Protests Erupt Over German Medical Group′s Award to Ex-Nazi | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.05.2008
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Protests Erupt Over German Medical Group's Award to Ex-Nazi

Jewish Groups and Nazi hunters have slammed a German medical association’s decision to honor a 92-year-old doctor suspected of participating in Hitler’s euthanasia program.

Hans-Joachim Sewering

Sewering, photographed here in 1977, denies knowledge of the Nazi's euthanasia program

A spokesman for Germany's Central Council of Jews called the decision by the Professional Association of German Internists to honor Nazi doctor Hans-Joachim Sewering “a scandal.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem has also protested the move.

On Saturday, May 24, Sewering was honored with the top award of the German internists group, known as the BDI.

The award was presented for having “perfomed unequalled services in the cause of freedom of the practice and the independence of the medical profession, and to the nation's health system," according to a BDI press statement.

But Stephen Kramer from the Central Council of Jews said Sewering's Nazi past was well known. In 1993 he was publicly pressured to decline the presidency of the World Medical Association because of his alleged Nazi activities.

The BDI, which has some 25,000 members, defended its decision, saying Sewering had been investigated by German prosecutors and was never charged.

Magazine: evidence of euthanasia experiments

On Wednesday, May 28, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff, asked the group to retract the honor, and to take back the Guenther Budelmann medal Sewering was awarded.

Der chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, holding a picture of Nazi criminal Aribert Heim

Wiesenthal Center's Zuroff is a top Nazi hunter

“It is bad enough that Sewering did not have to stand trial for his involvement in the National Socialist mass murders,“ Zuroff told DPA news service. “It is even worse to honor an SS-man and a liar who has so far avoided justice, despite having taken part in euthanasia experiments.”

Since 1978, German news magazine Der Spiegel has published documents testifying that Sewering, while a doctor at tuberculosis clinic at Schoebrunn near Munich, sent a 14-year-old girl to die at a euthanasia center.

Sewering denies knowledge of euthanasia

Sewering has admitted to being a member of the SS, an elite Nazi formation, but has always denied being responsible for euthanasia.

For years, the Wiesenthal Center has been trying to get the Bavarian justice system to pay attention to what it says is proof of Sewering's euthanasia activities.

Sewering is now 92 years old. In 1933 he was a member of the SS, and in 1934 he joined the Nazi party. As a doctor in the tuberculosis clinic in Schoenbrunn, near Dachau, in 1942 he is said to have been involved in the euthanasia program, which targeted handicapped children.

According to the Wiesenthal center, Sewering directly signed over six to eight patients to the death camp at Eglfing-Haar. Three of them were killed there.

Earlier investigations ended

The investigations into Sewering's activities stopped because he claimed ignorance about the killings.

“This claim is false,” Wiesenthal Center's Zuroff told dpa. “The nurses knew they were killing sick people, and the SS doctor didn't? What a joke.”

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