Jewish woman featured as Nazis' ideal Aryan baby recalls ordeal

Wed Jul 9, 2014 6:21pm EDT
 
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For the German photographer who chose a picture of a Jewish child as the ideal Aryan for Nazi propagandists, it was a sly joke. For the child's family, it became a terrifying ordeal.

Hessy Taft was 6 months old in 1935 when her portrait by the well-known German photographer Hans Ballin was chosen by Nazis and reprinted on the cover of a family magazine, on postcards and on shop placards urging customers to "buy beautiful clothes for your beautiful baby."

When Taft's mother demanded an explanation from Ballin and reminded him that her family was Jewish, the photographer told her: "I wanted to allow myself the pleasure of this joke."

After keeping her story a secret for decades, Taft - whose maiden name is Levinsons and who now lives in the United States and is a chemistry professor - has begun to talk about her ordeal. On Wednesday, she spoke to Reuters.

Taft said she bears no ill will toward the photographer.

"Yes, I thank him for having the courage to do that, as a non-Jew, to challenge his own government," she said. "It was an irony that needed to be exposed."

But she acknowledges it is miraculous her family did not end up in a Nazi concentration camp.

"The upshot of all this is that my parents were terrified that I'd be recognized," she said.   Continued...

 
Hessy Taft poses holding a photograph of herself taken in 1935 by well-known German photographer Hans Ballin during an interview with Reuters July 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Segar