Czech doctors apologize to Jews for persecution

A doctors organization apologizes for a 1938 memorandum that prevented Jews from practicing medicine

Published March 18, 2010 5:47PM (EDT)

A Czech doctors organization has apologized to Jewish doctors for the persecution they endured in pre-World War II Czechoslovakia before the Nazis invaded, an official said Thursday.

Before the war broke out, organizations of Czechoslovak doctors, lawyers and others issued a memorandum Oct 14, 1938 urging the government of Czechoslovakia "to take energetic measures" to prevent the Jews from practicing those professions.

Among those supporting the document were the Doctors Chamber in Prague and the Central Association of Czechoslovak Doctors.

"It was a discriminatory and anti-Semitic document," said Ales Herman of the Czech Medical Chamber, who drafted the apology.

"We apologize for what our predecessors did to you," the document says. It was adopted unanimously by the leadership of the chamber Thursday.

Many Jewish doctors lost their jobs when the government banned them from working in state institutions as a result of the memorandum. At least 1,000 others lost their medical licenses.

Worse persecution came after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939.

Nearly 120,000 Jews lived in the country before the war; 80,000 perished in the Holocaust.

"Better late than never," Dagmar Lieblova, an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor, said of the apology. Lieblova heads an organization of survivors of the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

"I doubt that anybody of those who were persecuted is still alive," Lieblova said. "My father was one of them."

Her father, Julius Fantl, a doctor, was killed by the Nazis in the Auschwitz death camp.

The apology was issued because "we wanted to clear the of name of the medical chamber," Herman said. "That it happened so late is our mistake."

The chamber was banned after the communists took power in 1948 and was re-establish in 1991 after the collapse of communist rule.

The Czech bar association issued a similar apology a year ago.

By Karel Janicek

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