Gisella Perl

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Gisella Perl
Gisella Perl - I was a doctor in Auschwitz (cover).jpg
Gisella Perl on the cover of her Auschwitz memoir first published in 1948
Born 10 December 1907
Died 1988
Nationality Hungarian
Occupation Doctor
Known for Holocaust memoir I was a doctor in Auschwitz
OCLC 2355040

Gisella Perl (10 December 1907 – 1988) was a Jewish gynecologist who lived in Sighetu Marmaţiei, Romania, until 1944, when the Nazis invaded part of Romania through Hungary and deported its Jewish population to camps.[1] Perl was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp along with her family, where she lost both her husband and her only son as well as her extended family and parents. She was given the task of working as a gynecologist within the women's camp, attending to inmates without bare necessities such as antiseptics, clean wipes, or even running water. She is best known however, for temporarily saving the lives of hundreds of women by aborting their pregnancies, as pregnant women were often beaten and killed or used by Dr. Josef Mengele for vivisections.[2]

After leaving Bergen-Belsen, her final Holocaust destination, she found that both her husband and son had died. She tried to poison herself and was sent to recuperate in a convent in France until 1947. Upon her arrival in New York City in March 1947, she was interrogated on suspicion of assisting the Nazi doctors of Auschwitz in carrying out human rights abuses. She was granted U.S. citizenship in 1951. She began work as a gynecologist in New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, becoming an specialist in infertility treatment.

I was a doctor in Auschwitz[edit]

In June 1948, Gisella Perl published the story of her incarceration at Auschwitz, detailing the horrors she encountered there as an inmate gynecologist. The book was titled I was a doctor in Auschwitz and included Perl's description of operations on young women's breasts without anesthetics, using a knife as her only instrument.[3] The procedure was observed by warden Irma Grese, who derived pleasure from their suffering.[4] Perl's account of these treatments was virtually identical in every detail to the court testimony of Dr. Olga Sulima, an inmate physician at Auschwitz from the Soviet Union, according to historian Bernard Braxton.[5] Likewise, the infirmary encounters with Irma Grese, a 19 year old Aufseherin from Auschwitz were first described not by Perl, but by a Hungarian female prisoner at the Auschwitz, surgical assistant Olga Lengyel, in her 1947 book Five Chimneys, originally published in French.[6][7] Lengyel was the first survivor to have her testimony published in English, wrote Zoë Waxman.[7] Perl's memoir was one of at least eight similar accounts by female prisoners corroborated by the testimonies of other women.[8]


Dr. Perl was later reunited with her daughter, Gabriella Krauss Blattman, whom she managed to hide during the war, and they both moved to live in Herzliya, Israel. Perl died in Israel in 1988. She was the sole author or coauthor of nine papers on vaginal infections published between 1955 and 1972.

In 2003, a film entitled Out of the Ashes was released. It was based upon the story of Dr. Perl's life, and starred Christine Lahti as Dr. Perl.


  1. ^ This part of the country belonged to Romania after the Trianon peace treaty of 4 June 1920; the city name Sighetu Marmaţiei originally in Hungarian was Máramarossziget.
  2. ^ Brozan, Nadine (November 15, 1982). "Out of Death, a Zest for Life". New York Times. 
  3. ^ Perl, Dr. Gisella I was a doctor in Auschwitz. Ayer Co., ISBN 0-405-12300-0.
  4. ^ Sonja Maria Hedgepeth, Rochelle G. Saidel, Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust. UPNE 2010, page 187. ISBN 1584659041.
  5. ^ Bernard Braxton (1977). Sexual, Racial and Political Faces of Corruption: A View on the High Cost of Institutional Evil. Verta Press. pp. 48–49. 
  6. ^ Laura Catherine Frost (2002). Sex drives: fantasies of fascism in literary modernism. Cornell University Press. p. 174. ISBN 0801438942. 
  7. ^ a b Zoë Waxman. Sorcha Gunne, Zoe Brigley Thompson, eds. Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives: Violence and Violation. p. 124. 
  8. ^ Roger S. Gottlieb (1990). Thinking the Unthinkable: Meanings of the Holocaust. Paulist Press. pp. 151, 164. ISBN 0809131722. 

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