In , when she was 16, she graduated from secondary-school first in her class, the only woman and the only Jew. Her father, Maurice Perl, refused to allow her to study medicine at first, because he feared she was going to "lose her faith and break away from Judaism ". He relented a few months later. She married an internist, Dr.
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She was best known for her innovative research into female reproduction. Over the course of her professional life she delivered thousands of babies, saved countless lives, and provided medical and emotional comfort to those in need. In the years since the war, her role as a physician in Auschwitz has led her work to be cast under ethical scrutiny: Perl has been simultaneously considered a murderer by some and a saint by others.
This controversy largely revolves around her role as an abortionist within the camp. The following article explores her life before, during and after the war aiming to provide a balanced view of her struggles and accomplishments.
In the interwar period it was part of Romania. At 16 years old, Gisella Perl was the only woman and the only Jew to graduate from her secondary-school class. In , however, their false sense of security was brought to an abrupt halt as the Nazis began their rapid extermination plan. Spreading quickly throughout Hungary, the Nazis sent the bulk of the Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Perl and her family were forced into a ghetto before being transported to Auschwitz in March As they entered into what, for many, would be their final resting place, families were separated into two lines: those going to the right were subjected to forced labor about 3, people while those going to the left were exterminated immediately in the gas chambers 7,, people. Sharp, red tongues of flame behind the sky, and the air was full of the nauseating smell of burning flesh. There, she encountered the struggles and hardships of the rest of her transport before being selected to work in the camp "hospital.
This camp was, after all, "an assault and a biological disaster" 6 leaving the women with little hope of survival. Perl was almost immediately forced to confront the radical hopelessness of camp medicine. In an early encounter with her new "colleagues," Dr. Years later, Dr. Perl recalled that shortly after beginning her work in the camp hospital, she "always had most to do after food distribution. I had to bandage bloody heads, treat broken ribs, and clean wounds.
This work of mine was really quite hopeless, for the same would start all over again the next day. Former inmates often describe their daily nourishment as consisting solely of a cup of turnip soup -- often with little actual turnip -- containing unidentifiable chunks. Served along with this sludge was the occasional cup of camp coffee. The exact daily caloric intake of prisoners ranges between sources, with some estimating as low as calories per day, while others estimate closer to 1,, calories 1, for prisoners doing light labor and 1, calories for prisoners doing heavy labor.
Although the estimates were originally even higher, 1, and 2, calories a day, respectively , the numbers were revised once the food stolen from prisoners by other "privileged" prisoners and SS personnel was taken into consideration.
Perl remembered attempting to heal her patients with words of encouragement. In an interview with staff from the New York Times, Dr. So I made a party with the bread, margarine and dirty pieces of sausage we received for meals.
I said tonight will be the New Year, tomorrow a better year will come. With only one public latrine designed to accommodate between 30, and 32, women -- and even then only at designated times -- the latrines immediately began to overflow, leaving prisoners to wade through knee-high feces in order to relieve themselves.
Those who suffered from dysentery, a common ailment among prisoners, could not wait through the long lines into the latrines and often soiled themselves. Because prisoners almost never received new uniforms, the unfortunate prisoners with dysentery were forced to suffer the indignity, as well as the increased chance of further infection, by being forced to wear their soiled clothing.
Mengele and Dr. Those hands had the power to condemn us to immediate execution or to prolong our miserable life by a few days 11 Is a hospital without beds, medical instruments, drugs, or bandages really a hospital? Or is it a facade of hope? For the prisoners of Auschwitz, the camp "hospital" provided minimal help either moral or medical: In fact, it could be as dangerous as the gas chambers.
The hospital in Auschwitz operated with only five doctors and four nurses, all hand selected by Dr. Josef Mengele himself. Surgery in Auschwitz Without any anesthesia to assist with the pain, or bandages and antibiotics to aid in the healing after, Dr. Perl performed surgery on hundreds of patients in the hospital at Auschwitz. The answer is simple: no one knew the truth about the work done at Auschwitz until it was too late. Upon her arrival as one of the new camp physicians, Dr.
Mengele instructed Dr. Perl to inform him of any pregnant woman she discovered. Perl recalled during an interview in But Dr. Perl remembered that "At first I believed him, but later I learned that he used them, together with the physically handicapped and twins, for his inhumane medical experiments.
When he finished with them, they were all destroyed in the gas chambers. The greatness of these doctors, their devotion found, their recognition in the eyes closed forever of those, who, tortured by captivity and sufferings, will never speak again. The doctor fought for a lost life and for a doomed life. He had at this disposal only a few aspirins and a great heart. There a doctor did not work for fame, flattery of the satisfaction of his professional ambitions; all these stimuli no longer existed.
Then, when they collapsed, they were thrown into the crematory - alive. Gisella Perl on the treatment of pregnant women in Auschwitz 18 When Dr. Perl first arrived in Auschwitz, the fate of all pregnant women entering the camp was the same - an immediate trip to the gas chambers. Later, the fate of some became even more horrific: the women were subjected to gruesome medical experiments before being killed, or worse, burned alive without being murdered first.
Perl recalled her initial experiences with Dr. Perl said. I decided that never again would there be a pregnant woman in Auschwitz. Mengele, she began to perform surgeries that before the war she would have believed herself incapable of - abortions.
In spite of her professional and religious beliefs as a doctor and an observant Jew, Dr. Perl began performing abortions on the dirty floors and bunks of the barracks in Auschwitz "using only my dirty hands.
In some instances, the pregnancy was too far along to be able to perform an abortion. In these cases Dr. Perl broke the amnionic sac and manually dilated the cervix to induce labor.
In these cases, the premature infant not yet completely developed , died almost instantly. One of the little-discussed circumstances surrounding the issue of abortion in concentration camps was the fate of the infants who were not killed -- along with their mothers -- in the womb.
Mengele, Dr. Perl assisted prisoners in any way possible throughout the night. She recalled the work of Dr. Perl with great reverence: Dr. Gisella Perl assisted Dr. Mengele during the day.
However, at night Dr. Perl came into the barrack and administered an ointment with glue-like consistency to every sore, in order to heal this horrific rash. Perl came periodically to Barrack No. The rash needed several weeks to clear up; however, it would often return a few days later. In Auschwitz, there was a belief among the female prisoners that the soup we were given to eat was drugged and the drug was the reason why we suffered from this horrific rash.
Without Dr. I lived in Sighet, the same town as Dr. Gisella Perl, until I was 16, when I was sent away to the ghetto. I remember what a wonderful reputation she had, and how well-known she was in our area. My mother was her patient, and my grandmother went to her husband, Dr. Krauss, who was an internist. When we both in Auschwitz, I remember she was the doctor of the Jews there.
Perl was relocated to Bergen-Belsen, where she was soon liberated at the end of the war. With her liberation only moments behind her, Dr. Perl began wandering from camp to camp in a desperate attempt to locate her family.
Although Dr. Perl had saved the lives of countless women at Auschwitz, she could not save her family. Perl discovered that her husband a surgeon , son, and parents were killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Perl attempted suicide. After her failed attempt, she was taken to a French dentist who was asked by a Catholic Priest to look after "this woman whose soul is still very ill after all the horror of many prison camps.
Inside the camp, however, life and death decisions looked different. Rather than stating that abortions are morally correct or incorrect as a black and white issue, Meyerhoff notes "[She] risked death and eternal damnation. While Jews and Protestants often have fairly flexible views on abortions particularly given Dr. Perl was granted a temporary visa to serve as a lecturer in the Unites States sponsored by the Hungarian-Jewish Appeal and the United Jewish Appeal 31 and moved to an upper class neighborhood in New York.
Perl a permanent resident of the United States. The Justice Department rejected the appeal; however, they decided not to prosecute. Perl in the United States.
She was best known for her innovative research into female reproduction. Over the course of her professional life she delivered thousands of babies, saved countless lives, and provided medical and emotional comfort to those in need. In the years since the war, her role as a physician in Auschwitz has led her work to be cast under ethical scrutiny: Perl has been simultaneously considered a murderer by some and a saint by others. This controversy largely revolves around her role as an abortionist within the camp. The following article explores her life before, during and after the war aiming to provide a balanced view of her struggles and accomplishments. In the interwar period it was part of Romania.
I Was A Doctor In Auschwitz
This Auschwitz Doctor Saved Women’s Lives Was Also a Fellow Inmate