Back to the roots, back to Freiburg in the 1930s

Freitag, 23. Dezember 2016 | 

Schlagwörter »  |  Thema: 2016-4, Allgemein, englisch, Newsletter, Zu Gast in Freiburg

This November Professor Rita Thakur travelled all the way from California to Freiburg in order to visit the city where her father once studied. Together with the Alumni Office she looked for traces of the 1930s and her father’s years in Freiburg.

In March 2016 Rita Thakur contacted the Alumni Office Freiburg. As daughter of an alumnus of our university, Rita was planning a trip to Freiburg. 80 years after her father studied here she wanted to experience the city herself.

Chhotu Patel at work in India. [photo: private]
Her father Doctor Chhotu Veni Patel grew up in India and moved to Freiburg in the 1930s to study medicine. After graduating he went back to his home country and worked as a surgeon. Only a couple of years later Chhotu Patel became director and chief surgeon of the K.J. Mehta Hospital, a hospital for patients with tuberculosis. As director of the hospital he managed to expand its capacity from 50 beds to 700. Due to the great success of the hospital, he was able to open another tuberculosis hospital 150 miles away. Both hospitals offered free medical treatment to the poor and were equipped with German medical devices. Even forty years after his death Chhotu Patel is very well remembered there: “His name is written on every stone here,” said the director of the K.J. Mehta Hospital in 2001.

Professor Rita Thakur with Dr Cornelia Steaves at the Alumni Office Freiburg. [photo: private]
Despite all his work in India, he remained connected to his beloved university throughout his life. During the 1950s Chhotu Patel visited Freiburg several times and also planned to show the city of Freiburg to his daughter Rita. Unfortunately, they never had the chance to go on this journey together, as Chhotu Patel died in 1966. Nevertheless, Rita Thakur never stopped dreaming of visiting Freiburg and made this wish come true in November 2016.

Together with her husband and two friends she visited Freiburg and the Alumni Office. At the latter she received several mementos of her father as his official Doctor certificate and a lecture timetable from 1935 giving information about courses, professors and the medical departments in Freiburg. Furthermore, a student working at the Alumni Office took Rita Thakur and her friends on a tour to the buildings of the medical school of the University of Freiburg. With the help of old city maps and lecture timetables it was possible to reconstruct the “Institutsviertel” (the area where the medical school is located in Freiburg) of the 1930s. Thus, Rita Thakur could vividly imagine the city where her father once studied, despite the fact that many buildings had been destroyed during the Second World War.

For Rita Thakur this was a very special journey not only to Freiburg but also to her father’s past. And for the Alumni Office it was truly an honor to welcome her. It demonstrated once more how lives are closely connected to the university.

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