In our Hearts we were Giants: The Remark­able Sto­ry of the Lil­liput Troupe‑A Dwarf Fam­i­ly’s Sur­vival of the Holocaust

Yehu­da Koren & Ellat Negev
  • Review
By – June 25, 2014

Once glimpsed in a mag­a­zine with their sto­ry only briefly told, here is the full account of the famous fam­i­ly of Jew­ish dwarfs who sur­vived the Holo­caust because of their infir­mi­ties, despite Hitler’s order­ing the euth­a­niz­ing” of even imper­fect Aryans in Ger­many. Shimshon Ezick was the first dwarf to be born into his fam­i­ly. When his par­ents real­ized that he would nev­er be strong enough to work in man­u­al labor, they sent him to be high­ly edu­cat­ed. As a result,he became first a wed­ding bad­chan — an enter­tain­er with a bril­liant line of pat­ter — and lat­er, a rab­bi and sage. Ezick mar­ried again after his first wife died, both times to women of nor­mal height. He fathered 10 chil­dren, sev­en of whom were dwarfs. All of his chil­dren were bright and tal­ent­ed and were cau­tioned by their par­ents to always remain togeth­er. Those with full height helped their small­er, phys­i­cal­ly weak­er siblings,and the sons-in-law were oblig­ed to move in with the rest of the fam­i­ly. They became well-known, pros­per­ous, pop­u­lar enter­tain­ers through­out Cen­tral Europe.Insisting on being tak­en seri­ous­ly, they act­ed in scripts writ­ten by Abram, the eldest dwarf broth­er, who had picked up his father’s skills when they trav­eled and act­ed togeth­er. Abram pro­vid­ed sce­nar­ios in which they did stand-up com­e­dy set with­in sto­ries. They also played their minia­ture instru­ments — vio­lins, cel­los, cym­bals and drums. Instead of per­form­ing klezmer music, they sang love songs and pop­u­lar hits that they learned from the radio. Skill­ful seam­stress­es, the women designed and sewed their own gor­geous­ly flam­boy­ant cos­tumes, wore the­atri­cal make­up, and had styl­ish hair styles, and always long pol­ished nails. Though they were fair­ly obliv­i­ous to what was hap­pen­ing around them, Hitler final­ly brought it to their atten­tion when the fam­i­ly was first sent to a ghet­to and then deport­ed to Aush­witz-Birke­nau, a family”camp. Know­ing Mengele’s inter­est in twins,an alert guard held them until he could be found. Men­gele was delight­ed with them and, from then on, pro­tect­ed them, albeit still per­form­ing his repet­i­tive, painful exper­i­ment son them‚ such as exces­sive tak­ing of blood and oth­er pro­ce­dures. He hoped they would help to make his rep­u­ta­tion as a geneti­cist and actu­al­ly seemed to rel­ish their com­pa­ny. The dwarfs were also able to pro­tect all the mem­bers of their fam­i­ly who trav­eled with them, and the fam­i­ly of their faith­ful assis­tant. Did they enter­tain for the Nazis? Oth­er inmates say yes, but Per­la, the youngest and longest sur­vivor of the troupe,says they did not. It is to the authors’ cred­it that they researched every­thing writ­ten about this fam­i­ly, and also inter­viewed Per­la exten­sive­ly. The book pro­vides an insight into Mengele’s obses­sion, mind­set and aspi­ra­tions. Index and sources.

Relat­ed Content:

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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