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Adelaide Hautval


HAUTVAL, ADELAÏDE° (1906–1988), French psychiatrist and Righteous Among the Nations. Born in Hohwald (Bas Rhin), France, to a Protestant family, Hautval studied medicine in Strasbourg and after her qualification worked in several psychiatric wards. In April 1942, traveling to her mother's funeral, she was arrested trying to cross the demarcation line separating the two zones of France without a permit. Awaiting her trial in Bourges prison, she vehemently protested the harsh treatment of Jewish prisoners who were incarcerated there. The reply she received was, "As you wish to defend them, you will follow their fate." Sent to Auschwitz with a convoy of women prisoners, she arrived there in January 1943. She reportedly bore a sign, stitched on her overcoat, with the inscription: "A friend of the Jews." At Auschwitz, she helped hide a group of women afflicted with typhus and looked after them as best as she could. She was then asked by the SS garrison doctor, Eduard Wirths, to participate in the sterilization experiments practiced on the bodies of Jewish women in the infamous Block 10, which involved removing their ovaries either surgically or by means of radiation in order to produce sterility. Hautval told Wirths that she was completely opposed to these experiments. Wirths was surprised that she would object to a program whose ultimate purpose was the preservation of a superior race. Wirths asked her, "Cannot you see that these people are different from you?" and she answered him that there were several other people different from her, starting with him. After her confrontation with Dr. Wirths, she was advised to stay out of sight; she feared retribution but was not punished. Moved to the nearby Birkenau camp, she continued to practice medicine and heal the prisoners as much as possible, considering the circumstances, until August 1944, when she was transferred to the Ravensbrueck women's camp in Germany. She survived and was liberated in April 1945. In 1963, she appeared in London at the trial of Leon Uris vs. Wladyslaw Dering. Uris, in his book Exodus, had mentioned the experiments perpetrated by Dering and others on bodies of prisoners in Auschwitz, without the use of anesthesia, and Dering had consequently sued Uris for libel. A witness for the defense, Hautval refuted Dering's claim that it was futile to disobey orders in Auschwitz, since in Dering's words, "to refuse would be sabotage," adding that in Auschwitz "all law, normal, human, and God's law were finished." Hautval, by contrast, maintained that SS orders to remove women's ovaries could be gotten around in such ways as to avoid punishment. Justice Lawton in his summing up of the evidence to the jury described Dr. Hautval as "perhaps one of the most impressive and courageous women who has ever given evidence in the courts of this country [England]." Years later, recalling the Holocaust, she stated: "This unspeakable horror could have been avoided. If only this organized contempt of humanity, this megalomaniac insanity, had been confronted by a civilized world – lucid, courageous, and determined to safeguard its primary values." On a visit to Israel in 1966, to plant a tree in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, after being honored the previous year with the title of Righteous Among the Nations, she stated, "The return of the people of Israel to their own country is an accomplishment concerning not only itself but the world at large…. Israel has always played a gestative, fermentative role, due to which it was hated or respected. Its mission in the world continues. May Israel remain faithful to it. The entire history of the Jewish people demonstrates the primacy of spiritual forces. Hence, its undertaking cannot but be successful."

Sources:Yad Vashem Archives M31–100; A. Hautval and H. Tennyson, "Who Shall live, Who Shall Die?" in: Intellectual Digest, Vol II, No. 7 (March 1972), 52–54; M. Hill and N. Williams, Auschwitz in England (1965); M. Paldiel, The Path of the Righteous (1993), 62–64; "Auschwitz in an English Court: The Dossier on Dr. Dering," in: World Jewry: Review of the World Jewish Congress, Vol. VII, No. 3 (May/June 1964); I. Gutman (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations: France (2003), 298–99.

[Mordecai Paldiel (2nd ed.)]

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