Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD
(1910 - 1995)
My Husband, A Medical Spy
After the United States declared war on Japan and Germany my husband
and I felt that one had to take an active part in the defeat of Germany
and thus agreed that he would join the armed forces. As a physician
he would have been inducted into the army in any case, but it was surprising
how many of my so--called liberal medical friends suddenly developed
backaches, knee aches and other debilitating diseases which kept them
out of the army. Even after fifty years I have not forgiven them or
My husband was inducted and received an order to join a Denver tuberculosis
hospital, since he had worked in the tuberculosis department of the
City of New York. One day before he was to leave, he received a telegram
ordering him instead to Washington to join the Army medical corps
in a secret department. It consisted of six to eight officers,
who had one thing in common, the knowledge of foreign languages. The
colonel, the head of this section, had been a dean of public health
at a Midwestern university to which he returned after the war. One
member had been a medical librarian at the library of Congress. Another
was a well-known New York internist who, as a “hobby,” was
a specialist in several Middle Eastern languages. There was a chemist
who had worked at an international pharmaceutical company, a famous
Dutch--born epidemiologist who had lived in China for many years and
spoke Chinese and other related languages, and my husband, an expert
in public health who spoke German fluently and knew other European
languages. From time to time other officers joined the group and were
dispatched all over the world.
This small very secret group (I did not know about it until the war
ended) was used by the army as consultants before they planned to invade
a country or island. The group would inform the military about diseases,
health facilities, climate in advance of the invasion so that soldiers
would receive appropriate inoculations, clothing and physical knowledge
of the dangers involved in fighting in a particular enemy territory.
The knowledge was collected from relevant foreign newspapers, journals,
books, an so on. In 1944, when the war tide turned and the enemy was
on the run, these officers were dispatched with the advancing American
troops. The chemist was sent to Germany to be present when the American
troops re-took the chemical factories in the Rhineland; they were found
to be in surprisingly good condition and were rarely destroyed by bombardments.
There was a reason for this state of affairs but I do not wish to discuss
it at this time. [The subject was not resumed in later essays.] But
they also found that most of the workers had been starving slave laborers
from concentration camps or prisoners of conquered countries who were
worked to death. These front troops were also the first to encounter
and liberate the concentration camps.
My husband was sent to London, where he became a liaison officer between
the central medical units of the Americans and the French. The French
headquarters were at Versailles; therefore, he had to cross the English
Channel frequently, which was a dangerous undertaking since the water
was heavily mined. Also, during this period, London was severely damaged
by the German V 2 bombs. Years later when we visited London, George
showed me the house he had lived in on; his residence was on the top
floor. Even then, long after the war was over, the surrounding houses
were still flattened by the bombs and had not been rebuilt. I almost
fainted when I saw how close my husband had been to being killed.
assignment in London was to interrogate German medical generals and
physicians who had been taken prisoner and had been involved in the
medical experiments conducted on concentration camp inmates. This was
highly secret information and some of it has never been published.
I read a few of these reports secretly, after my husband returned from
Europe, and before he delivered them to Washington. The reports described
unspeakable atrocities. Some of the professors at the medical school
I studied at in Berlin had been involved. When I was a student I had
regarded them as honorable devoted scientists. The shock of learning
about what they had done changed my views forever. No wonder I do not
trust any German even after fifty years.
My husband returned on a troop ship to the United. States, giving medical
care to the soldiers who were seasick or had acquired diseases in Europe.
Since the war was not over, he was assigned to a base hospital in Boston
where he returned to his medical work again. After being debriefed in
Washington, he never returned to his medical unit.