Death of Medicine in Nazi Germany

I just finished reading Wolfgang Weyers’ Death of Medicine in Nazi Germany: Dermatology and Dermatopathology under the Swastika.

Unlike most books that I’ve read about Nazi medicine, this book only briefly discusses the medical experiments performed in the concentration camps.  Instead, it focuses on the fate of the dermatology and dermatopathology specialties in Nazi Germany from an academic perspective–the story of what happened the dermatologists.  Dermatology/dermatopathology was evidently a specialty largely populated by Jewish physicians in Germany and Austria, and thus was a particular target for the Nazis.  Only 17 Jewish dermatologists are known to have survived in practice in Germany for the duration of the Nazi regime.  The others committed suicide, were executed or interred in concentration camps, or emigrated.  This book was, as one can imagine, extremely depressing–many chapters consisted of paragraph after paragraph detailing what happened to individual dermatologists, first listing their achievements (what therapies they introduced, what diseases or signs still bear their names, and what offices they held) and then describing their fates.   One of the major themes of the book was the death of German academic medicine–as the leaders and pioneers of medicine were ousted from their academic positions to be replaced by less competent, politically connected Nazis, the quantity and quality of German medicine suffered.

Throughout the book are a wealth of photographs, portraits, and images of documents including letters, newspaper clippings, propaganda posters, medical records, and more.  Weyers has added an extensive notes section documenting the research behind the book, which is extremely helpful.   It is difficult comparing this title with others on the same general topic, simply because of the focus on academic medicine.  I’ve also read Lifton’s Nazi Doctors, Doctors from Hell, and Inhuman Research, but this book is unique amongst those.  It really should be owned by every medical school library.  Even though a lot of people can say to themselves that they would never descend to the point that the Nazi doctors in the concentration camps would, this book points out that we are all susceptible to the greed and ambition that drove the death of German dermatology and dermatopathology under Nazi rule.


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