In A Nutshell
In 1944, Gisella Perl found herself working in Auschwitz, caring for the sick and injured. The Jewish doctor was also tasked by Josef Mengele to round up all the pregnant women for “special treatment.” But once Perl discovered Mengele’s true intentions, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
The Whole Bushel
The Holocaust is full of millions of stories, some hopeful, most tragic. But perhaps none of them are as shocking and heartbreaking as the tale of Gisella Perl. A gynecologist, Dr. Perl was shipped to Auschwitz in 1944 and forced to work for the infamous Josef Mengele. Without any anesthesia or antibiotics, she cared for the sick and wounded in cramped, dirty quarters. But the job Perl dreaded most was dealing with pregnant women.
“The greatest crime in Auschwitz was to be pregnant,” Perl once said. In the name of “science,” Mengele took special glee in experimenting on expectant mothers, conducting sadistic tests that eventually killed both the woman and her child. Initially unaware of Mengele’s agenda, Perl was ordered to report every pregnancy to the doctor himself. Mothers were also tricked into trusting the Angel of Death with promises of better nutrition. He even said he’d give them milk! But when Perl discovered the doctor’s true intentions, she “decided that never again would there be a pregnant woman in Auschwitz.”
Even though abortion violated her professional and personal beliefs, Perl decided saving one life was better than losing two. Every time an expectant mother arrived in camp, Dr. Perl performed an abortion with her bare hands. Surrounded by filth and fleas, Perl killed nearly 3,000 fetuses. If she couldn’t perform an abortion, she’d induce labor, and many of these premature babies sadly passed away. Yet for every death, she saved a mother’s life from the hands of a monster.
After the war, Perl made her way to America where she worked at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She spent her career working with mothers and, coincidentally, helped deliver nearly 3,000 babies. Eventually, Perl moved to Israel where she passed away in 1988, but until the day she died, she was haunted by the choice she was forced to make.
Show Me The Proof
Photo credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0827-318 / CC-BY-SA
NY Times: Out of death, a zest for life
Jezebel: Meet Gisella Perl, the Auschwitz Abortionist Who Saved Countless Lives During the Holocaust