Scrapbookpages Blog

April 20, 2012

Holocaust survivor who was born in Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:06 am

A regular reader of my blog alerted me to an online news story about a Holocaust survivor, Leila Jabarin, who “was born inside Auschwitz, the most notorious symbol of Nazi Germany’s wartime campaign against Europe’s Jews.”

Unmöglich, you say!  No. It is quite possible that she was born in Auschwitz and lived to tell about it 70 years later.  First of all, I have deduced that she was born in the Auschwitz main camp, not the Birkenau death camp.  This quote from the news story explains it:

Her mother, who was from Hungary, and her father, who was of Russian descent, were living in Yugoslavia when they were sent to the Auschwitz with their two young sons in 1941.

When they took them to Auschwitz, she was pregnant with me, and when she gave birth, the Christian doctor at Auschwitz hid me in bath towels,” she says, explaining how the doctor hid the family for three years under the floor of his house inside the camp.

Her mother worked as a maid at the doctor’s home, while her father was the gardener.

“They used to come back at night and sleep under the floor and my mother used to tell us how the Nazis were killing children, but that this doctor saved us,” she says, recalling how her mother used to feed them on dry bread soaked in hot water with salt.

“I still remember the black and white striped pyjamas and remember terrible beatings in the camp. If I was healthy enough, I would have gone back to see it but I have already had four heart attacks.

The uniforms worn by the prisoners at Auschwitz were blue and light grey stripes.  The women wore skirts and blouses, sometimes of a solid color material.  There were no black and white striped uniforms, as far as I know.

The first systematic selection for the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau was made when a transport of Jews arrived on July 4, 1942.   Dr. Josef Mengele, the famous SS man who made the selections at Birkenau, did not arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau until May 1943.

Years ago, I read the story of Ruth Elias, a survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, who wrote a book entitled Triumph of Hope. Ruth Elias was one of several women who gave birth to a child at Auschwitz.

Although the men and women were housed in separate barracks at Theresienstadt, Ruth Elias and her husband had conceived a child while she was a prisoner in the Theresienstadt camp, and when she arrived at Birkenau on a transport of Czech prisoners in December 1943, she was three months pregnant. Ruth passed several selections for the gas chamber even though she was obviously pregnant; she and her husband were assigned to the Czech “family camp.” On July 11, 1944, after a selection made by Dr. Mengele, 3,000 prisoners in the Czech family camp, who were not considered fit to work, were sent to the gas chamber, but Ruth passed the selection even though she was in her eighth month of pregnancy. On July 14, 1944, Ruth was sent to Hamburg, Germany to work in clearing rubble from Allied bombing raids.

The thing that most impressed me about Ruth’s story is that, after only four days of working in Hamburg, Ruth Elias was escorted by an SS man, in a private compartment on a passenger train, to the infirmary at Ravensbrück, the women’s concentration camp near Berlin. From there, Ruth and Berta Reich, another prisoner who was nine months pregnant, were soon sent back to Auschwitz on another passenger train. Ruth gave birth to a baby girl at Auschwitz, but Dr. Mengele cruelly ordered her to bind her breasts and not to nurse her child because he wanted to see how long it would take for a baby to die without its mother’s milk.

Mercifully, a woman dentist named Maca Steinberg, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, obtained some morphine and gave it to Ruth so that she could inject her baby and end its life, after Ruth told her that Dr. Mengele was due to arrive the next morning to take Ruth and her child to the gas chamber.

Berta Reich gave birth a few days later and immediately injected her baby with morphine, then told Dr. Mengele that her child had been stillborn. After saving themselves from certain death in the gas chamber at Auschwitz, both Ruth and Berta were sent to Taucha, a labor camp near Leipzig, which was a sub-camp of Buchenwald.

Gerda Schrage was 24 years old when she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. She had been in hiding in Berlin during the war, until someone betrayed her to the Gestapo and she was arrested. According to Gerda’s story, as told in the documentary film “Gerda’s Silence,” when she arrived at Auschwitz, she was pregnant by a married man with whom she had had an affair while she was in hiding. Her baby died in her arms at Birkenau because Dr. Mengele was conducting yet another cruel experiment and would not allow her to nurse the baby.

Leila Jabarin was very lucky that she was in the Auschwitz main camp where her mother had no contact with Dr. Mengele.  As for hiding under the floor of the doctor’s house, I interpret this to mean that Leila’s parents were living in the servant’s quarters in the basement of the house.  Why did they have to hide?  Obviously, to escape the notorious Dr. Mengele and the famous Gisella Perl.

To find out more about what happened to babies born in Auschwitz-Birkenau, do a search on Gisella Perl, a Jewish prisoner at Birkenau, who was a gynecologist.  She was from the same place in Romania as Elie Wiesel; she was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and put to work helping Dr. Mengele.

According to Wikipedia, Gisella Perl “is most famous, however, for saving the lives of hundreds of mothers by aborting their pregnancies, as pregnant mothers were often beaten and killed or used by Dr. Josef Mengele for vivisections.”