Today, Hessy Taft is an 80-year-old professor in New York. During the mid-1930s, she was a baby in Berlin — a particularly attractive baby who was chosen for the cover of a Nazi magazine intended to show the perfect Aryan child.
Little did its editors know, their picture-perfect cover baby was actually Jewish.
“I can laugh about it now,” Taft told Germany’s Bild newspaper. “But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”
Taft recently recounted in a video that when she was 6 months old, her parents took her to a renowned photographer in Berlin to capture a photograph of their baby. They framed the photo and placed it on their piano.
A short time later, the woman who cleaned their apartment told Taft’s mother, Pauline Levinsons, that she had seen a picture of baby Hessy on a magazine cover. She said it was the exact same photo that was sitting on the piano.
“My mother thought she must be mistaken and told her that couldn’t be,” Taft said.
The cleaning woman insisted it was Hessy, so her mother gave her money to go out and buy a copy. When she returned with the magazine, Hessy’s mother saw that the photo of her baby had appeared on the cover of the Nazi family magazine Sonne ins Hause.
Taft said that inside the magazine were images of men wearing swastikas, Adolf Hitler inspecting troops and Hitler Youth marching and sitting around campfires.
“My parents were horrified,” Taft recalled. “They didn’t know quite how this came about.”
So her mother rushed to see the photographer.
Taft recounted: “She said to him, ‘What is this? How did this happen?’ And the photographer quickly sort of closed the door, pulled the blinds and told her to, very quietly admonished her, to keep quiet. He says, ‘Shh. I will tell you the following. I was asked to submit my 10 best baby pictures for a beauty contest run by the Nazis. So were 10 other outstanding photographers in Germany.’”
When the photographer said that he had submitted the 6-month-old’s photo, her mother said, “But you knew that this is a Jewish child.”
The photographer “Yes ... I wanted to allow myself the pleasure of this joke.”
“And you see I was right,” the photographer said. “Of all the babies they picked this baby as the perfect Aryan.”
The competition for the cover of the 1935 publication involved selecting the baby who represented the perfect example of the Aryan race.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported that the photo was “believed to have been chosen personally by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.”
“My parents were both shocked by the possible consequences this could bring and amazed at the irony of it all,” Taft said.
Later, the family discovered that not only did her photo appear on the magazine cover, it was reprinted on birthday cards, postcards and displayed in baby clothing shop windows.
Taft said that as a result, her mother and aunt were careful when taking her out for a stroll, nervous that she might be recognized.
Despite baby Hessy secretly being a “model” of Aryan beauty, the family suffered under Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish laws. The Telegraph reported that Taft’s father Jacob lost his job at an opera company.
He was arrested in 1938 by the Gestapo on a trumped-up tax charge, the Telegraph reported, but was later released with the help of a friend who was a member of the Nazi party.
The family fled to Latvia then to Paris, which too fell to the Nazis. Hessy Taft survived the war with the help of the French resistance which helped her family escape to Cuba.
See Taft tell the story of how she became the “Perfect Aryan of the Third Reich”:
(H/T: The Telegraph)