The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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11 May 1933

Certificate issued to Sigmar Karplus confirming his service during the First World War

On 22 April the Reich Labor Ministry issued a decree stripping non-Aryan doctors of the licenses that authorized them to bill their services to the statutory health insurance system. As the CV-Zeitung pointed out on 27 April, the regulation had far-reaching consequences: "Like similar legal regulations directed at lawyers and civil servants, the decree will cause great material hardship for the affected individuals. Above and beyond this, it will be a tremendous test for doctors, who have been professionally trained to perform a non-political service for every person in need."

There were a number of exceptions to this rule: doctors who had taken up their work before the First World War, who had fathers or sons who had fought at the front in the war, or who had fought themselves. Those who had served as medics at the front were also exempt.

The radiologist Sigmar Karplus (1878–1962) met two of these conditions. He had received his medical license in 1902 and—as certified in this document from the Central Search Office for War Casualties and Graves—he had worked for eight months as a senior physician in a military hospital in Thorn. Karplus was evidently required to submit the certificate to the authorities. Because of his exemption, he was able to continue treating publicly insured patients at his practice on Kaiserdamm in Berlin. However, he was no longer allowed to train radiologists.

In late September 1938, the Nazi regime revoked the medical licenses of all Jewish doctors in Germany. Afterward, only a small number of selected physicians were granted permission to work. They were required to call themselves "Krankenbehandler" ("treaters of the sick") and were only permitted to treat Jewish patients. They included Sigmar Karplus, who was thus allowed to keep his practice open. Tipped off by a former non-Jewish patient, Karplus was also able to avoid arrest during the November pogroms

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): Berlin | frontline soldiers | occupational ban | physicians
Certificate issued to Sigmar Karplus confirming his service during the First World War, Berlin, 11 May 1933
Gift of Elsa Shamash, née Karplus

Escape to England

The Karplus family managed to escape to England in 1939. Their two children emigrated in early March on a children‘s transport and Sigmar Karplus and his wife, Rosa, followed a few weeks later. In 1941 Sigmar Karplus was hired as an assistant radiologist at the world-famous Addenbrooke‘s Hospital in Cambridge. In 1947 he opened his own practice as a general practitioner in London.

Rosa and Sigmar Karplus, ca. 1940.
Gift of Elsa Shamash, née Karplus