The Possessed Surgeon Poem by Paul Hartal

The Possessed Surgeon

The German surgeon, Ferdinand Sauerbruch,
was a leading medical figure in the 19th century.
He became world renowned in the field of
chest cavity operations, conducting thoracic
surgery in a low pressure chamber.
Sauerbruch was filled with enormous confidence
in his own medical skills and abilities.
He was also a haughty snob, a philanderer,
aggressive and short tempered. At the same time
he was not corrupted by money and treated
his patients, both rich and poor with equal devotion.

In the spring of 1945
when the Red Army occupied Berlin,
the Soviets treated the great surgeon
with utter reverence
and General Kotikov gave him a car as a personal gift.

Unfortunately, Sauerbruch at this time was already
an aging doctor,74 years old and he suffered from
cerebral sclerosis. As a practicing surgeon he became
as dangerous with a knife as a drunk person might be.
Indeed, in 1946 when Sauerbruch had operated on
the German actor Hans Greif. He wounded his patient's
arterial blood vessels and Greif died the next day of

If this was not enough, complaints accumulated that several
patients died in the in the operating room of Dr. Sauerbruch
and that he performed surgery with dirty hands.
In one specific case that occurred in 1949,
the doctor removed a cancerous tumor from a young man's
stomach, cut part of the intestine, too, but then had sutured it
separately from the stomach. The patient died shortly
after the operation.

In view of his numerous blunders, pressure increased on
Sauerbruch to give us his practice and retire. But the doctor
reacted with anger to these suggestions and flatly refused
to quit. Eventually, however, he agreed to leave behind his
hospital position and take a pension with the condition that
he would continue to work as a consultant at a private clinic.

By this time Sauerbruch was an impoverished person.
In order to earn some money he agreed to write and publish
his memoirs. The book was ghost written by Hans Rudolf
Berndorff. The memoir abounds in Munchausen-like lies,
claiming that the author did surgery on General Ludendorff,
Hindenburg, Lenin, Mussolini and the King of England.

Clinging desperately to his former glorious past, Sauerbruch
refused to say good-bye to his beloved surgical instrument.
He was obsessed and possessed by it.
Although he was forbidden to practice surgery
at clinics and hospitals, the doctor continued to perform
operations in the gloomy squalor of his own home,
operations that had been carried out without anesthesia
and with filthy instruments.

Sauerbruch was so eager to use his surgical knife
that he searched for varicose veins, cysts, nods
and any sort of visible growth on every person that he met.
'I must operate on you', he told every person that now
he came into contact. 'I'll do it at once', he said.
On a visit to a former lover, Erna Hanfstaengl,
he examined her hands and told her
that he must remove the dark age spots from them.

In 1951 Dr. Sauerbruch was still performing operations.
He removed without anaesthetics a cancerous tumor
from the throat of a former patient.
She died in a hospital several months later
of complications resulting from the operation.

On a sunny day in May of the same year,
Dr. Sauerbruch was taken for a ride by his driver
through green farmlands. He told the driver to stop the car
and started to walk towards a farmer working on the field.
For no apparent reason the doctor became angry
with the farmer and began to shout insults at him.

This episode lasted only for a short pause
and then Sauerbruch suddenly felt a sharp pain
in his stomach and he collapsed.
The driver took him to hospital.
Dr. Sauerbruch died on July 2,1951, aged 75.

True History
Error Success