Time Does Not Heal All Wounds: Anne Spoerry As Mama Daktari

Buried in Lamu, Kenya after decades as a doctor and nurse attending to millions of east African’s by remote plane, Anne Spoerry (1918-1999) has earned her rest.  Filmmaker and novelist John Hemingway first had contact with her in 1980, but she refused to speak to him regarding his requests about her past.  Upon her death and burial in Lamu, a distant nephew arrived to reveal a safe filled with documents piecing together her time at Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp for women 60 miles north of Berlin.

The cache a papers revealed that she was known as Dr. Claude, a notoriously brutal “kapo”, and close associate to Carmen Mory, otherwise known as Black Angel for her torture, mercy killings brutality dished out in Ravensbruck.  Carmen Mory clearly had bewitched Spoerry.  Spoerry would spend the rest of her life in atonement for that relation.

Known throughout East Africa as Mama Daktari, she left Switzerland after liberation and began a new life in Kenya as a doctor for an NGO titled Amref Health Africa, a flying doctors service piloted by her for decades until her death.

Her life is told by John Heminway with “In Full Flight: A story of Africa & atonement”.

In typical fashion, Spoerry kept detailed documentation of her compass as wandering doctor; her personal cache of documents also revealed the shame she experienced as collaborator and perpetrator.  Heminway’s best contribution to this book is his tireless reproach to French officials who finally permitted him to read her confession as a Nazi collaborator and French resistance fighter.

Rest in peace, Mama Daktari, its finally over. 



About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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