A German doctors’ organization defended its decision to honor a former Nazi doctor.
Hans-Joachim Sewering, 92, was one of four doctors to receive the Professional Association of German Internists’ highest annual award, the Gunther-Budelmann medal, for contributions toward the “independence of the medical profession,” Der Spiegel magazine reported. The award was presented March 30.
Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called the decision a “scandal.” He told the Associated Press on May 26 that Sewering’s past was well known; it had led Sewering to decline the presidency of the World Medical Association in 1993 after the World Jewish Congress threatened to boycott the association.
The Wiesbaden-based association said an investigation into Sewering’s wartime activities was closed in 1993. According to a report from that year in Der Spiegel, Sewering told reporters that he had joined the SS Cavalry Corps in order to protect his medical career, but later admitted that he was a member of a regular SS battalion.
Sewering reportedly joined the Nazi SS in 1933 and became a member of the Nazi party in August 1934. From 1942 he worked as a doctor in a special hospital for tuberculosis patients in Schoenbrunn near Dachau, Germany, where handicapped children were put to death in the Nazis’ so-called euthanasia program.
The doctor, who later served as a president of the German Medical Association and remains an honorary member, has always insisted that he never took part in any murders. But Efraim Zuroff, the Israel director of the Wiesenthal Center, said that “the nurses working with Dr. Sewering knew that the patients sent to the killing center at Eglfing-Haar would very likely be murdered,” so Sewering most likely knew as well.
Zuroff called the award “an insult to his victims and their families, and is incomprehensible in the light of his record.”