Holocaust Memorial Day is on 27th January, a day of remembrance for the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. It also remembers the millions of victims of Nazi persecution and discrimination such as black, disabled, LGBTQ and Roma people and political and religious opponents of the Nazis, and the victims of more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and the Darfur region of Sudan.
Under the many anti-Jewish laws that attacked the fundamental human rights of Jewish people, Jewish doctors were initially allowed to provide healthcare solely to other Jews, and subsequently were not allowed to practise medicine at all. Some Jewish doctors managed to escape before the Holocaust and many came to the UK as refugees where, from 1941, they could apply to the General Medical Council (GMC) for temporary registration under the Defence Regulation 32B and the Medical Register (Temporary Registration) Order 1941.
Around 4,200 doctors registered under this provision, including many who had fled Nazi persecution. After the war, practitioners who had held temporary registration could apply for full registration. Around 1,000 did so, including Dr Edward Katz.
Dr Katz was born in 1913 in Berlin and escaped the Nazi regime by coming to the UK in the 1930s. He was initially exempted from internment in 1939, although he was later briefly interned in 1940. Once released, he was granted temporary registration on 25 June 1941 and worked at the Princess Alice Memorial Hospital in Eastbourne for the duration of the war.
After the war, he emigrated to the United States to be reunited at last with members of his family who had fled there in 1939. He changed his name to Ernest Katz Kent and died in New York at the age of 85.
Unlike most Jewish medical students, Dr Katz was permitted to finish his studies and to complete his ‘practical year’ but, solely on the grounds of his ethnicity, he was barred from receiving his diploma and being recognised as a doctor.
Dr Katz had to find alternative ways of proving his medical qualification, writing to the GMC in 1941 to explain: ‘After the completion of his practical year every German candidate of medicine is automatically entitled to practise medicine, surgery and midwifery in Germany, and gets a proper diploma. Jewish candidates, however, are denied a diploma according to the anti-Jewish laws. All I could get as a Jewish candidate was this certificate, which I enclose again in the original and in the English translation that certifies I have fulfilled the assumptions regarding the practice of the medical professional within the German Reich apart from the proof of Aryan origin.’
‘No Jewish candidate of medicine did get any document proving his ‘deed of approbation’; in fact this was annulled to those Jewish practitioners in possession of it, as it happened to my father, who had been a rather well-known children’s specialist in Berlin for over 30 years.’
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust fully recognises all those who were victims of such atrocities and recognising the frustrating journey that Dr Katz endured to be recognised professionally is a wonderful way to educate people, including children, who can now use his story to learn more about his journey, from Germany, Eastbourne and then onto New York.
- East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust provides NHS hospital and community services throughout East Sussex. It provides services at two district general hospitals, Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne District General Hospital, community hospitals in Bexhill, Crowborough, Lewes, Rye and Uckfield and a number of clinics and health centres, GP surgeries and in people’s homes.