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Hitler’s Aryan poster girl was a Jew

Published Jul 3, 2014, 10:16 am IST
Updated Mar 31, 2019, 9:37 pm IST
German photographer had submitted picture to mock at Nazis

London: In 1935,  Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler’s propaganda machine picked up the picture of a cherubic six-month-old baby girl as its symbol of the “perfect” Aryan baby. The visage was replicated across Nazi Germany on cards and posters. The Nazis did not know that the baby was Jewish, according to reports in The Independent and The Daily Mail.

“I can laugh about it now,” the 80-year-old Professor Hessy Taft told Germany’s Bild newspaper in an interview. “But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”


Prof Taft recently presented the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel with a Nazi magazine featuring her baby photograph on the front cover, and told the story of how she became an unlikely poster child for the Third Reich.

Her parents, singers Jacob and Pauline Levinsons, moved to Berlin from Latvia to pursue careers in classical music in 1928, only to find themselves caught up in the Nazis’ rise to power.

Her father lost his job at an opera company because he was Jewish, and had to find work as a salesman.

In 1935, amid the anti-semitic attacks, Pauline took her six-month-old daughter Hessy to a well-known Berlin photographer to have her photograph taken. That picture turned up on the front cover of Sonne ins Hause, a major Nazi family magazine.

Terrified the family would be exposed as Jews, she rushed to the photographer, Hans Ballin. He told her he had deliberately submitted the photograph to a contest to find the most beautiful Aryan baby. “I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” he said.

She was kept hidden away as a baby from then on, till the end of the war.

Donating a copy of the magazine to the Yad Vashem, the Israeli holocauset Muesem, Prof. Taft said, “I feel a little revenge. Something like satisfaction.”