A Doctor and ‘Friend of the Jews’

The Fellowship  |  July 21, 2020

Dr. Adelaide Hautival, rescuer of 500 Jewish women at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
Doctor Adelaide Hautval in Israel

A Christian and doctor, Adelaide Hautval worked as a psychiatrist in southern France as World War II began. In 1942, her mother passed away in Paris and Dr. Hautval asked the occupying Germans for permission to attend the funeral. The Gestapo refused and arrested Dr. Hautval when she tried to sneak into the city.

Detained by the authorities, Dr. Hautval became aware of Jews also being detained, noticeable because of the yellow Star of David the Nazis forced them to wear. Dr. Hautval protested the horrific treatment of the Jewish prisoners to the guards, saying, “The Jews are people like everybody else.” In turn, the guards told her she would share their fate. Not frightened by their threats, Dr. Hautval pinned a piece of yellow paper to her own prison clothes which read, “Friend of the Jews.”

In January of 1943, the Nazis sent Dr. Hautval and 200 female prisoners to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Despite being a Christian, the doctor lived with 500 Jewish women, who called her “the saint.”

With her medical training, Dr. Hautval began treating prisoners infected with typhus. But she also kept from reporting any prisoner’s illness to the camp commander, knowing that such a report meant immediate death at the hands of the Nazis. Her fellow prisoners recall Dr. Hautval saying, “Here we are all under sentence of death. Let us behave like human beings as long as we are alive.”

Because of her medical knowledge, Dr. Hautval transferred to Block 10 at Auschwitz, where the Nazis carried out their monstrous medical experimentation. When Dr. Hautval realized the inhumanity that was going on, she refused to take part. A Nazi doctor asked her, “Don’t you see that these people are different from you?” Dr. Hautval replied to him, “In this camp, many people are different from me. You, for example.”

When Dr. Hautval refused to take part in experiments on twin children carried out by the infamous “Angel of Death” Dr. Mengele, the Nazis sent her back to the death camp. Later shipped to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, Dr. Hautval survived until the end of the war, but her health had been permanently harmed.

After the war, Dr. Hautval continued her friendship of the Jewish people, testifying about the cruelty she witnessed, with a judge applauding her strong character and extraordinary personality. And Dr. Adelaide Hautval’s friendship of the Jewish people led to her being named Righteous Among the Nations in 1995.

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