Walter Seitz is one of the few members of the DGIM who can clearly be attributed to the resistance against the Nazi regime. He had returned to his former place of study, Berlin in 1933, after having passed his exams in Munich. He knew that it was comparatively easy to find employment at the Charité. In later memoirs Seitz writes: "I returned to Berlin on April 1, 1933, to take up a position as a doctor at the Charité. [...] The Berlin Charité was looking for doctors because Jewish colleagues had been dismissed. In my circle of friends I had been severely reproached: 'You are taking over this position?' But it was still the time of unemployment, and I had to decide quickly."1
Seitz moved from the Charité to the pharmaceutical company Schering in 1939, in whose research department he felt comparatively secure. Seitz recalls, "I worked in a medical-scientific department where there were only those opposed to Nazism. They had all been kicked out somewhere, had to protect themselves, one had formerly been in the KPD, one had a Jewish grandmother, all had 'some kind of flaw'. It was an island. The head of department in question saw to that."2 This head of department was Emil von Behring's son Hans.3
In the "Retterwiderstand" (Resistance)
From this position, Seitz intensified his activities directed against the Nazi regime. The conductor Leo Borchard founded a resistance circle in 1940 called "Uncle Emil", named after Seitz's alias. Seitz was in contact with Leo Borchard, Fritz von Bergmann – the doctor and son of Gustav von Bergmann – the journalist Ruth Friedrich and the communist doctor Wolfgang Kühn, who temporarily made himself available to the Yugoslavian partisans. The contact network also included other individuals from Berlin's upper middle class. One of their operations included the distribution of the last White Rose leaflet in Berlin and its forwarding to Sweden and Great Britain.4 Concrete help was given to some of the more than 21,000 Berlin Jews who were forced to work in the armaments industry and lived in private apartments until early 1942. Seitz issued certificates for these people, which they carried with them as a precaution so that they could identify themselves as sick and unfit for transport in case of emergency.5
A total of six doctors from this context joined forces in 1943 to organize special medical aid. This group, of which Walter Seitz was a member, called itself "Freies Deutschland" and could be reached through the Paul-Gerhardt-Stift in Wedding. It procured medication for those persecuted, issued certificates, and forged identity papers.6
In the meantime, Walter Seitz had been appointed as a senior physician and head of the X-ray department at the Augusta Hospital in 1941. He temporarily worked at an alternative hospital in Silesia.
In the Underground
Seitz was denounced in 1944 after he had again given sick leave to forced laborers in Berlin against his better judgment. He went into hiding and stayed illegally in Berlin from then on. It is documented that Seitz obtained a Dutch passport for Ralph Neumann, an escaped Jew, and obtained further official papers in a burglary. With these, persecuted persons could be passed off as victims of aircraft bombings and food stamps could be obtained.7
Clinical Director in Munich
Walter Seitz, who died in 1997 at the age of 91, became director of the Medical Polyclinic of the University of Munich in 1947, which he headed until 1973. His opposition to National Socialism was well known in Munich, especially since Gustav von Bergmann had also moved from the Spree to the Isar.8 He remained politically active and was a member of the Bavarian state parliament for the SPD from 1950 to 1954.9 The DGIM made him an honorary member in 1985.
Seitz had a rather atypical appearance as clinic director, was a "unique boss" who paid special attention to good patient care and appropriate staff training.10 Not particularly ambitious in the scientific field, and anything but an "elbow man," he allowed his students great freedom.11 It seemed important to Seitz to integrate psychotherapeutic approaches in the polyclinic. He arranged for the establishment of a psychosomatic counseling center.12 Johannes Cremerius was its director. He later moved to Freiburg. To the astonishment of Seitz's clinic staff, Cremerius was able to explain almost all diseases, including diabetes, in psychosomatic terms.13 The appointment of Hellmut Mehnert to Seitz's clinic was also unconventional. Without ever having been a senior physician, Mehnert, who later became DGIM chairman, was immediately appointed chief physician.14