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The Extraordinary Story of the Dwarf Jews who Survived the Holocaust

Antonia R.Antonia R.
Image: Dirkdeklein

During the Holocaust, European Jews went through drastic changes in their lives, often leading to a fatal end. The Ovitz family however, whose members were dwarfs, managed to survive those sorrowful years.

The dwarf family stood out not only with their short stature but also their musical talent. Thanks to their ability to entertain the public, they were able to save themselves during those years of terror.

The Ovitz family were Jews originating from Romania. The head of the family - Shimson Eizik Ovitz - was married twice and had 9 children, 7 of which were dwarfs, like himself. Shimson owed the love of music that his children were brought up with to his second wife.

Ovitz Dwarfs

They learned to play various musical instruments, eventually creating a family orchestra that began its career under the name the Lilliput Troupe.

In the years before the Second World War, the ensemble rose to fame not only in their native Romania but also in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, where they often toured.

Years prior to Hitler's attack on Poland, Shimson's 2nd wife became severely ill and died. The last message she conveyed to her family was for them to never separate, no matter what happened.

Up until 1944, the Ovitz family used fake passports and managed to avoid the death camps. But later they were betrayed, the Germans found them and placed Jewish badges on their clothing to mark them.

At that time, a German officer felt sympathy for the troupe of dwarfs and sheltered them in his home, under the pretense of needing house servants. Several months later, he was stationed elsewhere and the lives of the Lilliput family once again hung in the balance.

Defenseless and living on the street, their only option was deportation to the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was there that they caught the attention of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, who was carrying out medical experiments on the prisoners.

Ovitz Family
Image: Dirkdeklein

However, upon learning that they were musicians, Mengele assigned them to be his private ensemble. Jokingly, he called them his gnomes and made them sing and perform when he had guests over.

Regardless of their talents, the Ovitz family faced the same sentence as the rest of the Jews in the Polish concentration camp - death in the gas chambers. Their date of execution was set for January 27, 1945.

The dwarf family's luck did not leave them, for on the day which was to be their last, the Russians stormed Oświęcim and took control. All executions in Auschwitz were halted.

The Russians freed all Jews they encountered, the Ovitz family included. They began their journey toward home in Romania on foot but they were all together, as usual.

In 1949, the family moved to Israel and lived there until their deaths. The last of them, Piroska Ovitz, died at the age of 80.