What if the Nazi's ideal baby -- the blonde, blue-eyed Teuton of Aryan extraction -- was actually Jewish, a member of a ethnoreligious group Hitler and company considered untermeschen, or subhuman? The Aryans were promoted by the Nazi regime as the ideal race among all human beings. Hitler's Germany would be guided by policies directed toward setting up the Third Reich, the perpetuation of the ideal, and the subjugation and/or elimination of the rest of humanity. But the Nazis needed a face for their ideal. And so begins the remarkable story of Hessy Taft nee Levinsons.
Haaretz reported July 2 that Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, recently received a Nazi family magazine with baby Hessy Taft on its cover. The magazine was donated by none other than Hessy Taft herself, now a professor of chemistry in New York, to add to the memorial's collection of Nazi era artifacts. Still, why should a Nazi family magazine be of interest?
As it turns out, the photograph is of a Jewish baby. That is correct: The ideal Aryan baby, Hessy Taft, just so happened to be Jewish, a member of the religious ethnic people that the Nazis would methodically attempt to eradicate in their push for the idyllic.
But how could that be?
Back in 1935, Hessy Taft's mother, Pauline Levinsons, wanted a photograph of her beautiful child, so she took six-month-old Hessy to a renowned Berlin photographer, Hans Ballin. She was later horrified to see her child's image on the cover of "Sonne ins Haus" magazine. Hessy had literally become the Nazi poster child for the perfect Aryan baby.
According to The Telegraph, Ballin had entered Hessy's photo in a contest searching for the perfect Aryan baby. He did it knowing all along that the child's family was Jewish. He told Pauline Levinsons, "I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous."
He did so, because Hessy Levinsons photo was chosen to represent the ideal Aryan baby, reportedly by the infamous Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels himself. Her image was soon plastered all over Germany.
But the Nazis could not find out about little Hessy's photo. The joke could not be made public or the Levinsons would forfeit their lives.
The Levinsons, both Pauline and husband Jacob, were talented singers, but the Nazi regime would not allow them to work -- because they were Jews -- in their field of classical music. After the husband, Jacob, was released from a brief stint in jail in 0938 due to a trumped-up tax charge, and living in constant fear that their secret would be found out, the Levinsons were able to find sanctuary with a Latvian family suggested by Ballin, fleeing Germany outright. They later made their way to Paris, then to Cuba, and, finally, to the United States.
Professor Taft told her story to the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1990. The account can be heard on the museum's website or read in the book, Holocaust Chronicles.
“I can laugh about it now,” Professor Taft, now 80 years old, told Germany’s Bild newspaper (per The Telegraph) in an interview. “But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”
Taft is quoted by The Telegraph as saying at the presentation to Yad Vashem, “I feel a little revenge. Something like satisfaction.”