Diana Nyad often tells the story of meeting a Holocaust survivor who underwent horrifying sexual abuse during World War II. Nyad fabricated the whole thing.
part 1 | part 2
Please understand that I am not questioning whether or not sexual abuse occurred during the Holocaust. It did, and it was probably much worse than anyone could ever imagine. I am, however, questioning the facts of one particular story, the one Diana Nyad invented and now exploits for her own benefit.
The following paragraph summarizes Nyad’s story. It includes details common to most or all of the six versions I’m familiar with:
At dinner after one of her talks, Nyad meets an elderly woman (never named) who is originally from Krakow, Poland. Nyad identifies the woman as a survivor because she has numbers tattooed on her arm. The woman tells Nyad her story: When she was three years old, the Gestapo came to her home in Krakow, killed her father, and forced her, her mother, and her six-year-old sister onto a train to Dachau. At Dachau, they were separated. The mother and sister went to the right, the three-year-old went to the left and never saw her family again. The Nazis then sent the three-year-old girl to serve as a sex slave to the camp’s SS officers. At war’s end, a French family adopts the little girl. She goes on to live a life seemingly unaffected by her trauma.
(This spreadsheet provides links to all six versions and highlights differences between them.)
Over the last month, I’ve struggled to write about Nyad’s story. Then I received a message from Dr. Barbara Distel, former director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. Her email contains just about everything you need to know about Nyad’s tale. By permission of Dr. Distel, here are the pertinent parts (lightly edited for readability):
1. Dachau was a concentration camp for men only, there were never families or mothers with children. Jewish families in Poland were sent to Ghettos and from there to the death camps, or directly to the death camps in Poland, never to Germany. The description [Nyad gives] refers to Auschwitz. The way she tells it is completely fictional. [my emphasis]
During the last years (1943-1945), a large number of subsidiary
camps were established where Dachau prisoners worked mostly for the German armament industry. There were some subsidiary camps and work detachments where also women prisoners worked. Shortly before the liberation on April 29, 1945, there were about 67,000 inmates in Dachau and its subsidiary camps, 4,600 of them were women (4,000 Jewish women). There were a number of babies who had been born shortly before the liberation.
2. There were no three-year-old children in Dachau. [Unlike] Buchenwald concentration camp, there was no children’s barrack in Dachau.
I have never heard of sexual abuse of children in Dachau concentration camp.
(Complete email exchange here.)
Continue reading →