‘My Role as a Doctor’

The Fellowship  |  March 6, 2019

Dated image of an elderly man in a suit.

Dr. Joseph Jaksy


When the Nazis invaded Slovakia in 1944, Dr. Joseph Jaksy felt their evil firsthand. His Jewish wife would surely be killed by the occupying Germans, so Dr. Jaksy procured a fake passport for her and smuggled her first to Budapest and then to neutral Switzerland. But the director of urology at a hospital in Bratislava saw that many other Jews needed help, too, so he decided to act out of kindness and selflessness to save their lives.

Aided by his anti-Nazi assistant named Csiky, Dr. Jaksy realized that Jews could keep from being deported to the Nazi death camps by being admitted as “patients” to his hospital, even if they were not sick at all. This plan saved many Jewish lives, even when it ran into Nazi trouble.

One day, Csiky was alone in the department when Nazis arrived to search for sick Jews. The assistant explained that only Dr. Jaksy had the authority to release the sick, and that the Nazis should return the next day. This gave the “sick” patients enough time to escape.

On another occasion, a Jewish leader named Alexander Eckstein, whose wife was a doctor at the same hospital as Jaksy, and two other Jews from the Bratislava Jewish community were to be rounded up. Instead, Dr. Eckstein told the Nazis that the three needed urgent medical care. When a Nazi soldier escorted them to the hospital, Dr. Jaksy asked him to return in two hours once the treatment was finished. When the Nazi came back, the “patients” were missing. Dr. Jaksy told the German that it was not his responsibility as a doctor to also act as a guard.

Yet another time, Nazis came searching for a particular Jew they knew was being hidden in the hospital. Dr. Jaksy put the man on an operating table, opened his stomach, and told the Nazis that they could not take a patient who was in the middle of an operation.

Dr. Jaksy also helped many Jews financially, making sure they had the monetary means to evade the Nazis.

When the war ended, the Jews who Dr. Jaksy saved wanted to reward him, but the humble doctor did not see what he did as anything special. He moved to the U.S. and taught at a medical school for decades, where none of his students or coworkers knew what he had done during the war.

In the last year of his life, at the age of 91, Dr. Joseph Jaksy was at last recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. In response, he wrote, “What I did, I did in my role as a doctor and out of my feelings as a human being.”

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