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August 26, 2012

Pregnant at Auschwitz — the story of Miriam Rosenthal

Filed under: Dachau, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 12:24 pm

Strange as it may seem, there were pregnant women at the Auschwitz II death camp, aka Birkenau, who managed to escape the gas chambers and survive.

From the moment that the Jews arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, they were separated into two long lines, one line for men and the other line for women and small children.  Anyone younger than 15 or older than 45 was immediately sent to one of the four gas chambers. Those who were allowed to live were put into one of several camps enclosed by barbed wire — the men in the Men’s Camp and the women in the Women’s camp.  There was a separate camp for Gypsies and a “family camp” for Czech prisoners who had been transferred to Auschwitz from the Theresienstadt camp.

Being pregnant in a “death camp” was a death sentence.  Gisella Perl, a famous Jewish prisoner who worked as a doctor at Auschwitz, performed many abortions in order to save the lives of the women who were pregnant; if the pregnancy had been discovered by the SS men, the pregnant woman would have been beaten to death or sent to the gas chamber.

Miriam Rosenthal was one of the few women who was pregnant at Auschwitz, but survived.   Miriam’s life was saved because she didn’t step forward when the SS men tried to find out which women were pregnant by offering them double rations.

There were 200 women who stepped forward to receive extra food, including some that were not pregnant.  Miriam was too smart to fall for that trick.  She survived, but the 200 other women were taken immediately to the gas chamber.

I previously blogged here and here about the seven Jewish women, including Miriam Rosenthal, who were brought to Dachau after their babies were born in a Dachau sub-camp.  Miriam is still alive at the age of 90 and her 67-year-old son, who was saved because his mother was smart enough to outwit the Nazis, is also alive and well.

Jewish mothers with their babies at Dachau

Shown from left to right in the photo above are Iboyla Kovacs with her daughter Agnes; Suri Hirsch with her son Yossi; Eva Schwartz with her daughter Maria; Magda with her daughter; Boeszi Legmann with her son Gyuri; Dora Loewy and her daughter Szuszi; and Miriam Schwarcz Rosenthal with her son Laci (Leslie). Miriam was the last of the seven mothers to give birth at Kaufering.

Miriam was one of the 14 children of Jeno and Laura Schwarcz of Komarno, Czechoslovakia. After Czechoslovakia was jointly invaded by Germany, Hungary and Poland in 1938, the section of Czechoslovakia where the Schwarcz family lived was taken over by Hungary. On April 5, 1944, Marian was married to William Rosenthal, and two weeks later, she became separated from her husband when she was sent to a ghetto. Miriam was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, along with her husband’s family, in the middle of May 1944.

Miriam survived the first selection for the gas chamber upon her arrival at Birkenau and was assigned to the women’s barracks where, after several weeks, she realized she was pregnant. In order to get out of Birkenau, she volunteered for a transport to the Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow. After only a few weeks of working at Plaszow, the camp that is shown in the movie Schindler’s List, she was sent back to Auschwitz-Birkeanu.

Upon her arrival at Birkenau, Miriam survived another selection for the gas chamber, although she was  obviously pregnant.

Miriam was soon transferred again, this time to a sub-camp of Dachau in Augsburg, Germany where she was assigned to work in a Messerschmitt airplane factory. One day in December 1944, while at work in the factory, two SS men saw that she was pregnant; they escorted her on a passenger train to one of the Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau near Landsberg am Lech, where she was placed in a barrack with six other pregnant women who would soon be ready to give birth. Even though they were pregnant, the women were forced to work in the camp laundry.

In February 1945, the women at Kaufering started to give birth. A Hungarian Jewish gynecologist was assigned to help them through, even though he was too weak to stand. A Jewish Kapo working in the kitchen had kept the women alive during their pregnancy by sneaking them extra rations. Miriam’s baby was born on February 28, 1945, according to her story.

You can read the story, as told by Miriam here.

I previously blogged here about how ordinary German soldiers killed Jewish babies.