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On Remembering and Action


Culture, civilization, democracy, justice, these are fragile goods that must be actively protected on a daily basis. Their long-standing presence should not obscure the fact that entire societies can topple over, as it were, and unleash the darkest impulses. Ivan Lefkovits told of this from his own experience in the course Doctors and Lawyers under National Socialism as part of the Medical Humanities curriculum.

Persecuted as a Jew, Lefkovits was hidden from the Nazis in a home for deaf-mute children in Budapest. In order not to be exposed, he was not allowed to show his fear when the bomb alarm went off. Months later he was arrested by the Nazis and deported with his mother in a cattle truck to Ravensbrück. In the camp there, the dead were still known by name, Lefkovits says, unlike in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, to which he and his mother were eventually taken.

There, the then eight-year-old learned that the complete disinhibition of inhumanity in Nazi Germany had already become bureaucratic normality. Brutality and suffering were inconceivable. As the British approached the camp in 1945, the fleeing Germans blew up the water pipes, leaving thousands of inmates to die of thirst. Lefkovits and his mother barely survived.

Lefkovits says he would rather not talk about his experience, but he understands that he had to because so many millions could not. The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Basel considers itself very fortunate that Ivan Lefkovits accepted its invitation on March 7 to talk about his horrific experience to students in the Human Medicine and Law programs. He helped the students to understand that culture, civilization, democracy, justice are fragile goods that need to be actively protected on a daily basis.

In this session, held in collaboration with the Gamaraal Foundation, and other sessions of the interprofessional teaching format, students from both disciplines will approach the question of how it could happen that a large part of the medical profession, as well as the legal profession, failed morally and played their part in the murder of millions of Jews, people with disabilities and other population groups - and: what can future doctors and lawyers learn from this for the present?


  • Prof. em. Alexander Kiss(USB Psychosomatics);
  • Prof. Bijan Fateh-Moghadam (Law Faculty Uni Basel)
  • Contact: michael.wilde@unibas.ch