought that he and his wife were now safe, having survived six long years of war.
As soon as he had discovered what had happened, the widower went straight to the Americans, who immediately launched an investigation.
Just over three weeks later, on May 8, Mariano was arrested and charged. In his defence, he claimed not to remember a thing. The villagers of Lauf would have no such problem. What Mariano had done in a few hours that one night would remain with them for decades.