This photograph belongs to what the Nazis referred to as “The Perfect Aryan baby”.
What the Nazis did not know back then was that the baby in the picture was really a young Jewish girl named Hessy Taft!
Hessy, a baby who picked through thousands of children was portrayed by the Nazis as the perfect baby in an effort to aid their racial propaganda. She was the ultimate depiction of what a perfect Aryan child should look like!
Goebbels himself without knowing chose this photo as a template and made a terrible blunder, as the baby in fact belonged to a Jewish family!
Fearing that the baby will be recognized from the magazine and that people will point her out as being a Jew, her parents hid Hessy away from the eyes of the world for the duration of the War.
The photographer said he knew about the origins of Hessy and deliberately placed Hessy’s picture for Goebbels to eventually pick , in order to avenge the Nazis. The photographer also never talked about Hessy or about her origins.
Today the photograph resides in the Jewish museum and Hessy Taft says she sees things calmly now as she has no recollection of what had happened in her very young age.
Back then Hessy Taft was six months old when she became a poster child for the Nazis and her photograph chosen as the image of the ideal Aryan baby, and distributed in party propaganda.
“I can laugh about it now,” the 80-year-old Professor Taft said in an interview. “But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”
Prof Taft recently presented the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel with a Nazi magazine featuring her baby photograph on the front cover, and told the story of how she became the unlikely poster child for the Third Reich.
Her parents, Jacob and Pauline Levinsons, both talented singers, moved to Berlin from Latvia to pursue careers in classical music in 1928, only to find themselves caught up in the Nazis’ rise to power.
Her father lost his job at an opera company because he was Jewish, and had to find work as a door-to-door salesman.
In 1935, with the city rife with anti-semitic attacks, Pauline Levinson took her six-month-old daughter Hessy to a well-known Berlin photographer to have her baby photograph taken.
A few months later, she was horrified to find her daughter’s picture on the front cover of Sonne ins Hause, a major Nazi family magazine.
Pauline then was terrified that the family would be exposed as Jews so she rushed to the photographer, Hans Ballin. He told her he knew the family was Jewish, and had deliberately submitted the photograph to a contest to find the most beautiful Aryan baby.
“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” the photographer told her.
He succeeded: the picture won the contest! Pauline was thereon frightened that she would be recognised on the streets and questions asked about her identity therefore she kept her beloved child at home.
Her photograph appeared on widely available Nazi postcards, where she was recognised by an aunt in distant Memel, now part of Lithuania. But the Nazis never discovered Prof Taft’s true identity.
In 1938, her father was arrested by the Gestapo on a trumped up tax charge, but released when his accountant, a Nazi party member, came to his defence.
After that, the family fled Germany. They moved first to Latvia, before settling in Paris only for the city to fall to the Nazis.
With the help of the French resistance, they escaped again, this time to Cuba, and in 1949 the family moved to the United States.
Today the Jewish woman who was once a Nazi poster child is a professor of chemistry in New York.
“I feel a little revenge,” she said of presenting her photograph to Yad Vashem. “Something like satisfaction.”