A Woman to Know: Gisella Perl

I treated patients with my voice, telling them beautiful stories, telling them that one day they would have birthdays again, one day we would sing again. — Gisella

(photo by Yale Gerber)

Gisella Perl was a Jewish doctor in Auschwitz. When Nazi doctor Josef Mengele began recruiting pregnant women in the camps for experiments and vivisections, Gisella took action: she performed thousands of secret abortions for other imprisoned Jewish women, saving hundred of lives in the course of her three years at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. "No one will ever know what it meant to me to destroy those babies," she told The New York Times in 1982. "But if I had not done it, both mother and child would have been cruelly murdered."

She survived Auschwitz and was remembered by other survivors as a guardian angel. When she immigrated to the United States after the war, Eleanor Roosevelt asked her to return to medicine. She worked as a gynecologist at New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital until her death in 1988. Throughout her life, she balanced her work as an infertility specialist with a rigorous touring and speaking schedule, sharing her story from Aushcwitz with audiences around the world.

"I didn't want to be a doctor," Gisella said she told Eleanor Roosevelt. "I wanted to be a witness."

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*~Thank you to Jess Stahl for recommending Gisella as a woman to know! All Jess's email said was "this lady." And she was right, right?~*

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