Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD
Misguided by the notion that the decline of the German race would be prevented by purifying “Aryan blood” and eliminating foreign, particularly Jewish, influences, the Nazis evicted all Jews from universities within their growing empire during the Third Reich.The Medical Faculty of Vienna suffered more than any other European faculty from “race hygiene.” Within weeks of the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, 153 of the Faculty's 197 members were dismissed. By far the most frequent reason for dismissal was Jewish origin. Most victims managed to emigrate, many died in concentration camps, and others committed suicide. The “cleansing” process encountered little resistance, and the vacant posts were quickly filled with persons known not for their medical expertise but for their political trustworthiness. It was in this climate that medical atrocities could be committed. After the collapse of the Third Reich, most members of the Faculty were burdened with a Nazi past. Most remained in office, and those who had to leave were reinstituted swiftly. The Jews evicted in 1938 were discouraged from returning. These events have significantly—and with long-lasting effects—damaged the quality of a once-leading medical school. This story needs to be told to honor its victims and to fortify us so that history does not repeat itself.
Ernst E. A Leading Medical School Seriously Damaged: Vienna 1938. Ann Intern Med. 1995;122:789–792. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-122-10-199505150-00009
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1995;122(10):789-792.
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