Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
At 6 AM on July 7, 1933 – eighty three years ago – a group of Nazi-loyal Berlin physicians accompanied by members of Hitler´s secret police, Gestapo, entered the building housing Berlin´s “Beratungsstelle für Ärzte” (Advisory Office for Physicians) and by 8 AM arrested between 50 and 60 Jewish doctors who arrived to claim financial help or seek unemployment counselling. In a city where at the beginning of the 1930s 70% of its doctors were Jewish, after April 1933 many of them lost their jobs and were soon denied any recognition of their professional qualifications. The Beratungstelle was a place where they could seek help and most often also received it.
In an attempt to disqualify their Jewish colleagues, the Nazi-faithful, “Aryan” Berlin doctors accused them of being members of a subversive organisation of “Marxists, communists and anarchists” plotting to overthrow the new system. The accusations were repeated in an article published on July 8, 1933 by the by then also Nazi-controlled “Berliner Morgenpost”: the Jewish doctors attempted to harm the Nazi Germany and its people by forming a secret alliance whose activities needed to be stopped. Informed by the Nazi Berlin doctors, the Gestapo arrived to deal with the traitors.
What the article failed to mention was that the Jewish physicians arrested that day – the paper wilfully misquoted their number as 30 – were taken to the notorious SA torture chamber (SA stood for Sturmabteilung, Storm Troops, the original paramilitary wing of the NSDAP) opened inside the restaurant of the State-Exposition-Park “Universum” grounds near the old Lehrter Bahnhof. After interrogating the doctors and subjecting them to horrid physical abuse the group was split and transported to several different makeshift Berlin “prisons” (according to some witnesses, one of them was what currently constitutes the bathroom area of Kreuzberg´s immensely popular restaurant, “Dolden Mädel”, on the corner of Mehringdamm and Kreuzbergstraße).
The prisoners were released a week later, some of them in a condition which required immediate medical attention. By the end of 1938 all of Jewish physicians in lost their licence to practise: in Berlin those were around 1,700 doctors. According to the records, 279 of them were allowed to continue working but not permitted to call themselves “doctors” or “physicians”. They worked as Jüdische Krankenbehandler who could treat only Jewish patients and had no legal right to offer their help to “German” patients (something they often did in secret despite the ban to assist their old patients and their families willing to take that risk themselves).
Out of the over 8,000 licenced Jewish doctors who worked in Germany before the end of 1932, the majority managed to leave the country before the Jewish extermination reached its peak: they settled in Palestina, in the USA, South America, the UK and even as far as New Zealand and Australia. Many, however, stayed. Two thousand German-Jewish physicians were murdered by 1945.