A Gynecologist in Auschwitz


In Auschwitz, the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele performed horrific experiments using Jews as human guinea-pigs. But in that same terrible place, Dr. Gisella Perl, a Jewish gynecologist, served as the anti-Mengele, helping prisoners survive their wounds and diseases, saving the lives of literally hundreds of women.

Perl hailed from Sighet, Transylvania, the hometown of Elie Wiesel. When her family was deported to Auschwitz, Perl’s parents, husband, and son were all killed. But she worked in the concentration camp as a doctor, both under Nazi auspices and also performing secret operations. Since Mengele would imprison pregnant mothers, often beating them severely or using them in cruel medical experiments, Perl would perform secret abortions, thus saving these women’s lives.

In 1947 she came to America. Initially, she was suspected of helping Nazi doctors, but was eventually cleared. Later, she discovered that her daughter, whom she’d hidden with non-Jewish neighbors, was still alive. The two moved to Herzilya, Israel, where Perl lived until her death in 1988. She is the subject of an autobiography (I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz, now out of print) and a film (Out of the Ashes), but her most significant tributes are the lives she saved.

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