In 1935, with the city rife with anti-semitic attacks, Pauline Levinsons took her six-month-old daughter Hessy to a well-known Berlin photographer to have her baby photograph taken.Share
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.
Terrified the family would be exposed as Jews, 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, and was believed to have been chosen personally by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
Frightened she would be recognised on the streets and questions asked about her identity, Prof Taft’s parents kept her 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. (Read more.)