How a Jewish schoolgirl escaped the clutches of Nazi Angel of Death

Publié le par Daily Mail - Rob Cooper

JournalDaily Mail published 17/10/2011 at 06:02 PM by Rob Cooper

How a Jewish schoolgirl escaped the clutches of Nazi Angel of Death Josef Mengele and survived Auschwitz

Weiss HelgaWhen Jewish schoolgirl Helga Weiss was ordered off the train at Auschwitz in 1944, she was destined for death in the gas chambers - along with all the others considered too young or too old to work. But instead of being killed, Helga, not long in her teens, managed to convince 'Angel of Death' doctor Josef Mengele she was older and fit to work. Almost 70 years after she gave one of the most reviled Nazis the slip, the story of the Czech teenager - now a celebrated artist - is to be told for the first time in a new book.

Mengele would hold the power of life and death over the Jews sent to the camp - sending the weakest off to the left and unwittingly into the gas chambers where they would meet their end. The strongest would go to the right for forced labour but survival.

Although the other children were killed, Helga was spared by the SS officer, who sent her to a work camp. His snap decision saved her life, and at the end of the war she was freed. Miss Weiss, who went on to become a famous artist in the Czech Republic, and is now in her 80s, will have her war memoirs published around the world. She kept a diary jotted down in school exercise books of her time spent in concentration camps during the war.

The book, Helga's Diary - sold to publishers at the Frankfurt book fair - has been likened to the diary of Anne Frank. It will come out in Britain next year. After persuading the death camp officer to save her, Miss Weiss moved back to her home city of Prague after the war. Although she found fame with her artwork, her war diaries were little known. Helga was sent to live in a ghetto by the Nazis in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, at the start of the diary which begins in 1939.

She tells the story of her grim life - and how freedom was gradually curtailed before she was shipped off to Auschwitz with her mother in 1944. Helga - who is now married and uses the surname Weissova-Hoskova - told the Observer during a visit to London last year that life under the Nazis got progressively worse before she was shipped off to the death camp. 'One thing after another was forbidden: employees lost their jobs, we were banned from the parks, swimming pools, sports clubs. 'I was banned from going to school when I was 10,' she said.

'I was always asking my parents, "What's happening?", and became angry at them if I thought they were trying to hide something, to protect me.' She arrived at Auschwitz on October 4, 1944, where Dr Mengele was deciding who to kill and who should be given labour. After tricking the reviled doctor into thinking she was old enough to work, Helga was sent to Flossenbürg where she was forced to work. Of around 15,000 children from Terezin sent to Auschwitz, it is believe between 150 and 1,500 survived. Although Helga has admitted in the past that she kept a war journal, it had never been published before. Helga's Diary (published by Viking) is out on June 7 next year.


Mengele JosefAs prisoners arrived at Auschwitz, notorious doctor Josef Mengele (pictured) would sort them - ushering the strongest to the right and the weakest to the left to their deaths.

Those who were not fit for work - because they were not physically fit, were too young or too old - were sent to the gas chambers immediately.

Historians have told harrowing stories of how he sentenced a block of 750 people to death when he discovered there was an outbreak of lice in their block.

But although Mengele had the power of life and death over all the new arrivals, it was his grim experiments that gave him notoriety.

He would amputate limbs, sterilise prisoners and give them shock therapy. Those who didn't die during surgery would be killed by infection or put to death.

The sheer barbarity of his actions has made him one of the most infamous characters in Nazi Germany.

But when the Third Reich fell in 1945 he escaped to South America and lived on until 1979.

Publié dans Articles de Presse

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