Before new prisoners received their convict uniform, they were normally searched, shaved and showered. This procedure was not just about preventing disease and escapes, as the SS claimed. It was designed to strip prisoners of their personality and dignity. Female prisoners, in particular, were traumatized by the violation of their bodies; often, SS men watched and touched them.

029 – A female survivor recalls her arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau

[We were] sent to a place where we had to get rid of all our clothes, sort of leave [them] there on the floor. And they told [us] we were going to have showers […]. And we got into that place and they started shaving our hair off, that didn’t hurt and they didn’t hurt us either, at that time. But it was dreadful to be shaved by those SS men […]. The shaven head for me was one of the worst things that happened to me because you feel more than naked, you feel degraded. No, it was dreadful. And then we went to the showers already shorn of everything, and no clothes and nothing. And there was a young woman standing next to me, shorn like I was, [who] said: “Where are you Klara? Where are you?”. I said, “Well if you are Maria, I’m standing next to you”. We didn’t [recognize] each other. I mean it was just awful.

Source: H. Amesberger, K. Auer, B. Halbmayr (eds), Sexualisierte Gewalt (Vienna, 2004), pp. 81–2