Miyuki Ishikawa-the Demon midwife

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On January 12, 1948, two police officers from the Waseda precinct in Tokyo accidentally came upon the remains of five infants. While that shocking find was clearly suspect, it was affirmed by an autopsy that showed the infants’ deaths were not natural. An investigation led to the arrest of one Miyuki Ishikawa, two conspirators, and the reveal of a morbid practice that included the death of over one hundred infants.

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Miyuki Ishikawa, born 1897, date of death unknown) was a Japanese midwife and serial killer who is believed to have murdered many infants with the aid of several accomplices throughout the 1940s. It is estimated that her victims numbered between 85 to 169, however the general estimate is 103. When she was finally apprehended, the Tokyo High Court’s four-year sentence she received was remarkably light considering that Miyuki’s actions resulted in a death toll so high that it remains unrivaled by any other serial killer in Japan. According to a report of Children’s Rainbow Center, writer Kenji Yamamoto referred to the incident as “unbelievable and unbearable.”

Much of Miyuki’s early life is unknown. Born in 1897 in the southern Japanese town of Kunitomi, she attended and graduated the University of Tokyo, later marrying Takeshi Ishikawa.

Miyuki’s career led to her being a midwife at the Kotobuki maternity hospital and then becoming its director.

Through neglect, Miyuki killed somewhere between 103 and 169 infants. While the other midwives in the hospital knew of the practice, the local government ignored the deaths. This resulted in multiple midwives leaving the hospital.

If the act of killing the defenseless wasn’t repulsive enough, Miyuki then enlisted her husband and a doctor to take advantage of the situation. Dr. Shiro Nakayama drew up false death certificates for the infants that were killed,

Shiro Nakayama

and Miyuki’s husband went around asking the parents for large sums of money, telling them that it would be cheaper to pay them instead of raising the child.

After the Waseda police found the five corpses, an investigation led to the arrest of Miyuki, her husband, and the doctor. A citywide search also led to the discovery of forty infant corpses in a mortician’s house, and thirty more under a temple.

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During trial, Miyuki argued that the parents who deserted the children were responsible for their deaths. This defense received support from a large section of the public- a fact that was reflected in Japanese law, which gave infants almost no rights. Consequently, Miyuki was sentenced to eight years of prison. For their part, Miyuki’s husband and Dr. Nakayama received only four years imprisonment. Miyuki and her husband even managed to halve their sentences through an appeal.

This incident is regarded as the principal reason the Japanese Government began to consider the legalisation of abortion in Japan.One of the reasons this incident was thought to have occurred was as the result of an increase in the number of unwanted infants born in Japan. On July 13, 1948, the Eugenic Protection Law (now the Mother’s Body Protection Law) and a national examination system for midwives was established. On June 24, 1949, abortion for economic reasons was legalised under the Eugenic Protection Law in Japan.

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Forgotten History-Auschwitz’s Midwife

When I first starting compiling these Forgotten WWII stories, I reckoned I would be able to do 20-25 max, since so much was already written about the era.

But how wrong I was! Every time I do one story another one pops up. As in this case I was actually doing research on the real von Trapp family(from Sound of Music fame) when as a side note I saw the name of  Stanislawa Leszczynska, it was completely unrelated to the Von Trapp story but curiosity killed the cat and I had to look into the story of Stanislawa Leszczynska and am I glad I did, since her story is much more intriguing then the von Trapps( I don’t like Sound of the Music anyway).

Stanisława Leszczyńska (May 8, 1896 – March 11, 1974) was a Polish midwife who was incarcerated at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, where she delivered over 3,000 children.She is an official candidate for canonization (sainthood) by the Catholic Church.Several hospitals and organizations in Europe are named after Stanisława; the main road at Auschwitz concentration camp museum is named after her; and so is a street in the city of Łódź.

Born Stanislawa Zambrzyska in 1896, she married Bronislaw Leszczynski in 1916 and together they had two sons and a daughter. In 1922, she graduated from a school for midwives and began working in the poorest districts of Lodz. In pre-war Poland, babies were normally delivered at home. Stanislawa made herself available at any time, walking many kilometers to the homes of the women she helped. Her children recall that she often worked nights but she never slept during the day.

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the onset of World War II, the Leszczyński family was forced to relocate to Wspólna 3 Street when the Łódź Ghetto was created for the Jews by the Nazi occupation administration. Żurawia Street, where they used to live, became part of the ghetto area. The Leszczyńskis began helping ghettoized Jews by delivering food items and false documents. However, Stanisława was caught red-handed, and brought to the Gestapo on February 18, 1943. Stanislawa was arrested in Lodz  with her daughter and two sons. The sons were sent to the labor camp at Mathausen and Gusen to work in the stone quarries. She and her daughter, Sylvia, were sent to Auschwitz where they arrived on April 17, 1943. They were given the numbers 41335 and 41336, tattooed on their forearms. They would remain as mementos of the camp. The Nazis sent the two boys as slave labour to the stone quarries of Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.Leszczyńska never saw her husband again; he died in the Warsaw Uprising.

Stanisława was relegated to women’s camp maternity ward along with her daughter, who had been a medical student before the war broke out.Stanisława met Dr Mengele,and was advised to euthanize the newborns she delivered.

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She did not comply. Leszczyńska did not kill a single child, and whenever possible, used to wrap them up in scraps of fabric or paper and put them under the mother’s rough blankets.

Even though Menegle was clearly opposed to Stanislawa’s saving of Jewish infants and their mothers, he did remark to the other Nazi physicians that not only was she an exceptionally skilled midwife, but that she was the personification of hope prisoners clung to that they may, eventually, escape the camp.

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Years later, she described how she put her life at risk to save newborns in a work called Raport położnej z Oświęcimia (The Report of a Midwife from Auschwitz). She described how the newborns were snatched away, taken to another room, and drowned in a barrel by Schwester Klara from Germany, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz for infanticide, and her assistant,Schwester Pfani Of the 3,000 she delivered, some 2,500 newborns perished; a few hundred others with blue eyes were sent away to be Germanized. Only about 30 infants survived in the care of their mothers.

Before she arrived at the camp in April 1943, all the newborns of prisoners in the infamous Nazi concentration camp were drowned and allowed to be ripped apart by rats before his or her mother’s eyes.

During her imprisonment, Stanislawa helped deliver over 3,000 babies. But there was something even more remarkable than her trying to cope amidst these hostile conditions. As she explained to her son, the Lagerarzt ordered her to make a report on the infections and mortality rate for mothers and infants. She replied, “I have not had a single case of death, either among the mothers or the newborns.” The Lagerarzt‘s response was a look of disbelief. “He said that even the most perfectly handled clinics of German universities cannot claim such success. In his eyes I read anger and envy.” In a self-deprecating manner, Stanislawa attributed this to fact that “the emaciated organisms were too barren a medium for bacteria.” However, her children and fellow inmates ascribe this miraculous record to causes more than natural.

 

Expectant mothers did not realize what was going to happen to their babies and many traded their meager rations for fabric to be used for diapers after the birth.Stanisława remained the camp’s midwife until it was liberated on January 26, 1945.

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When time for delivery approached, the already famished mother had to give up her bread ration for a time in order obtain a sheet which would be used to make diapers and clothing for the child. Needless to say, the Nazis did not provide such things. To make things worse, there was no running water in the barracks which made cleaning diapers a risky experience, since inmates were not permitted to move freely in the block. Any cleaning had to be done surreptitiously. Finally, there was no extra food or milk allocated for the infants. But simple neglect apparently did not satisfy the camp administrators. Thus, criminal inmates were employed to dispose of the troublesome infants.

Until May 1943, all the children born in Auschwitz were drowned in a barrel. These operations were performed by Schwester [sister] Klara, a German midwife who was imprisoned for infanticide. “As a Berufsverbrecherin (one guilty of occupational crime), and thus forbidden to practice her profession,” says Stanislawa, “she was entrusted with a function to which she was more suited.” Later, Klara was aided by a German prostitute, the redheaded Schwester Pfani. “After each delivery, the mothers were able to hear the characteristic gurgle and splashing water” as their babies were disposed of.

The situation changed somewhat in May 1943. “Aryan-looking” children, with blue eyes and fair hair, were spared Schwester Klara’s treatment and sent to a center in the town of Naklo to be “de-nationalized.” There they would end up in orphanages or were placed with German parents.

Leszczynska was able to use a secret tattoo under the newborns’ armpit to help many of the families reunite after the war.  “As long as a newborn was together with the mother, motherhood itself created a ray of hope. Separation with the newborn was overwhelming,” she said.  “The thought of a possibility of future reunion with their children helped many women go through this ordeal.”

Leszczyńska returned to Łódź, and her children also arrived there from the forced labour camps. She settled in an apartment at 99 Zgierska Street and continued working as a midwife locally. Remembering Auschwitz, she prayed over every child she delivered. On January 27, 1970 Stanisława attended an official celebration in Warsaw, where she met the women prisoners of Auschwitz and their grown-up children who had been born in the camp.She died four years later. In 1983 the School of Obstetricians in Kraków was named in her honor.

Stanislawa Leszczynska (eligelavida)