Terrorists in Hamburg Redux. (the Shoah)

By Friedman, Steven G. | Midstream, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Terrorists in Hamburg Redux. (the Shoah)


Friedman, Steven G., Midstream


"The attack took more than the victims' lives. It took their deaths."

Richard Ford

The events of September 11 affirmed that terrorists will always be our silent, lurking neighbors. It matters not who we are or where we live. Although these attacks occurred in New York City and Washington DC, they were planned in Hamburg, Germany. In addition to the 19 hijackers participating in the attacks, it is believed that at least 11 other planners were involved. Suspected hijackers on three of the four planes belonged to a Hamburg-based cell of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's network. Germany is currently a focal point of the investigation into the September 11 attacks, with authorities liaising on both sides of the Atlantic.

A little over half a century ago, Hamburg was the site of another, less publicized terrorist attack. These terrorists were members of the National Socialist Party of Germany, which like Al Qaeda, sought to remake the world. They were not religious fanatics participating in a jihad, but physicians attempting to advance their careers. Their victims were children, and in this massacre too the victims' deaths were taken, as well as their lives.

When the German National Socialist Party ascended to power, the last vestiges of a meritocracy in Germany's professional ranks disappeared. It no longer mattered how much knowledge or experience an individual had. What counted most was fealty to the Party. For those who "talked the talk" and "walked the walk," the rewards could be great. What had taken many individuals years of hard work and privation to attain was now conferred overnight upon the faithful.

With the assistance of the Party, many members of the medical profession attained goals and positions that would have been out of reach, based upon their academic and scientific achievements. Many German physicians greeted the Third Reich with high hopes, awaiting correction of perceived injustices of the Weimar Republic. Germany faced a surplus of physicians in its major cities. Graduating doctors found it difficult to gain entrance into the panel insurance fund system and to establish new practices; an entrance cap limited the number of new members.

The Nazi Party created new job opportunities for physicians: doctors could become consultants for the Reich insurance panel; there was a need for physicians in the burgeoning network of labor camps; and new positions were created within the SS. All three branches of the Wehrmacht sought new doctors, as did the German Labor Front. Following the Hossbach Protocol in 1937, it was clear that more physicians would be needed for the war effort. Young doctors were promised fulfilling careers as Sanitatsoffiziere.

As early as 1933, physicians flocked to the Nazi Party. The Reich had improved the salaries and opportunities for its physicians by solving the "Jewish problem." By 1934, many Jewish physicians had been removed from the panel practice system, and Jewish medical employees had been dismissed from many clinics and universities. Physicians desirous of public or government positions underwent rigorous political screening, and it was essential to have a Nazi title in hand.

In 1935, certain prerequisites for civil service physicians (Amtsarzte) were reduced by shortening the training curricula or eliminating examinations. By 1939, the Reich's health bureaucracy was soliciting adjunct and part-time physicians in addition to full-time Amtsarzte. These individuals would enjoy state-sanctioned privileges, such as the title "Medizinalrat" (senior medical officer), and permission to conduct a private practice.

The Nazi title replaced scholarly contributions. It was now possible to enjoy the usual rewards of formal academic progress without the requisite time and labor. A cadre of pseudo-scholars was formed, mediocre physicians who were prepared to violate their Hippocratic oath and take shortcuts in their science in order to become professors of medicine. …

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