Personal Views

Prisoner of war camps—memories of a remarkable evening

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7225.1649 (Published 18 December 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1649
  1. O L Wade, retired professor of therapeutics and clinical pharmacology
  1. University of Birmingham, 26 West Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6DN

    It is almost 35 years ago now. There were three of us: Professor Jim Crooks of Dundee, Dr Moeschlin of Lucerne, and I. We had been working for the World Health Organisation in Geneva. It was our last evening together. Dr Moeschlin, who knew Geneva well, was taking us to a small auberge on the outskirts of the city for our evening meal.

    We were walking along one of the wide boulevards of Geneva when there was a shout. A man on the other side of the road broke off from some friends and dashed across the road. He grasped Moeschlin and hugged him and kissed him and, in broken German that was hard to understand, thanked him again and again and again for saving his life and the lives of his colleagues. It all took quite a time, for the man, a Pole, was clearly overwhelmed at seeing Dr Moeschlin again. Jim and I, and the small crowd that had gathered around, understood that somehow Dr Moeschlin had saved the life of this man and the lives of other Poles in a German prisoner of war camp in 1944.


    Embedded Image

    “Prisoners of War” by Gregoire Michonze (b 1902)

    (Credit: STERN ART DEALERS/BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY)

    A German POW camp in Poland

    Later that evening after our dinner as we sat in front of a fire, Moeschlin explained that during the war he had worked for the Swiss Red Cross and that …

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