Surgery Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Jewish doctor walked out of an operating room in Germany last week after seeing a Nazi tattoo on his patient’s arm.

“I will not operate on your husband,” he told the patient’s wife. “I am Jewish.” The patient, a 36-year-old man, bore a tattoo of the Reichsadler, the Imperial Eagle, perched on a swastika.

The 46-year-old surgeon had another doctor finish the procedure, according to the daily Bild, which published an article Friday about the incident in the North Rhine-Westphalian city of Paderborn.

Public display of Nazi symbols has been illegal in Germany since the end of World War II. Violation of the law carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.

Prior to the rise of the Third Reich, the eagle was a German national symbol, and continued as such following the war. Currently it is called the Bundesadler.

Responses to the article posted on the newspaper’s website were mixed, with several readers expressing views that the doctor was unprofessional for not being able to separate his own personal feelings from his work. Others observed that the doctor might well have placed himself at risk by continuing: “Imagine, if anything had gone wrong and he was accused of being influenced,” one reader pointed out.

“A good call,” opined a third, who added, “he was doing the right thing for the safety of the patient,” because it was possible that he “could not continue with the operation with full concentration because of the tatoo (sic).”

The doctor’s actions, and the article, also affected at least one reader’s perceptions of Jews as a result:

“I’m glad I read this, as I’m always falling out with an Israeli friend over Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, and I feared that I might be anti-Semitic,” he wrote. “I agree 100 percent with the doctor, given that he handed over to another surgeon. He didn’t do the guy any harm, but set (sic) a signal.”