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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.

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.”

August 20, 2010

New movie about “the surgeon of Birkenau” coming in December 2010

Filed under: Holocaust, movies — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 4:52 pm

Today at the movies, I saw the trailer for a new movie The Debt which will open on December 29, 2010.  This movie should win an Academy Award next year; any movie about the Holocaust is sure to be a winner.  Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington star in the movie.  (more…)