Friend of the Jews

The Fellowship  |  June 27, 2018

Dr. Adelaide Hautval, rescuer of 500 Jewish women at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
(Photo: Yad Vashem)

Dr. Adelaide Hautval

January 1, 1906 – October 12, 1988

Adelaide Hautval was a Protestant psychiatrist in southern France. In 1942, her mother passed away in Paris and Dr. Hautval asked the occupying Germans for permission to attend the funeral. They refused, and Dr. Hautval was arrested by the Gestapo when she tried to sneak into Paris.

Detained by the authorities, Dr. Hautval became aware of the Jews who also were being detained, noticeable because of the yellow Star of David they were forced to wear. She 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. Dr. Hautval was not frightened by their threats, and pinned a piece of yellow paper to her own prison clothes, which read, “Friend of the Jews.”

In January of 1943, Dr. Hautval and 200 female prisoners were sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Despite being a Christian, the doctor was housed with 500 Jewish women, who would soon begin calling 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 would mean 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 was eventually transferred to Block 10 at Auschwitz, where the Nazis carried out their mostrous 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 children who were twins, carried out by the infamous “Angel of Death” Dr. Mengele, she was sent back to the death camp. Later sent 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 bravery and friendship of the Jewish people, testifying about the cruelty she had witnessed, with a judge applauding her strong character and extraordinary personality. But it was Dr. Adelaide Hautval’s friendship of the Jewish people that led to her being named Righteous Among the Nations in 1995.

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