Nazi Diseases

italicsBy Daniela Gross

It is hard to believe. But when we talk about medical issues, we often conjure some Nazi doctor. Even today, many diseases are in fact named after the Nazi scientist who discovered them, through atrocious experiments on human beings. To amend this situation, an international campaign has just been launched, by a congress promoted in Rome by the University La Sapienza, the Jewish Community of Rome, and the Jewish Hospital.

As reported by Francesca Nunberg, on the Messaggero Veneto, Dr. Cesare Efrati, gastroenterologist and volunteer rabbi at the Tempio Maggiore in Rome, pointed out that “Several diseases bear the names of Nazi doctors. Let’s take, for example the Reiter syndrome, which affected Columbus. This illness was named after Hans Conrad Julius Reiter, a Nazi fanatic about racial hygiene”. Also, the portal vein thrombosis was named after Hans Eppinger, the Nazi doctor who experimented on Gypsies in Dachau to test the drinkability of sea water. Yet there is no lack of other examples.

“These diseases must have a scientific denomination, or, if possible, be given the name of the victims, even if only simbolically”, pointed out Dr. Efrati. The University La Sapienza supports this initiative, and its Chancellor already announced that the request will be sent to all the international scientific societies. The goal is to reach the European Court for Human Rights. A new medical vocabulary cannot erase the past, but maybe it can build a more respectful way of thinking of the victims.