As we prepare to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember and salute Dr. Gisella Perl, a woman with a close connection to Shaare Zedek whose story is both horrific and inspiring.
Born in Hungary and a Gynecologist by training, upon arriving in Auschwitz in 1944, Gisella was forced to assist in secretly aborting hundreds of fetuses, knowing that if the mother’s pregnancy was revealed to the Nazis, she would be mercilessly tortured, exposed to sadistic experiments, or immediately murdered.
The tragic nature of that act, performed by a woman whose primary professional purpose had been to help bring life into the world, was chronicled in Dr. Perl’s autobiography, I Was A Doctor in Auschwitz.
After the war, Dr. Perl made her way to the US where she was able to rebuild her career becoming an expert in addressing infertility, before retiring to Israel.
She volunteered in Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s Maternity Ward. It was said that every time before she went to assist in a delivery, she would pray it should go well with the understanding that this new life would in some small way help repair the immeasurable loss of the lives she had to extinguish amidst the hell of Auschwitz.
Upon her death in 1988, the rights to her book, which also became the subject of a television film starring Christina Lahti, were transferred to Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
The book has since been translated into multiple languages telling the story of one remarkable woman with the courage to transform the darkest of experiences into a new life of hope and birth.