Monday, March 6, 2023

Ellen Hampton's "Doctors at War"

Historian and author Ellen Hampton began writing as a journalist in the 1980s in Miami and Central America before moving to France and starting a family in the 1990s. After earning a doctorate in history from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, she taught at Sciences Po and other universities, and worked until 2019 as the Paris Resident Director for the City University of New York exchange program. She has co-written film scripts and directed historical exhibits on the two World Wars, and currently serves as editor of Trinité, the magazine of The American Cathedral of Paris.

Hampton applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Doctors at War: The Clandestine Battle against the Nazi Occupation of France, and reported the following:
Page 99 opens with the liberation on April 11, 1945 of Buchenwald, where several hundred doctors numbered among the 110,000 prisoners in the camp and its subcamps around the town of Weimar. A week later, Dr. Toussaint Gallet was back in Paris and working as medical supervisor at the receiving station for tens of thousands of ill and damaged returnees from concentration camps across Germany. Gallet, a gynecologist, had spent eight months at Buchenwald after being arrested by the Gestapo for resistance work. After he died in 1970, a fellow prisoner recalled Gallet's precious gift for helping others survive their bitter ordeal.
A doctor he remained in the jungle of the camp, a doctor with bare hands who could not treat the body, but a doctor to the lost, the weak, and to those who had given up," said Dr. Henri Parlanges. "How many of us found, thanks to him, the hope or simply the indispensable calm to continue to 'hold on'? How many felt stronger for having shared his strength, soothed because he could communicate his serenity? Help in overcoming weakness often meant saving a life. Many of us returned only because we had the luck, at a decisive moment, to meet an exceptional human being like our friend Gallet.
The Page 99 Test works beautifully here in the sense that Dr. Gallet is one among many doctors in the book who found themselves in the most dire circumstances of their lives, trapped in a moral labyrinth between collaboration and resistance. Many of them found an inner resilience to carry them through, whether they were organizing clandestine missions, secretly treating fallen Allied aviators, or providing false medical certificates to keep French workers from being sent to Germany. Their motto began with the eternal oath: Primum non nocere. As doctors, they had laissez-passer to circulate after curfew, and access to a broad array of contacts. But they had to be careful, there were others in the medical profession, as well as devious network infiltrators, who were only too ready to denounce resistance activity. As a Gestapo interrogator told one doctor: "You played, you lost, now you pay." Like Gallet, after Buchenwald, he counted it a personal victory over the Nazi program to have simply survived.
Visit Ellen Hampton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue