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Topics: Cultural Engagement, Politics

The Leading Edge: Amidst the Death at Dachau, Life

November 13, 2013

The Story: “Pregnant in Auschwitz: Toronto Holocaust survivor recalls split-second decision that saved her and unborn son,” by Joe O’Conner writing at the The National Post.

The Lead:

The SS guards had been out smoking and returned, telling Miriam she was one “lucky Jew,” that the crematoriums at Auschwitz were “kaput.” Instead, she was taken to Kaufering I, a satellite camp near Dachau, hand delivered to the gates and identified by a number tattooed on her left forearm, still visible today.

“They said, ‘Adieu Frau, good luck to you.’ Can you imagine?” Miriam says. “I went into this camp and I was led to a basement and guess who was there?”

Six other pregnant women: crying, laughing, holding one another, chattering in Hungarian, bundling themselves in the hope that they might actually survive. One by one the babies came, delivered by another inmate, a Hungarian gynecologist whose only instrument was a pail of hot water.

A “Capo,” a Jewish woman charged with overseeing the women, smuggled a stove into the room, keeping the expecting mothers warm during the freezing winter months of 1945. The Germans discovered the stove and beat the Capo bloody, ripping into her flesh with their truncheons.

“I have looked for this woman since,” Miriam says. “After the beating she told us, ‘Don’t you worry girls, the stove will be back tomorrow.’ ”

It was.

Leslie Rosenthal was the last of the Kaufering babies, born Feb. 28, 1945.

“He was beautiful, blond hair, blue eyes,” Miriam says. “An SS came in and was surprised and said he looks Aryan and he asked me if the father was an SS man.

“I told him no, the father was my husband.”

Why it Matters: Like so many stories of the Holocaust, we recall these stories to learn of their importance in history, what it teaches us to avoid in the future, and what we might learn from the actors living the history.

Of all the stories I have read on the Holocaust – including meeting a man who survived Auschwitz – this is among the most poignant. It recalls German locals entirely oblivious to the slave labor mere feet from them. It gives us a peek into how humans were human to one another even among the inhumanity. It demonstrates fidelity to marriage and a commitment to life even as much as it showcases a callous disregard for the marital union and an intent to destroy life.


It shows a government equipped with absolute authority and power – power aggrandized unto itself, rejecting any limitations and acting as god. In that absoluteness of power, it was the state who decided who would live or die and even who would remain wed or separated.

But, the softer side of the story reveals the common grace given God’s creatures to care for life. Even amidst the death of Dachau, one nurse sacrifices her body to care for the new lives entering the world. When many are threatened with death, one pregnant mother steps forward to certain death to protect the innocent. While the Holocaust pyres burn around them, brave, emaciated women carry life to the next generation. Call it a maternal instinct if you wish, what you cannot deny is the powerful draw a human has to protect life.

Is our culture so different? Do we not have many who care so little about human life that it is commoditized and the taking of life efficiently industrialized? Do we not have a political ideology that says there is a final solution to the problem of overpopulation and the trivialization of those deemed “unwanted?”

The SS may be disbanded, but their stylish black uniforms reappear daily in the green scrubs of the local abortuary.

And yet, there is hope. Do we not also have many among us those who would gladly sacrifice their bodies to protect the next generation? Even as we watch millions march toward death at the local abortion mill, do we not have thousands more that stand ready to love, care, and adopt both child and mother desperately caught in the false promise of “double portions” for those that would just follow the false security offered by the SS.

At Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in Israel, instead of flowers, rocks are piled to remember the fallen. Roses and flowers will be lost to memory quickly. Stones cause us to more permanently remember the past that we may never forget and never repeat the lessons so brutally learned.

How’s your memory?

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