First do no harm is a misquoted line from the Hippocratic oath, but it has been adopted as part of it.The actual translation is “I will utterly reject harm and mischief” however the message is the same.
A great number of Physicians of the Nazi regime did not adhere to the oath. They took the opportunity to do a lot of harm in order to conduct their own experiments.
But some Nazi Doctors did stick to the oath with the aim to heal rather then to harm, and even defy the Nazi regime’s regulations.
US Army Pvt. Bob Levine arrived in England a few days before the Allied forces were to land on Normandy.
He actively took part in the D-Day invasion and his 81-mm mortar crew was right behind the 90th Infantry when the actual invasion took place. The Allied forces met with fierce German opposition, and the intense fighting lasted weeks. In one such encounter, Levine was hit by a grenade that landed very close to him; his right leg was severely damaged in the explosion. He was captured by German forces, along with many other US soldiers. On his way to the POW camp, they were hit by a mortar shell fired by the US Army, which landed very close to POW killing scores of soldiers. Although Bob survived the explosion, his leg took more blows and he became even weaker and lost more blood.
Next thing Levine remembers was a Nazi doctor’s face, inspecting his wounds and reading his dog tag.
Levine said that when this doctor read his dog tag and uttered the words ‘Was ist H?’ he knew then that he would definitely be executed. At that time, every American soldier had a religious designation marked on the dog tag, C for Catholic, P for Protestant and H for Hebrew. He was badly wounded, and was at the mercy of a Nazi doctor, in Nazi-controlled territory, and on top of all that, he was Jewish, Levine called this a recipe for disaster.
The Nazi doctor who treated Levine was Dr Edgar Woll.
When Levine woke up after some time of unconsciousness, he found out that his leg had been amputated, and that the Nazi doctor was gone. His dog tag was missing and there was a note tucked into his pocket. The doctor had written a note on back of a Nazi propaganda card bearing quotes of the Fuehrer. Levine could not understand it, as it was written in German.
The soldier couldn’t understand a word, but he clung to the card for months, hanging onto it while still a POW, after he was rescued by Allied troops and on the ship taking him back to the United States
Once translated, Levine found the note explained exactly why the doctor opted for amputation and detailed his post-surgical treatment:
“Crushed right foot. Fracture of lower leg. Foreign body in upper right leg’s tissue. Opening of the ankle joint. Amputation at place of fracture. Bandage with sulfa. Vaccinated against gas gangrene.”
After this, Levine was transferred to a POW camp, where he stayed until US soldiers liberated them and he was sent home.
The Nazi doctor had definitely saved his life, by performing an amputation, and most importantly removing his dog tag with its mention of ‘H’. The missing dog tags likely spared Levine from Berga, a notorious camp for Jewish POWs where 350 American soldiers were worked to the bone — or the grave.
Levine went back to Normandy in 1981, where he wanted to meet the Nazi doctor but found out that he had died in 1954. A local historian tracked down Dr Woll’s family, who were happy to see Levine and his wife. They had an evening of drinks and toasts together. Levine mentioned to Edgar’s family how grateful he was for what he had done for Levine, to which one of Edgar’s family member said that if it hadn’t been for Levine, they would still be saying ‘Heil Hitler
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