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[whitespace] German doctor eludes past, speaker tells LG Rotarians

Los Gatos--Dr. Michael Franzblau resists the words "obsession" and "crusade," but if that's what people call his seven-year battle to bring a former Nazi doctor to justice, so be it.

Franzblau, who spent over $100,000 of his own money in his quest to bring a German doctor accused of killing handicapped children to trial, presented his lecture to a packed Los Gatos Rotary Club luncheon on April 18.

The 73-year-old dermatologist and UC-San Francisco medical ethics professor has pursued Dr. Hans Joachim Sewering since 1993. Sewering, a former SS party member, is accused of transferring disabled German Catholic children to Nazi "Healing Centers," where they were subject to brutal medical tests and eventual euthanasia.

Sewering continues to practice in Germany and has been the country's national medical association president three times. He has repeatedly denied any knowledge or involvement in the Nazi atrocities, despite the fact his signature appears on a number of the transfer orders. The German government also has denied Sewering's involvement.

"I would like the German medical profession to recognize that they have a stain on their honor by his continued presence," Franzblau, who has given over 100 guest lectures on the topic, said following the Rotary luncheon.

Franzblau's seven-year effort has been marked with small successes and failures. In 1995, he spent $62,500 on a full-page ad in the New York Times, asking "Why is the German state of Bavaria harboring an accused war criminal?" He has appeared on "60 Minutes," been to Germany seven times since 1993, and has hired a German attorney to try to get Sewering indicted.

"In every civilized country in the world," Franzblau told the Los Gatos Rotarians, "there is no statute of limitations on murder."

But so far, Franzblau has been unable to bring Sewering to trial. The German medical profession has been extremely protective, as has the government, he said, which blocked his every attempt to get more information. Franzblau said that even the medical groups in the United States and Israel have suggested that he let the matter go. But the former Air Force cadet isn't about to give up.

"The minute you begin to cut corners on any moral basis, it gets easier and easier to do bad things," he said.

Franzblau's one real victory came in 1993, when he successfully challenged Sewering's nomination for president of the World Medical Association, a group created after the Nuremberg trials that advocates medical ethics. When Franzblau notified the association of Sewering's past, it demanded the German doctor's resignation. Sewering resigned, citing a "world Jewish conspiracy."

Since then, Franzblau has continued his efforts, lecturing on medical ethics and German medical atrocities at colleges, medical conventions, seminars and hospitals. Franzblau says that while Sewering's may be an individual case, the issue of doctors reserving their loyalty to patients is a much larger and more timeless issue.

"I feel an obligation to educate medical students throughout the United States on what can happen when doctors do not follow the oath they believe in," he said.

Franzblau has served on innumerable government and medical committees and boards, including the Medical Board of California and the American Medical Association. He has also volunteered his services for international health projects and worked with the United Way.

Franzblau says he is driven by a "moral imperative" and will continue his quest to expose Sewering until he is unable to do so. "I am a physician, an American and a Jew," he said. "These folks on one day murdered 26 members of my immediate family. I have a moral responsibility to my dead relatives who cannot protest, to make sure something like this never occurs again."
Nathan R. Huff

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Web extra to the April 27-May 3, 2000 issue of Metro.

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