Shimson Eizik Ovitz was a Romanian rabbi, a WWI era entertainer, and someone afflicted with pseudoachondroplasia. He was a dwarf. Ovitz fathered 10 children by two normal sized wives, Brana Fruchter and Batia Bertha Husz. Three of them grew to normal height, the other seven were dwarves.
Batia gave the kids a piece of advice that stayed with them all their lives: “through thick and thin” she said, “never separate. Stick together, guard each other, and live for one another”.
The seven dwarves were talented musicians, performing throughout the 30s and early 40s as the “Lilliput Troupe”. They toured Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia with their normal height siblings serving as road crew, until being swept up by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz.
The train arrived at around midnight on May 19th, 1944. Not even concentration camp guards could resist the irony of seven dwarves. They immediately woke Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death”, knowing of his perverse fascination with what he called “blood” (family) experiments. Mengele was delighted, “I now have work for 20 years”.
The ten siblings were spared from the gas chamber that night, along with two more family members, a 15 month old boy and a 58 year old woman. Families of their handyman and a neighbor insisted that they were also close relatives, and were also spared. A total of 22 people. Though they were subjected to bizarre and freakish “experiments” and housed in horrific conditions, these were kept healthy for further use, and received better food and clothing than most camp inmates. Mengele even arranged to have special living quarters built for them.
The bizarre and hideous acts of cruelty that Mengele performed in the name of “science” are beyond the scope of this essay, but seven dwarves didn’t come along every day. The Angel of Death treated the Ovitz siblings differently than other camp inmates.
It was unusual for even two or three siblings to survive the Auschwitz death camp. The Ovitz family endured eight months at Auschwitz. This was the only instance in which an entire family survived the death camp, intact.
Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945.
The Ovitz family was transported from the camp by cart, a year later arriving at their Transylvanian home village of Rozavlea. The family found the place ruined, though they did find a stash of gold where they had left it, buried for safekeeping before the war.
There was no future for them in this place. Only 50 of the 650 Jewish inhabitants of the village ever returned. The family emigrated to Israel in May 1949, resuming their musical tour and performing until the group retired in 1955.
Josef Mengele never faced justice. He fled to South America, where he accidentally drowned in 1979.
The youngest and last of the Ovitz dwarves, Piroska, “Perla” to her friends, passed away two days before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers. She spoke for the whole family, when she said: “I was saved by the grace of the devil”.
The Smithsonian Channel produced a ¾-hour documentary on the Ovitz siblings. They call it “The Seven Dwarves of Auschwitz”.