Suspected Nazi doctor honored

June 5, 2008 3:20:13 PM PDT
A German medical association is drawing intense criticism for awarding its highest honor to a suspected Nazi war criminal.

It's been 14 years since the ABC7 I-Team first investigated the case of Dr. Hans Sewering and his connection to the Bay Area.

"Well, they had killing squads called 'einsengroupen,'" said Holocaust researcher Dr. Michael Franzblau.

Retired Marin County Doctor Michael Franzblau lost 25 relatives on one horrific day during World War II. Nazis locked the family members in their synagogue in Poland, set it on fire and shot those who tried to escape.

"I live with the thought of the Holocaust every single day of my life, even though I'm now 81," said Dr. Franzblau.

Years later, during research on medical ethics, Franzblau stumbled upon the case of Hans Sewering. The German doctor became a member of the Nazi SS and helped implement Hitler's plan for a master race.

Because many of his young patients were disabled, Sewering sent 900 German children from the sanitarium where he worked to a killing center.

Dr. Franzblau made it his life's mission to bring Sewering to justice.

"I see this man as embodying everything evil that ever took place in my lifetime, as his behavior as a doctor," said Dr. Franzblau.

After that interview in 1994, the I-Team went to Germany to investigate.

Dan Noyes: "They were taken away?"

George Kutscher, Director Schoenbrunn Sanitarium: "They were taken away, yes, yes, by Nazi doctors."

We visited the sanitarium where Dr. Sewering worked and found two elderly nuns who were there at the time. They declined to appear on camera, but answered our questions through their mother superior.

They gave a heart-wrenching account of when the children and other patients were taken away to die.

"We suffered with the women, the men, the young kids. We wept and cried with them. We prayed for them," said Sister Benigna Siri from the Schoenbrunn Sanitarium.

In the sanitarium's records, we found the case of Babette Froewiss. The 14-year-old lived there because of her monthly epileptic seizures. But on October 26th, 1943, Doctor Sewering signed an order sending her to the nearby killing center.

The files show she arrived healthy, but within two weeks, she was gone, buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the killing center.

We found Babette's brother in the local phone book.

Dan Noyes: "It's been so long, do you think that Sewering should be prosecuted?"

Babette's brother, Wilhelm Froewiss in September 1994: "Certainly, certainly, for punishment, it's never too late."

Then, we tracked Dr. Sewering, ironically enough, to the town of Dachau. It was in Dachau that more than 35,000 people died in one of the Nazi's most notorious concentration camps.

Just a few kilometers away, we found Sewering still practicing medicine.

"Hey, no comment, no comment," said Dr. Sewering.

He wouldn't speak with the I-Team, but in published reports, Sewering denied knowing the children would die after he transferred them from the sanitarium.

Sewering's son: "You leave only without the film."

Dan Noyes: "No, I'm sorry, that's not going to happen."

Sewering's son, his partner in the medical practice today, tried to keep us from telling this story.

Dan Noyes: "I''m leaving the room."

Sewering's son: "Call the polizei."

The police came and when we told them about our attempts to speak with Sewering, one officer answered, "oh, that old Nazi."

Our investigation got the attention of the U.S. Congress, which passed a resolution urging the German government to prosecute Sewering.

"This is an abomination. The children who were murdered deserve justice. Their families deserve justice," said Sen. Rick Santorum (R) Pennsylvania.

But nothing happened. Sewering continued his medical practice and now, at the age of 92, the Professional Association of German Internists is honoring him with its top award for "services to the nation's health system."

"I think it's throwing gasoline on a fire, is what it is," said Jonathan Bernstein from the Anti-Defamation League.

The award comes as a shock and disappointment to the Bay Area director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"Many Nazis have been prosecuted, as you know, but for some reason, this case just won't go anywhere," said Bernstein.

Dr. Franzblau says despite his best efforts, Sewering will never be prosecuted because he has too many connections high up in the German government.

"Sewering is being honored when he should be thrown out of the medical profession. At the age of 92 or thereabouts, he will die in his bed proving that you can get away with murder in Dachau, Bavaria," said Dr. Franzblau.

But Franzblau says, just telling this story, detailing Sewering's role in the deaths of 900 children is one form of justice.

After our first investigation, the Department of Justice placed Dr. Hans Sewering on its watch list, barring him from entering the United States.


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