In the early 1900s, the idea that certain races were naturally superior to others, called eugenics, was very popular. Programs to cut down on unwanted groups of people sprang up in many supposedly enlightened countries, including the United States. These programs specifically targeted black people and other minorities with birth control and sterilization, among other population control methods. Fast forward several decades to 1929, when a man came to power in Germany with similar ideas about a "master race." However, he would take eugenics to a whole new level. His name was Adolph Hitler. He believed in a fictional race called "Aryans" composed mostly of tall, blond, blue-eyed Europeans, especially Germans. Other groups of people were deemed inferior, among these: disabled people, blacks, Jews, and Gypsies. They were targeted for immediate extermination in "death camps."
Hitler's horrible regime, however, was based on absurd standards. For example, Hitler himself met none of his ideals. Not only was he not blond and blue-eyed, he was short, stubby, and ugly. He wasn't even German, but Austrian, and obsessed with a fear that he might be partly Jewish. Herman Goering, who ranked 2nd to Hitler, had a Jewish field marshal as one of his deputies. When someone complained to Goering about his Jewish deputy, Goering retorted, "I decide who is a Jew and who is an Aryan."
One of Hitler's top henchmen, Hans Frank, whom he tasked with looking through racial records, was partly Jewish, and so were many Nazi and German military officials, including 2 field marshals and 15 generals. Some of them were full or half-Jews to whom Hitler gave a special document that exempted them from the death camps. Altogether, about 150,000 Jewish soldiers fought for Germany. One widely distributed Nazi recruitment poster was captioned, "The Perfect German Soldier." The only problem was that the "Aryan" soldier pictured, Werner Goldberg, was, in reality, half Jewish! He later appeared in a 2006 documentary called Hitler's Jewish Soldiers.
As part of Hitler's massive propaganda campaign, contests were held to encourage new parents to submit photos of their perfect Aryan darlings. One of the winners was a 6-month-old baby girl named Hessy Levinsons. Her adorable photo appeared on magazine covers, shop windows, and postcards across Germany, as "The Perfect Aryan Baby." Hessy's mother was shocked. Little Hessy, along with her entire family, were Jewish. Unknown to her, a photographer whom she had hired to take Hessy's picture had submitted the photo just to prove the ridiculousness of the Nazi regime. "I can laugh about it now," says Hessy, "but if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn't be alive." Fortunately, she and her parents were able to escape Germany, eventually settling in New York City, where she still lives today, having outlasted Hitler by 70 years so far.