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Margot Heuman

(February 7, 1928 - May 11, 2022)

Margot Hueman was fifteen years old when the Nazis deported her and her family to the Theresienstadt ghetto. That's where she met Dita, the love of her life. Together, Margot and Dita survived seven different camps and were liberated in April 1945. Margot became the only lesbian Jewish  Holocaust survivor to bear testimony. 

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Read this introductory essay for an overview of the history of the Nazis' persecution of LGBTQ+ people. 

This essay was written by Pink Triangle Legacies Project Intern Ayelet Kaminer and based on the important research of Dr. Anna Hájková and Margot Heuman’s own oral history testimony. Thank you for your work in preserving queer history.

Margot Cecile Heuman was born in the small village of Hellenthal in western Germany. She is the only lesbian Holocaust survivor who bore testimony, which she did in an interview with the Holocaust historian Dr. Anna Hájková. 

 

As children, Margot and her younger sister Lore received both a secular and religious education, attending public school and Hebrew school. Their parents kept a Kosher home and the family celebrated Jewish holidays together. Margot’s father, Karl, owned a dry goods store. Her mother, Johanna, was a homemaker. In 1937, Margot’s family moved to the nearby town of Bielefeld, where she grew up. Margot describes her childhood as a joyous one, and recalls growing up in a “very, very, very good home, with lots of love, care, emphasis on education.” She fondly remembers skiing, biking, and spending time with her cousins and grandfather. 

 

The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933. Margot was one of three Jewish students enrolled in her local public school. In 1938, shortly after Margot began her middle school education, all three Jewish students were expelled from the school. She recalls standing in the schoolyard, crying and perplexed. Her parents subsequently decided to enroll Margot and Lore in a Jewish school. In 1941, the Nazis ordered that all Jews must wear a yellow Star of David badge to identify themselves in public. Margot recalls concealing her own badge in order to gain entry to movie theaters. 

 

Margot’s father worked for the Jewish organization Hilfsverein für deutschen Juden, which

was a German Jewish organization dedicated to improving the political and social condition of

Jews, and eventually part of the Reich Association of German Jews, the Jewish council for

Germany. Because of his work with the organization, the Heumanns were amongst the last Jewish families to be deported from her town. On June 29, 1943, the Nazis deported Margot and her family from Bielefeld to the Theresienstadt ghetto.

Like almost all children, Margot and Lore lived in a youth home in Theresienstadt. Margot quickly acclimated to the social environment of the camp. Similar to the recollections of many children who survived Theresienstadt, Margot recalls enjoying the ghetto. The youth care was heavily influenced by Zionism, and so Margot became a Zionist. She also heard her first opera, La Bohème, while in the ghetto. Margot saw her parents daily. Her youth home was also where Margot met a Viennese girl: Edith “Dita” Neumann. The two became “inseparable” and affectionate early on in their relationship. At night, they shared a bed. The two quickly fell in love.

 

In May1944, Margot’s father was caught stealing food and sentenced to be transported as punishment. Margot remembers her mother saying "If he goes, we all go." Margot felt “terrible…very lost” at the prospect of leaving Dita. Along with her family, she was transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex via cattle car. They were sent to the Theresienstadt Family Camp, a section of Birkenau where between September 1943 and May 1944 transports were brought without being forced to go through selections.

 

Amidst the hunger and horror of the camp, Margot was reunited with her beloved Dita, who

arrived in the camp a few days after the Heumanns did. Shortly after, the two girls were

selected to leave Birkenau and endure forced labor elsewhere. Margot’s mother was young enough to go, too, but chose to remain with her younger daughter, who was believed to be too young to pass the selection. As Margot was leaving Birkenau, she recalls her father blessing her with a Jewish prayer. “It was the first time I saw him cry.” Her mother insisted that Margot also eat her portion of soup. Margot stated of the moment, “I didn’t realize I would never see my parents again.”

 

When she arrived at a women’s camp after leaving Birkenau, Margot recalls waiting in line to shower, uncertain whether “real showers” awaited her. After showering, she looked back and saw Dita still waiting in line. “We knew by then that it was okay,” Margot recalls, “so I lifted my dress up, I showed her, "I have a dress but no underwear!” 

 

Dita and Margot maintained their close relationship while in the new camp. The two shared nearly everything: food, a bed, and a fondness for foraging mushrooms. Nonetheless, they faced homophobia from a fellow prisoner, who deemed their queer relationship "not normal.” Margot recalls her experience of the camps as a harrowing one; “we didn’t have enough clothing, we were hungry, but we were alive…and I was with Dita.” 

 

From there, Margot and Dita were transported to three different satellite camps of Neuengamme: Dressauer Ufer, Neugraben, and Tiefstack. Ultimately, they ended up in Bergen-Belsen. When the British Army liberated the camp April 15, 1945, Margot was ill with typhus and dangerously underweight. She was taken to Sweden to recover, and remained there for two years. Margot returned to school, and to something akin to normalcy. 

 

In 1947, she traveled to the United States to visit her relatives. Margot was dazzled by the vibrant lesbian life of the city, and decided to build a life there. At this time, she also changed her surname, from Heumann to Heuman. She got a job at an advertising agency, and began her career in the field. 

 

Margot felt she “owed it” to her parents to have children. She decided to marry a man and start a family with him. At the same time, Margot maintained an affair with another woman, the wife of a neighbor. "I'm a very good actress,” Margot stated, regarding her ability to hide her queerness for much of her life. 

 

At the age of 88, Margot moved to a retirement home in Arizona and formally came out to her family. “I always knew,” her daughter, Jill Mendelson said of her mother’s sexuality. “It was never a discussion.” Despite her openness about her sexuality and her inclusion of queer love in the numerous testimonies she has given about her experiences in the camps, Margot’s queer identity is absent from much of the archival materials available about her. It is thanks to the work of Dr. Anna Hájková that Margot’s testimony has been preserved without censorship. 

 

Margot lived as an openly queer woman until her passing in May of 2022, at the age of 94. She and Dita remained extremely close. “We went [to] each other's children's Bar Mitzvahs, children's births, weddings. I was her matron of honor.” She credits her relationship and their mutual love for one another, as the reason for their survival. “Because of my caring for another human being… we remained people.”

Sources & Further Reading

Penelope Green, “Margot Heuman, Who Bore Witness to the Holocaust as a Gay Woman, Dies at 94,” New York Times, May 27, 2022. 

Anna Hájková and Erika Hughes, The Amazing Life of Margot Heuman. Play. 2021. 

Anna Hájková, “Das wundersame Leben der Margot Heumann,” Tagesspiegel, January 2, 2021.

Anna Hájková, “Between Love and Coercion: Queer Desire, Sexual Barter, and the Holocaust,” German History, Vol. 39, No. 1 (2020), 112-133. 

Margot Heuman, “You Just Survived because You Had To,” oral history transcript, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. February 21, 2013.


Margot Heuman, Oral history interview. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. October 23, 1992.

More PTL Project Resources on Heuman

Watch the YouTube Video!
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For Citation

Ayelet Kaminer, "LGBTQ+ Stories from Nazi Germany: Margot Heuman." (2024) pinktrianglelegacies.org/heuman 

(Updated January 2024)

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