Speed Reads

A little piece of history

As a baby, Jewish woman unwittingly became the face of the perfect Aryan child

When she was six months old, Hessy Taft's mother, Pauline Levinsons, took her to a well-known photographer in Berlin to have her picture taken. Several months later, Pauline was shocked to see her young daughter on the cover of the Nazi family magazine Sonne ins Haus, touted as the perfect Aryan baby. She feared that someone would discover the truth: that Hessy was Jewish.

"I can laugh about it now," Hessy, now 80 and a professor of chemistry, told Germany's Bild newspaper. "But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn't be alive."

It is believed that the picture was chosen by the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Pauline and her husband, Jacob, didn't let Hessy go outside out of fear of being recognized, and Pauline headed down to the photographer's studio to find out why he turned in the picture. He said he had submitted the photo on purpose, knowing that the family was Jewish. "I wanted to make the Nazis look ridiculous," he told her.

Hessy's identity was never discovered, although an aunt in Latvia did see her face on a Nazi postcard. The family eventually escaped and after stopping in Paris and Cuba, settled in the U.S. in 1949. Recently, Hessy visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel, where she presented her cover. "I feel a little revenge," she said. "Something like satisfaction."