Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Sol Pitchon, left, directs a center that encourages girls and women not to have abortions. He was speaker at a banquet benefiting Pregnancy Resource Center in Decatur. With him are the Rev. James R. Henderson of Emanuel Ministries, center, and Henderson's wife Carol.
Surviving the Holocaust
Woman and son tell her harrowing story of being an 'experiment' in Auschwitz
By Melanie B. Smith
One deeper slice of a scalpel in Auschwitz, and Sol Pitchon would never have been born.
A Jewish inmate doctor managed to only pretend to complete surgery that would have sterilized the Jewish teenager who later became Pitchon's mother.
Pitchon, who lives in Tarpon Springs, Fla., told the story in Decatur at a banquet benefiting the Pregnancy Resource Center in Decatur.
Reared a "cultural Jew" and now a Christian, Pitchon directs a center that encourages girls and women not to have abortions.
Sol Pitchon, back, far right, and Garmaine and Simon, center, are pictured with their family.
He said he is alive today because a doctor risked giving his mother a chance to have children.
Pitchon's mother, Garmaine Baruch Pitchon, ended up in the concentration camp in Poland in 1943. Nazis rounded her up from the Jewish community of Salonika, Greece, along with 150 family members.
After an eight-day trip squeezed into a cattle car with little water or food, Nazis assigned her to Cell Block 10 of Auschwitz. There all of the captives were women destined to be tortured by Nazi doctors. The infamous Dr. Josef Mengele led the experiments.
She was supposed to have a complete hysterectomy, which would have left her unable to have children. A Nazi doctor had already removed one ovary when an emergency called him and the guards away, Pitchon said.
The Nazi doctor told his Jewish assistant to finish the surgery on Garmaine, then 16. The doctor did not take out the ovary but made an incision to make it appear he had.
Garmaine Pitchon recalls the 75-year-old Jewish physician whispering to her, "When you have children, think of me."
In a phone interview with The Decatur Daily, Garmaine Pitchon, now 80, said she goes to schools, churches and synagogues to tell her story. She has told it for archival records at Holocaust memorials.
"I got a good life. I love everybody," she said from her home in Clearwater, Fla.
Garmaine Pitchon and her son, a trained psychotherapist, shared details of her horrific story:
As part of Block 10, Garmaine also was subjected to electric shocks, which temporarily paralyzed her.
Nazis hanged the Jewish doctor who helped Garmaine, Dr. Samuel Schumwien.
Garmaine sometimes stole and befriended guards and a garbage man to get extra food. She was forced to extract gold from the teeth of murdered inmates.
Almost her entire family died in the Holocaust. She never saw her mother and her five sisters again after Nazis separated them from her at Auschwitz.
After Russians freed Garmaine and other captives in 1945, she was first sent to Paris for recovery. She met an American captain, also a Jew. After she explained how she had claimed to be a Catholic as a survival strategy, he gave her a star of David necklace and said, "Not any more. You're Jewish now." He encouraged her to go to the United States.
Garmaine lived with a friend from the camp and married the friend's brother, Simon Pitchon.
He, too, was from Salonika. Simon Pitchon spent 26 months in Nazi concentration camps, working on farms and on aircraft frames in an underground plant.
The refugee couple struggled after arriving in the United States. A Jewish business owner in Florida gave her husband a job inspecting altimeters and barometers.
They had four sons and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Of the 300 women in Cell Block 10 experiments, she is one of only two who later had children.
Simon Pitchon died last December. Garmaine Pitchon still lives in the house they first bought in Clearwater.
Sol Pitchon said it was hard for his parents when he converted to Christianity in 1981 after a Messianic Jewish friend told him about Jesus. At first his parents were devastated because they had suffered so much for their religion, but they came around, he said.
"Our parents never taught us to be prejudiced to Germans or to Christians. They didn't perpetuate the hostility," he said.
Sol Pitchon said his mother has always been joyful, positive and encouraging.
Sol Pitchon's stepdaughter, Michelle Vaporis of Huntsville, said she sees God's sovereignty in Garmaine Pitchon's experience.
"He can work in impossible situations," Vaporis said.
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