• Kyodo


The city of Wriezen in eastern Germany has recently marked the 60th anniversary of the death of a Japanese medical scientist who contributed much to treating patients with typhus shortly after World War II.

Nobutsugu Koenuma was himself infected with typhus and died at the age of 37 in Wriezen on March 8, 1946.

Some 30 city officials and former nurses who had worked together with Koenuma participated in a memorial service Wednesday at City Hall and placed a plaque in Koenuma’s honor at the city’s medical center. Wriezen Mayor Uwe Siebert was among the participants.

The plate, written both in Japanese and German, says Koenuma “opened a hospital in this building for typhus patients. The doctor, together with many supporters, including city officials, saved the lives of a number of residents and war-displaced people. He was himself infected with this disease and lost his life to it.”

Born in October 1908, the son of a surgeon in what is now part of the city of Hachioji, western Tokyo, Koenuma studied radiology at Nippon Medical School and then at the Imperial University of Tokyo, predecessor of the University of Tokyo.

He left Japan in 1937 to study radiology at the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin. He was the first Asian to qualify as a professor at the Berlin university’s medical school. Shortly after the war, Koenuma became head of Wriezen’s medical center and treated patients infected with typhus.

Koenuma is known to have refused medication to treat himself and instead instructed nurses to save the drugs for other patients.

Wriezen awarded Koenuma the title of honorary citizen in 1992 for his services.