Lesbian Holocaust survivor Margot Heuman dies aged 94


holocaust survivor margot heuman nazi concentration camp lesbian queer
Image: USC Shoah Foundation Institute

Margot Heuman, one of the few lesbian women to survive the Holocaust and testify about a same-sex relationship in a concentration camp, has died at 94.

Heuman died on May 11 at an Arizona hospital, her son Dan told the New York Times. She’s survived by her two children, five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

In 1943, when she was just 14, Heuman and her family were deported to Theresienstadt, a “transit ghetto” town for Jews en route to death camps. The Nazis ripped the family away from a comfortable life in Germany, where Heuman was born.

While in Theresienstadt, the teenage Heuman fell in love with a Viennese girl named Dita Neumann.

A year later, in 1944, Heuman’s family was sent to Auschwitz. Neumann and her family were then also sent to the Nazi death camp just a month later.

Heuman’s mother, father and sister ultimately died in the camps. But the younger Heuman and Neumann both survived, moving between different concentration camps.

Speaking about the ordeal later in her life, Heuman said she believes the two girls’ bond kept them alive.

Heuman later told the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that she “stuck together” with Neumann, and the two girls “shared everything”.

“All these years, after Auschwitz, I never ate anything without sharing it with her, no matter how hungry I was. She did the same,” Heuman said.

They would share stories of what they would do “not if, but when” they escaped the death camps.

“I think if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t be alive,” she said.

“I don’t think that she would be alive if it hadn’t been for our relationship either.

“Also because of my … caring for another human being, somehow we never lost our dignity and we remained people.”

Decades later, Margot Heuman reunited with Dita Neumann

At the time they were freed, Margot Heuman and Dita Neumann were imprisoned at the Bergen-Belsen camp back in Germany.

British forces liberated the camp on 15 April, 1945, with soldiers finding 60,000 prisoners there.

The two girls, both seriously ill, were separated. Neumann was sent to Britain while Heuman was taken to Sweden by the Red Cross.

Margot Heuman later moved to the US and lived with a woman, Lu Burke, in New York. She later married Charles Mendelson in 1952.

The pair had two children but after the children grew, the couple divorced in 1976.

Heuman said in 2019 that she felt an obligation to her late parents to have children.

However she remained close friends with Neumann, who became a nurse and married a doctor in Canada. Heuman was by Neumann’s side when Neumann died of cancer in 2011.

Margot Heuman is one of very few gay female Holocaust survivors to speak of their experiences.

University of Warwick associate professor Dr Anna Hajkova, a Holocause expert, told the Times very few of the thousands of Jewish survivors had “spoken of their same-sex desire” at that time.

Last year, Heuman’s story was turned into a play titled The Amazing Life of Margot Heuman, that debuted in the UK.

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