09 - The Dentist


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(From the tapestry): ”July 1940. I had heard that the Nazis had a dentist in their camp, so when I developed a terrible toothache, I got one of my Polish friends to go to the camp with me. Since the Germans wouldn’t have helped me if they had known I was Jewish, I taught my friend to say, in German, ‘My sister has a toothache.’ After the dentist took out my tooth, he gave me a bar of chocolate. When I got home, my mother was shocked that I had had the nerve to go to the Nazis for help.”

Embroidery and fabric collage, 1997.

29-1/4″W x 33″H .

Narration by Esther's daughter, Helene McQuade

00:00 / 00:48

Transcript of Narration

When Esther developed a terrible toothache, she used her wits and nerve to go to the German dentist. Figuring that the dentist would not help her if he knew that she was Jewish, and that she would give herself away with her Jewish accent, she took a Polish friend with her, who she taught to say in German, ‘My sister has a toothache.’ After he took out her tooth, the dentist rewarded her with a bar of chocolate.

Esther’s mother was understandably shocked by her 13-year old daughter’s audacity, and Esther, in re-telling the story to us so many years later, seemed still surprised and amused at herself.

This scene presages the strength of will and courage that helped her to survive.

Transcript prepared by the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science Docent Association.