A smiling baby featured in countless Nazi Germany propaganda images as an example of what a cute Aryan should look like — was in fact Jewish.
Unknown to Nazi propagandists, the image of a wide-eyed six-month old that they chose to become the perfect baby-face was in fact Hessy Taft, a Jewish girl from Berlin.
Taft, 80, recently donated a magazine cover featuring her picture to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, the Telegraph reported quoting an article featured in the German newspaper Bild.
Her parents, Jacob and Pauline Levinsons, both Jewish, had moved to Berlin from Latvia in the hope of making their careers in classical music. Jacob was fired from his job in an opera company because he was Jewish and instead found work as a door-to-door salesman.
In 1935, Pauline took Hessy to have her photograph taken by Berlin photographer Hans Ballin. A few months later the family was startled to find baby Hessy’s face smiling out at them from the front cover of the Nazi family orientated magazine Sonne ins Hause.
The Levinsons feared that someone would recognize the picture and reveal the family’s true Jewish identity. However, when they contacted Ballin, the photographer told them he was well aware of their ethnicity and it was his prank on the Nazis. Ballin explained he had submitted the picture of Hessy to a Nazi competition searching for the best-looking Aryan baby to make them look “ridiculous”.
The photograph won the contest and was rumored to have been personally selected by Nazi-propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, the Telegraph reported.
Although the image was circulated on countless postcards, the Levinsons evaded discovery.
However, in 1938, Jacob Levinson was arrested by the Nazis and released after the intervention of a friend. The family fled back to Latvia and then Paris only to have to flee again after the Germans conquered the city. After first traveling to Cuba, the Levinsons finally made it to the United States where the Nazi poster child went on to become a chemistry professor in New York.