NEW YORK (Jan. 24)
A prominent German doctor accused of being a member of the Nazi SS during World War II has given up the presidency of the World Medical Association, which he had been elected to assume next October.
Hans Joachim Sewering announced his decision to give up the post last Friday, after he was informed that the World Jewish Congress was asking its constituents in 72 countries to persuade their national medical associations to withdraw from the world body over the issue.
Despite Sewering’s decision to relinquish the post, the U.S. Justice Department will continue an investigation of him begun last week, with a view toward placing him on the “watch list” of undesirable aliens barred from entering the United States.
The department on Friday received a 32-page file on Sewering that the WJC obtained from the Berlin Documentation Center, a respected repository of World War II documents.
Information in the file appears to contradict the 76-year-old doctor’s claim that he had only been a member of the SS cavalry, which, he said, was not accused of persecutions.
“His statement that he joined only the cavalry unit of the SS is not borne out by signed documents showing that he joined the SS per se,” said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the WJC.
NUNS ADMIT THEY KNEW
Also in doubt is Sewering’s denial that he knowingly sent a 14-year-old disabled tuberculosis patient to her death in 1943.
The doctor said he could not have known that the Eglfing clinic where he sent Babette Froewis was part of the Nazi euthanasia program because the Roman Catholic order that operated the hospital where he worked would not have countenanced such a thing. But on Saturday, the director and four nuns who worked with Sewering at the Schonbrunn Hospital released a statement admitting that they “knew that these severely physically and mentally handicapped people would be exterminated as socalled ‘unworthy lives.’”
Those who worked at the hospital “knew that from 1940 to 1944, more than 900 of their mentally and physically handicapped patients were sent to their deaths as part of the (Nazis’) euthanasia program,” the statement said.
“In memory of these criminally murdered people, we cannot remain silent any longer,” the nuns said.
According to the WJC, their statement was released at the request of Munich’s bishop, who asked the nuns to “break their silence.”
In New York, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, welcomed “Sewering’s removing himself from consideration for the position” but said that “it would be more significant and meaningful if the German Medical Association,” which nominated him, “would withdraw his name.”