The story of the “perfect Aryan girl” who was actually Jewish

Posted on Mar 9, 2022      56

Goebbels selected a picture of 6-month-old Hessy Levinson, unaware that she was born into a Jewish family.

Like all propaganda, Nazi propaganda sought to prove its points in a variety of visual ways. For example, in 1935, the cover of the magazine Sonne ins Haus (“Sunshine in the House”) featured a photograph of an “ideal Aryan baby.

The picture was selected among thousands of other pictures of babies, because the child in the photo matched the Aryan ideal: puffy cheeks, upturned nose, rounded mouth and even charming fringe above the round forehead. Except that the baby was not Aryan at all...

Hessy Levinson was born in May 1934 into the family of musicians Jacob and Pauline Levinson. At six months, her parents took her to the famous photographic studio in Berlin, Hans Ballin, in order to capture her enchantment on film. The photos turned out great, one of which her parents framed on a grand piano at home.

But a year and a half later, it turned out that the picture of Hessy had left the family. The Levinson couple was horrified to discover that the photo of their Jewish daughter was gracing the cover of the next issue of the Nazi Sonne ins Haus and was even presented as a photo of the “ideal Aryan baby”, selected by Goebbels himself with his own eyes. In addition, the picture has already been reprinted on postcards!

The Levinsons immediately went to the photo studio. They demanded an explanation from the photographer, but he did not look embarrassed. Yes, he knew Hessy was Jewish. And yes, he had sent her picture of the contest along with pictures of nine other children. As an opponent of the anti-Semitic policies of the NSDAP, the photographer took particular pleasure because a Jewish girl won the contest for perfect Aryan appearance.

The Levinsons found no pleasure in this irony. It was getting harder for them as it was - what would happen if the NSDAP leadership found out that they had admired a Jewish child?

Fortunately, the Levinsons had no answer to that question. In 1938, they fled to Paris, and from there to Cuba, and finally to the United States. Hessy grew up, became a professor of chemistry, and married the mathematician Earl Taft.

So the story of the “perfect Aryan baby” with Jewish roots ended happily