The role of German physicians under National Socialism is highly controversial. We show that Ferdinand Sauerbruch, one of twentieth century's most outstanding surgeons and chair of surgery at Berlin's Charité from 1927 to 1949, openly supported National Socialism in his public statements and in his position as head of the medical section of the Reich Research Council. He was appointed state councilor and received the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross by the National Socialists. But Sauerbruch also supported victims of Nazi persecution, attempted to use his influence to put a stop to the “Euthanasia Program T4,” and in private expressed his criticism of National Socialists. The ambiguous stance of Ferdinand Sauerbruch is probably more typical of the role physicians played during National Socialism than the well-known black-and-white cases.
We show that Ferdinand Sauerbruch—one of the twentieth century's most outstanding surgeons—openly supported National Socialism in his public statements, but Sauerbruch also expressed his criticism of National Socialists. Thus, his ambiguous stance is probably more typical of the role physicians played during National Socialism than the well-known black-and-white cases.
From the Departments of *Radiology, †Medical History, and ‡Fachschaftsinitiative Medizin, Charité, Medical School, Humboldt-University, Berlin, Germany; and §Department of Medical History, University Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Reprints: Marc Dewey, MD, Institut für Radiologie, Charité, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Schumannstr. 20/21, 10117 Berlin, Germany. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.