he name of this angel was Doctor Gisella Perl who was forced to work as a gynecologist in Auschwitz. She was the right hand of Josef Mengele also known as the “Angel of Death” from Auschwitz because of the atrocious experiments he had committed “in the name of science and medicine”. Gisella was forced to work with Mengele by day, however, at night she would spread her wings and try to heal all of the people being experimented on. This is how she received her nickname as the “Angel of Auschwitz”.
Giselle Perl was born in Sighetu Marmației, on December 10, 1907, to a family of Jewish descent. Gisella finished high school at the age of 16, graduating at the top of her class. She wanted to be a doctor when she was a little girl, but at first, her father didn’t let her. Later, the girl obtained the approval of Maurice Perl, swearing on a prayer book that she will always be a good Jew. After attending medical school and healing her first patient, Giselle took another prayer book, which she inscribed with her father’s name, as a symbol of the oath taken years ago. Maurice died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz, carrying with him the book given by his daughter.
Recruited by Mengele himself
In March 1944, Dr. Perl and her family were captured by the Gestapo and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. There, they were separated. Initially, Giselle had been stopped to donate blood to the SS soldiers. Shortly after, Mengele learned that she was a renowned gynecologist and took her to his team of doctors. He told her to go to the camp and bring all the pregnant women to send them to another camp, where they would receive better care and food.
She didn’t know what the doctor was planning and believing him, she brought him, 50 pregnant women. After having undergone several grueling experiments, they were taken to the crematorium. Frightened by what she did, Giselle never sent any more women to Mengele, instead, she tried to help them.
Taking one life to save another
Giselle was thus faced with a difficult decision as the only way to save those pregnant women from Mengele’s atrocities was abortion. During the night, she interrupted the tasks of those imprisoned in the camp: “at night, on a dirty floor, using only my dirty hands”, so remembers the doctor called “The Angel from Auschwitz”. During the day, she and Mengele’s five doctors and four assistants were required to operate as a hospital but had no beds, bandages, anesthetics or special instruments.
The only thing she had was her words. She kept the hopes of the patients high by telling them beautiful stories of how one day they will all escape and be free again to do as they please with their lives. How they would celebrate the new year, birthdays, and other ceremonial days with happiness and laughter. In her book, she mentions that she even tried to throw a small party with bread and jam for New Year’s Eve for the patients to enjoy themselves and get a feel of life again.
In January 1945, the camp was evacuated. Gisella was moved to another camp, near Hamburg, and two months later to Bergen-Belsen, which she described as “the supreme realization of German sadism and bestiality.” While the British troops were liberating the camp, she was just helping a woman bring a baby into the world, the first baby born in that concentration camp. The doctor stayed there until autumn, when she left to look for her family, in Germany.
After 19 days, she learned that her husband had been killed in the fight, just before his camp’s liberation, and her teenage son died in the gas chambers. Because of this emotional pain, Perl tried to poison herself. She was found and taken to a monastery in France for recovery.
In 1947 she left for America, to become one of the ambassadors for the six million Jews killed by the Nazis. There she met Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the United States of America, who encouraged her, saying, “Stop torturing me; become a doctor again!”
In 1951 she received American citizenship and opened her own clinic on Park Avenue, where most of her patients were former inmates of the Auschwitz and the Bergen-Belsen camps. In New York, she helped give birth to more than 3,000 children. After three years, Gisella settled in Israel, where she volunteered on Mount Sinai. Her life ended in 1988 from natural causes.