“The greatest crime in Auschwitz was to be pregnant.”

Gisella Perl

“The greatest crime in Auschwitz was to be pregnant.

Dr. Mengele told me that it was my duty to report every pregnant woman to him. He said that they would go to another camp for better nutrition, even for milk. So women began to run directly to him, telling him, ‘I am pregnant.’ I learned that they were all taken to the research block to be used as guinea pigs, and then two lives would be thrown into the crematorium. I decided that never again would there be a pregnant woman in Auschwitz.

In the night, on a dirty floor, using only my dirty hands. Hundreds of times I had premature deliveries. No one will ever know what it meant to me to destroy those babies, but if I had not done it, both mother and child would have been cruelly murdered.”

– Dr. Gisella Perl, a prisoner herself in Auschwitz who was one of one the doctors chosen “to operate a hospital ward that had no beds, no bandages, no drugs and no instruments.” Where more than just abortions, she tended to all the medical issues prisoners had.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1982/11/15/style/out-of-death-a-zest-for-life.html

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Booker T. Washington: “Almost every day of my life had been occupied in some kind of labour”

Booker T. Washington

“I was asked not long ago to tell something about the sports and pastimes that I engaged in during my youth. Until that question was asked it had never occurred to me that there was no period of my life that was devoted to play. From the time that I can remember anything, almost every day of my life had been occupied in some kind of labour; though I think I would now be a more useful man if I had had time for sports. During the period that I spent in slavery I was not large enough to be of much service, still I was occupied most of the time in cleaning the yards, carrying water to the men in the fields, or going to the mill to which I used to take the corn, once a week, to be ground. The mill was about three miles from the plantation. This work I always dreaded. The heavy bag of corn would be thrown across the back of the horse, and the corn divided about evenly on each side; but in some way, almost without exception, on these trips, the corn would so shift as to become unbalanced and would fall off the horse, and often I would fall with it. As I was not strong enough to reload the corn upon the horse, I would have to wait, sometimes for many hours, till a chance passer-by came along who would help me out of my trouble. The hours while waiting for some one were usually spent in crying. The time consumed in this way made me late in reaching the mill, and by the time I got my corn ground and reached home it would be far into the night. The road was a lonely one, and often led through dense forests. I was always frightened. The woods were said to be full of soldiers who had deserted from the army, and I had been told that the first thing a deserter did to a Negro boy when he found him alone was to cut off his ears. Besides, when I was late in getting home I knew I would always get a severe scolding or a flogging.

– Booker T. Washington

Source: Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington

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Jackie Robinson, on being raised by a single mother

Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey, wife Rachel and mother Millie

“As I grew older, I often thought about the courage it took for my mother to break away from the South. Even though there appeared to be little future for us in the West, my mother knew that there she could be assured of the basic necessities. When she left the South, she also left most of her relatives and friends. She knew that her brother in California would help all he could, but he, too, had heavy responsibilities.

After a long, tedious train ride across the country, we were generously received by Uncle Burton. He took us in, but my mother made arrangements to move soon after we arrived because we were too crowded. Almost immediately, she found a job washing and ironing. She didn’t make enough, however, to support herself and five children and she went to welfare for relief. Her salary, plus the help from welfare, barely enabled her to make ends meet. Sometimes there were only two meals a day, and some days we wouldn’t have eaten at all if it hadn’t been for the leftovers my mother was able to bring her home from her job. There was other times when we subsisted on bread and sweet water. My mother got up before daylight to go to her job, and although she came home tired, she managed to give us the extra attention we needed. She indoctrinated us with the importance of family unity, religion, and kindness to others. Her great dream for us was that we go to school…

I remember, even as a small boy, having a lot of pride in my mother. I thought she must have some kind of magic to be able to do all the things she did, to work so hard and never complain and make us all feel happy.”

– Jackie Robinson

Note: Jackie and his siblings were raised by a single mother after his father abandoned the family shortly after Jackie was born. In this photograph, Jackie is pictured with Branch Rickey, his wife Rachel, and his mother Millie, as they celebrate his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Sources: I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson, Moneta Sleet, Jr./Ebony Collection.

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Johnny Cash and June Carter, a quote about their love

Johnny Cash and June Carter

“There’s unconditional love there. You hear that phrase a lot but it’s real with me and her [June Carter]. She loves me in spite of everything, in spite of myself. She has saved my life more than once. She’s always been there with her love, and it has certainly made me forget the pain for a long time, many times. When it gets dark and everybody’s gone home and the lights are turned off, it’s just me and her.”

– Johnny Cash