“Finding out the perfect Aryan baby is Jewish… PRICELESS!”
– Will Rogers; commenting on this story of irony by The Hollywood Reporter:
It turns out the Nazis’ “perfect Aryan” baby isn’t actually, well, Aryan.
Hessy Taft, the winner of a 1935 contest commissioned by the Nazis in Germany to find the most beautiful Aryan baby, recently revealed that she is Jewish.
Taft, now an 80-year-old professor, told Germany’s Bild newspaper that her parents moved to Berlin from Latvia in 1928 to pursue singing careers, but her father later lost his job at an opera company because he was Jewish and found work as a traveling salesman. In 1935, Taft’s mother took her to Hans Ballin, a well-known photographer, to have the 6-month-old’s picture taken. Unbeknownst to her, Taft’s image soon turned up on the cover of Sonne ins Hause, a Nazi family magazine. Taft’s mother, terrified, asked the photographer about it, and was told that he knew the family was Jewish and submitted the photo to the contest to make the Nazis look “ridiculous.”
“It’s supposed to represent the perfect Aryan baby, but it was me, a Jewish child, on the cover … of a Nazi magazine,” Taft explains in a video interview posted online Tuesday by the USC Shoah Foundation (watch below). It’s believed that Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels chose the image himself. “I can laugh about it now,” Taft said. “But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.” The image also appeared on postcards used throughout the Third Reich.
While Taft’s father was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938, he was soon released, and the Nazis never learned of the baby’s true identity. The family soon fled Germany and ultimately ended up in the United States. Taft recently presented Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial with the magazine bearing her photo. “I feel a little revenge — something like satisfaction,” she said when making the presentation.