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The torture of the Seven Dwarfs of Auschwitz

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Not every Jew who arrived at Auschwitz was immediately ushered to the gas chambers. For some, greater horrors awaited, if such a thing could be possible. To realize these horrors, one need only recount the story of the Ovitz family, a group of seven Hungarian dwarfs that were retained by Josef Mengele for human experimentation.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Featured in the Daily Mail, the story of the Ovitz family is difficult to read. The family was spared some of the horrors of the camp, only to be subjected to different ones. Horrors so unique, they would make any person facing them shudder with fear.

The family of seven dwarfs arrived at the camp by train on Friday, May 19, 1944. The war was a little less than a year from closing, yet this was the most dangerous time at Auschwitz. Fresh trains arrived daily, bringing new loads of Jews from Hungary, who the Nazis had just recently begun deporting and murdering.

Nearly all of these new arrivals were sent immediately to their deaths, the camp being unable to house the hundreds of thousands of arrivals when it was already packed with 150,000 souls. In its time some 30 million would pass through its gates, the majority never to depart through them again.

To this place of horror and death, the Ovitz family arrived. As a family, they were all performers, putting on a traveling variety show, referred to as the "Lilliput Troupe." Accustomed to fame, when they arrived at the camp, one of their number handed out autographed cards to the guards.

The sight of an entire family of dwarfs caused an SS officer to immediately order the awakening of Josef Mengele, although the hour was early in the morning. The "Angel of Death," as some called Mengele, was always interested in people who were malformed or greatly different from the norm. Such people, including twins, were often reserved to him for his "experiments" which experts have discerned were little more than sadistic rites of torture.

As 3,100 of the 3,500 people aboard their train arriving from Hungary went immediately to the gas chambers and were dead within hours, the Ovitz family was spared and loaded onto a truck to be carried away and tortured at Menglele's hands. Etched into their memories was the fresh knowledge of the crematoriums, other Jewish prisoners explained to them upon their arrival.

The flames from the chimneys seared themselves into memory.

The family, which consisted of the seven dwarfs and a retinue of just over a dozen others, were spared and sent to a special area where Mengele housed his human subjects. They were allowed to keep their hair and their clothes, but were compelled to sleep in the barracks along with other inmates and they had to eat the same food as the rest.

They were given separate toilet facilities however, and a large aluminum bowl they that were ordered to use for daily washing.

At first glance, these special treatments might seem like a great fortune, but the devil soon came to exact his price. One-by-one, the family was taken into Mengele's laboratory and subjected to cruel tortures.

Among the most common was the incessant drawing of blood. Menglele and his assistants drew so much blood that they routinely passed out. When this happened, rather than finish at once, Mengele stopped and waited for them to revive, then drew yet more blood. Vomiting and nausea were common as a result.

X-rays were constant.

Psychiatrists asked embarrassing questions, they were tested for sexually transmitted diseases, and they were subjected to a routine water torture in which boiling water was poured into their ears, immediately followed by freezing. Doctors removed their teeth and eyelashes, without anesthetic.

Fear was ever-present, for Mengele showed an apparent fondness for the skeletons of dwarfs, which required the murder of the victim and preparation of the bones by roasting the flesh from the body in two cases, and an acid bath in another.

Other camp doctors became jealous of Mengele, and a rival once quietly selected two of the dwarfs for death at the gas chambers. The pair were barely saved.

On another occasion, Mengele told the family they were "going to a beautiful place" which naturally terrified them. However, he gave them makeup and told them to dress themselves with it. Relieved, the family thought they were to perform on stage. Well fed just before, they were trucked to a nearby theater and told to stand onstage. Once there, Mengele ordered them to undress. Horrified, the family stood naked before a room full of SS men as Mengele gave a speech about the work he was doing. Once the speech was finished, the crowd was permitted to come onstage to poke and prod the humiliated family.

Eventually, the Russians came to liberate the camp and by great fortune, the entire family survived. They returned home to find their valuables where they buried them, a rare success for Holocaust survivors. They then resumed their acting careers until one by one, they grew old and frail and died.

In retrospect, it might seem easy to suggest the Ovitz family was lucky and spared some of the camp's greatest horrors. After all, how many victims survived at all, furthermore with their family and personal treasures intact?

Yet, those who Mengele kept alive for his personal torture were subject to psychological trauma that was every bit as great as their physical suffering. Each victim who was old enough to know, understood that they could be killed at any instant to suit Mengele's pleasure. He thought nothing of shooting twins through the neck to perform random autopsies on them.

In other cases, he injected poison directly into the hearts of children with large needles, to kill them; likely a death as terrifying as any in the gas chambers.

And in countless other cases, victims were simply tortured until they died. Blood draws, injections, and being subjected to all manner of agonies took its toll on all.

While the Ovitz family struggled to survive following the war, Mengele escaped to Argentina, and later Paraguay, where he eluded justice for the rest of his life. He eventually drowned in Brazil during a swim, but at that time, his health was already failing.

He never faced earthly justice for his crimes.

One-by-one, the members of the Ovitz family grew old and died, their story finally being told by Perla Ovitz and other survivors who had shared experiences with them.

Perla was the last of the Ovtiz family to die. She passed away at age 80, on September 9, 2001.

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