Norman Bethune

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Norman Bethune 1928

Henry Norman Bethune (born March 3, 1890 in Gravenhurst, Ontario , † November 12, 1939 in Huangshikou , Tang County , Baoding City , Hebei Province , China ) was a Canadian doctor and internationalist who was a leader in the surgical treatment of tuberculosis and worked as a surgeon in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1937) and in the Republic of China (1938-1939). He died of blood poisoning in the Second Sino-Japanese War on the communist side.


Bethune is from Gravenhurst in the Canadian province of Ontario . After many years of work as a pulmonary surgeon , he decided in 1936 to support the Spanish Republic in its fight against the putschists under Franco .

Doctor in Spain and China

In Spain he initiated the establishment of a blood transfusion service on the front line that flexibly followed the battle, an innovation in the history of the military medical service . Similar services were used, among other things, from the Korean War to 1997 by the USA under the name Mobile Army Surgical Hospital . The new form of wound care led to innovations in the field of blood transport.

Bethune left Spain on June 6, 1937 and arrived in Montreal , Canada on June 18 . He toured the United States and Canada for the next seven months as part of a solidarity campaign. Troubled by news of intensified attacks by the Japanese army on Chinese territory, the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War , he decided to join the Chinese Communist Forces, the 8th March Army , a forerunner of the People's Liberation Army . At the end of February 1938 he joined this army.

Doctor in china

Meeting with the commander

The Chinese medical service was in much worse shape than the Spanish one. There was a lack of material and skilled workers, and the wounded were not treated by doctors at the front, but only after being transported to the hinterland for days. Bethune began to reorganize the medical service, to create opportunities for training and worked with great commitment in the mobile surgical field hospitals he initiated. The funds were nowhere near sufficient to set up a transfusion service or were not available because of the blockade. During an operation, he suffered blood poisoning from a cut, which resulted in his death on November 12, 1939 in Huangshikou Township (黄石 口 乡), Tang County (唐县), Baoding City , Hebei Province .

His work and his tireless commitment made a deep impression in China, especially on Mao Zedong . Mao later published the essay In Memory of Norman Bethune (Chinese original title: 紀念 白求恩 Jinian Bai Qiu'en ), which was about Bethune's time in China. The writing was widespread at least in Mao's time. Mao wrote in the foreword: As a selfless internationalist, Doctor Bethune is a role model for everyone.

Norman Bethune College of Medicine

In 1939, Marshal Nie Rongzhen founded the Norman Bethune College of Medicine in Tang County, Hebei Province . It still exists today and belongs to Jilin University .

Further honors


Web links

Commons : Norman Bethune  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. List of the Top Ten International Friends