Manual Unser König: Friedrich der Große und seine Zeit - Ein Lesebuch (German Edition)

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Redeker was an influential force in the development of the West German health service in the s and s. Like Sauerbruch and many of their colleagues, he was never forced to engage critically with the medical profession's collaboration with Nazi programmes, or explain his own involvement. Sauerbruch's dismissal and tribunal rallied together many of his colleagues.

The Berlin mayor hoped that he would at the very least still carry on with his medical practice. If you are therefore being persecuted today—that is bitter indeed. One forgets that you have reached the highest standards in your profession to the benefit not only of Germany but of the whole world, and you have done this at a time when politicians only seemed keen on destruction.

What would people have said if you had, like others, gone into exile: that would have been desertion from our great country which was filled with suffering. By remaining here you have helped us all, you have helped us believe in a better future during the terrible, hate-filled Nazi time. His egocentricity, personal pride and sense of medical mission were coupled with utter naivety in political matters. He simply found it hard to understand how he could ever have figured in politics, ever exerted political influence.

Later chapters examine the successes and failures of the denazification programmes in much more detail.

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What matters here is that Sauerbruch's repeated protests against the charges of political activism and proximity to the Nazi regime mirrored those put forward by doctors at denazification tribunals across the country. Their defences were not novel: most had insisted for decades that the medical profession demanded a special and autonomous status. Nonetheless, these proclamations deserve scrutiny for two reasons. First, the fact that a portion of the German medical profession interpreted their work very differently, discussed in the section on the Central Health Administration, resulted in clashes and disagreements within the ranks of doctors and medical officers.

Second, much more was at stake for doctors than had been the case before or elsewhere. Asserting the apolitical nature of their profession became a crucial means of saving individual reputations and careers. The people presented here reacted by mobilizing an often long-held position, designed to rally the medical profession for a joint defence which could limit and contain the damage of the Nazi period. Sauerbruch himself had long argued for the apolitical nature of medicine, despite conspicuous contrary evidence. In September he published an open letter to the German medical profession, defending a view of medicine as fundamentally independent, governed only by medical ethics, and resulting in a godlike perspective and non-involvement in anything as base as politics.

Sauerbruch's position contributed to the power of his department and the formulation of fundamental tenets. In early summer he argued successfully that medical officers and leading hospital positions must be appointed upon the sole recommendation of his department, and only ratified later by the mayor, because no one else had the required specialist knowledge. Nazi party membership, he insisted, had for many been a means to guarantee the continuation of their medical work; it was not a signifier of political activism, especially not for doctors and medical officers, who by their nature were so averse to politics.

When in officials from one Berlin district proposed not just to remove leading Nazi doctors from their positions but also to sack the Red Cross nurses who had joined the party, Sauerbruch's protest managed to prevent this. Soon, similar declarations could be heard everywhere.


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Once licences were granted and medical journals resumed publication after years of inactivity, they became an important forum. In editorials, birthday greetings, obituaries, and biographical notes on past German medical heroes, authors combined the portrayal of a depoliticized medicine with an insistence on its autonomy. He went on: Nothing proves more clearly our loyalty to the apolitical ideal of medical care than our unfailing devotion to the Sisyphus work of caring for the wounded and sick during war, which lies completely above party politics.

The doctor always only wished to serve. He held his profession sacred and uncontaminated from political dealings—so much so, that all the world's politicians used and abused him and his selfless services as a matter of fact. And eventually we had to witness that type of politicised doctor who applied his knowledge and services to the planned destruction of human life.

We were used politically, without being asked, and in this way some of us were seduced into political crimes.

Friedrich der Große

A later issue of the same journal reprinted the resolution of the West German professional Council of Doctors on the Nuremberg medical trials. It said the trials had illustrated what happened when institutions and bureaucracies were allowed to impinge on and interfere with medicine. No doctor should ever be given orders, instructions or commands, and he should only follow the demands of his science and his professional ethics. Although more careful and cautious, Alexander Mitscherlich and Fred Mielke came to similar conclusions about the importance of medical autonomy in their report on the Nuremberg medical trials.

They noted that [p]hysicians treating patients under a national health insurance are obliged to communicate their diagnosis to the government officials there employed. Thus the original relationship of trust between the doctor and patient is being more and more overshadowed by non-medical considerations. And even today, with the brutal, government-inspired system of extirpation and eugenics ended, the physician must keep on fighting for that freedom of his profession to which the fulfilment of his fundamental duties is forever joined.

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For it seems to be of small moment for the future whether the imposed code of contempt for the dignity of man issues from bureaucratic indifference or ideological aggression. Most of these commentaries focused on general medical practice and the independence of private physicians and medical researchers.

But repeated references to bureaucratic influence, and Mitscherlich's concerns about insurance doctors, show that autonomy was also seen as crucial to medical officers and state-employed doctors. Given their proximity to the state, they were, in fact, identified as needing special protection from political interference. In some features, Mitscherlich's argument differed from that of other commentators. He pointed to the dangers of a mechanistic view of disease and medical care, and argued that one of the central problems underlying Nazi medical abuses was that doctors had adopted overtly utilitarian aims.

An ethically rather than scientifically driven method had to rescue medical practice and restore the doctor—patient relationship.


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The diagnosis that an overpowering and manipulative state bureaucracy was at the heart of Nazi medical abuses was often shared by American and British observers, keen to highlight the similarities between what they saw as the totalitarian states of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The people presented here regularly reminded both their German and Allied colleagues of the importance of their training, their past work experience, and their way of doing things.

Many complained about foreign interference, particularly that by Soviet officers. As though we are academic novices! Eyes Eastwards!

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To them, the expertise and resourcefulness of German doctors and officials were beyond reproach. And incidentally, the local Russian commanders were only rarely sticking to the orders they had received from the Soviet administration. Others were more optimistic about being able to reassert the German heritage. Franz Redeker observed that the Soviet authorities had more or less given them a free hand in the reorganization of the health service.

At a meeting of the Berlin district medical officers in July , he reminded those present that in matters of public health organization and health insurance the German experience was unique and should be replicated and redeveloped. The care for the sick and their provision with medicine and treatment in hospitals are the responsibility of the state.

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Germany has previously stood in between. The Red Army has now let us decide how to solve the problem. Hence we can once more revive the idea of a health insurance. These arguments on the importance of an autonomous medical profession were different in tone from those on the freedom of science and medicine from state control advanced elsewhere. In Britain and the United States, internationalism was asserted as a key ingredient of scientific freedom. At the same time as Dale was lecturing on the virtues of scientific internationalism, in Germany this internationalist rhetoric still lay in its infancy.

Here, nationalism coloured much of the discussion. The resulting contradiction between a resentment of state control and a celebration of German state institutions remained unresolved, even unidentified.

In the discussions in the German medical journals, the statement that some form of international cooperation was necessary, was invariably followed by an insistence that past German findings and traditions were of special value and deserved special protection.

It went on: Just as the German people have to build new homes and houses out of the rubble and ruins of their old buildings by making use of the old stones that have survived the fires, we as free German doctors also want to gather the old, tried and tested stones of our science, so that they can be cleansed, and together with new materials combined in a harmonious international construction of the most noble, honourable and compassionate humanity which knows no national bounds.

Although neither science nor its humane orientation knew national boundaries, specifically German building blocks were to be provided for its reconstruction. In similar language, the biochemist Emil Abderhalden argued a few months later that Germany had to be recognized as an important member of the new international community and deserved equal rights, particularly because of its many past contributions in medicine and science. They remain unforgettable. The German people should and must be inspired by them and recover through them. They can be assured that these cultural and scientific contributions will have a favourable effect and will in the near future be generally accepted again.

The mental gymnastics they performed were in some ways very successful, as we will see in later chapters. By blaming troubles on the intrusion of politics into medicine they removed themselves from the scene of the crime. By maintaining that Nazi medicine had subordinated medical and scientific demands to political ends, that it had made medicine a tool for politicians, they found supporting evidence for their argument on the profession's need for independence. Their allusions to the golden fruits of old German traditions, intellectual strength, and cultural achievements signalled to the occupiers not to meddle, and not to impose new orders or new ways of doing things.

Another expression of this self-awareness of past German achievements can be found in the many newly published, or reprinted and amended, biographies and biographical essays on famous doctors and scientists. They identified older and positive German traditions and called for their application in the present.

In writing about their famous teachers or colleagues, doctors and medical scientists celebrated German idols as the founding fathers or forebears of current good medical practice, and presented themselves as evidence of this heritage's survival. These heroes now reminded them that, after all, not everything about German history was to be regretted.

Although these figures often had significant international reputations, and in many cases had worked abroad for a long time and with foreign collaborators, in these accounts their German ancestry was seen as most crucial. The famous pathologist Rudolf Virchow became a favourite icon of the post-war years. A wealth of articles and biographies celebrated his revolutionary scientific findings, his healthy patriotism, his apolitical dedication to pure medicine, his humane medical practice, his civic-mindedness, his battle against outmoded German structures and institutions, his application of scientific principles to public health—in short, his status as a German role model.

But more recently, Froboese went on, Virchow's name had been tarred by negative propaganda. The young generation of doctors, particularly, had to learn to appreciate his scientific importance, his personal integrity, and true patriotism. May we all resolve to leave this extraordinary man out of the play of wild passions and instead bestow on him the honour and justice he deserves as a seeker of truth!

In these accounts Virchow's participation in the revolution in in Berlin was presented, if at all, as a very marginal episode. Of the pages of Helmut Unger's biography, roughly two deal with Virchow in Before this latest work on Virchow, in the s Unger had published a novel which promoted euthanasia, as well as popular accounts of Robert Koch's and Emil von Behring's achievements.

Along with Virchow, figures such as Robert Koch, Emil von Behring, and Paul Ehrlich were turned into public favourites and portrayed in a similar celebratory light. But now, as positive German national traditions were to be rescued, the Jewish doctor Ehrlich was fitted onto this canvas.

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Ehrlich's former secretary Martha Marquardt republished her memoirs of Ehrlich with a new preface and postscript, and proclaimed: only the shining examples of great men can save us from discouragement and faintheartedness in the face of inhuman atrocities and destruction which have surrounded us—only the examples of a man like Ehrlich, a man who dedicated and sacrificed his whole life to the welfare and healing of mankind, never failing in his idealism, his optimism and his faith … To Ehrlich nothing on earth mattered except scientific research aimed at overcoming suffering and disease, and increasing the happiness of mankind.

A series of advertising flyers by the chemical concern Hoechst made use of these icons see Fig. Farbwerke Hoechst advertising flyer [] This material is not covered by the Creative Commons licence terms that govern the reuse of this publication. For permission to reuse please contact the rights holder directly. This organization had its roots in the Soviet Order No. In the other zones administrations were established only at the local and provincial level, but from the beginning the Soviet authorities focused on centralized administrations, or quasi-ministries, charged with a range of functions for the whole of the Soviet zone.

For the first few years after its establishment the ZVG had around staff.