The true story of the woman who performed mercy abortions at Auschwitz

Gisella Perl was Romanian and Jewish. She was a gynaecologist at a time and place where very few women went into the medical professions. In 1944, she and her entire family were shipped off to Auschwitz, where Perl was instructed to provide medical care for her fellow inmates — medical care that was supposed to happen without even the most basic medical supplies.

In this position, she was officially employed by Josef Mengele, and she saw what happened to women who entered Auschwitz while pregnant. The short answer was death. The long answer was that those deaths were often horrifying and drawn-out. So Gisella Perl gave herself a new job — protecting women by helping them hide evidence of pregnancy and by performing abortions with her bare hands.

I'd never heard Perl's story before. It's heartbreaking. And it's riveting. The Holocaust History Project has a long and well-cited version.


  1. Such an amazingly dark story and a much needed dose of the horrors of humanity for me. To be surrounded by such evil and and find yourself in such a position… I can’t even imagine how she coped!

  2. As I was reading the article I could hear the cogs and gears turning in the machinery of a Santorum to rationalize that even this type abortion was wrong and not in the best interest of the mother or society.

  3. Just listen to “Red Sector A” by Rush. It’s based on Geddy’s mother’s life in Bergen-Belsen. If you show any sign of weakness,  it’s short rations or the chamber for you. Pregnancy is a kind of minor weakness that we usually accommodate or even celebrate, but in the camps, it was almost a death sentence.

    Listen to the lyrics: “For my father and my brother it’s to late. But I must help my mother stand up straight.” Young Manya lost all her male relatives and was unable to save her mother. Geddy’s mom and dad married in the displaced persons camp at Bergen-Belsen and emigrated to the first country that would take them.

    Geddy chartered a plane to fly his whole family back to Bergen Belsen back in ’95 for the 50th anniversary of the liberation. Al his mom could say is “They are gone, and I am still here.”

  4. I wish that we never need to see such courage and conviction again, but I believe Christmas is already past.

    Instead, let us follow in the spirit of such great humans, and exhibit courage and conviction in helping each other.

Comments are closed.