It’s April 30, 1945, a little over a week before unconditional surrender by Germany and the declaration of Victory Europe Day, ending World War II in Europe. Qiu Fazu, a German-educated Chinese surgeon, is the attending physician at a hospital in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. Suddenly, a nurse calls him to come out to the street in front of the hospital, where Qiu Fazu discovers a group of Jewish prisoners from a concentration camp, guarded by the SS. A death march. Here’s an account from The BMJ:
…Qiu remembered clearly that he was getting ready to operate when a nurse shouted that there were many prisoners from a concentration camp lying outside. He ran out of his room with his operation cap on, as he had already learnt what happened in the camp. More than 40 ragged prisoners were squatting down on the ground in the corner of a street. Sick and weak, they could not move any further. The SS troops standing there shouted at them and ordered them to stand up.
“I was shocked that they were not able to move any further,” Qiu recalled. He summoned up his courage and told the troops, “These prisoners have typhoid fever. Let me take them away.” The prisoners were released, and the doctors led them to the basement, saving their lives with careful nursing.
One of the supporting nurses, a German student named Loni, would become more to Qiu Fazu than just a colleague at the hospital. The two married soon after the war ended and moved to China in 1946, as he missed his homeland. They would have three children together, surviving the hardships of that tumultuous era known as the Cultural Revolution. The BMJ notes, “Qiu had to clean toilets—‘and this was the only time they were really clean,’ he used to joke. The family had to grow its own food, and he was sent into faraway rural areas to provide medical care for peasants.”
Nevertheless, Qiu Fazu rose to prominence in China, pioneering modern organ transplants in China and authoring a classic textbook on surgery still used in the country. Some have dubbed Qiu, who was a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from 1975 to 1983, “the father of modern surgery”.
Let’s remember Chinese surgeon Qiu Fazu and his German wife Loni, a couple who once helped save precious lives during World War II.