J Neurol Surg A Cent Eur Neurosurg 2013; 74(05): 337-338
DOI: 10.1055/s-0033-1348353
Letter to the Editor
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Remarks on: Arnold H, Collmann H. Neurosurgery in Würzburg until World War II. J Neurol Surg A 2012;73(1):38–45

Detlef E. Rosenow
1   Practice of Neurosurgery, Karlsruhe, Germany
Hans Joachim Synowitz
2   Aubertstrasse 25, Berlin, Germany
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

20 March 2013

20 March 2013

Publication Date:
01 August 2013 (online)

We read with much interest the above article titled “Neurosurgery in Würzburg until World War II” by the authors H. Arnold and H. Collmann.[1] According to the footnote on the first page, the article was originally presented on the occasion of the retirement of the then head of neurosurgery at the University of Würzburg, Klaus Roosen, that is, at the end of 2009. It is also stated in the bottom line that this article was originally published online in Central European Neurosurgery on July 22, 2011.

Not only does time go by, but new scientific knowledge does as well. The co-author (H. Collmann) has been the historian of the German Society of Neurosurgery for years and in many publications since 2004, new or updated material on historic subjects as to the development of German neurosurgery during the Nazi era were published in the journal Zentralblatt für Neurochirurgie and were published in various journals by Collmann and the undersigned.[2] [3]

Therefore, it is most surprising that this article still incorporates facts that were corrected earlier.

  • One, if not the first, surgeon working in neurosurgery in Würzburg was Ernst von Bergmann, who was a full professor and head of the surgical department at Würzburg University from 1878 through 1882 before becoming the successor of Bernhard von Langenbeck in Berlin, Ziegelstrasse. During his Würzburg time, von Bergmann in 1880 published his book Textbook of Head Injuries. [4]

  • “For instance, Cushing never visited Krause on his European” (p. 38, right column). How do the authors know? At least Cushing met Krause once (and Eiselsberg from Vienna) personally at a meeting in Budapest on the occasion of an international congress on August 31, 1909,[5] and also 4 years later at the 17th International Medical Congress August 6 through 12, 1913, in London.[6] Cushing could read, write, and speak German very well (he learned it at his time spent with Kocher and continued to speak it, as can be taken from his biography).[5] German was the lingua franca at that time. It is agreed that other sources might lead to Arnold and Collmann's assumption (e.g., Behrends' contribution from 1963, which supports their statement). Because Cushing kept his diary meticulously, it can be stated that there are no clues that Cushing visited Krause at the Augusta Hospital.[5] Probably Krause was too pitiful in Cushing's eyes.

  • Because details seem to be important for Arnold and Collmann, we find it worthwhile mentioning that Franz König was the father of Fritz König. He was head of surgery in Göttingen and Berlin at the Charité, Schumannstraße and was succeeded by the Swiss Otto Hildebrand, who performed surgery of the posterior fossa at the Charité.

  • Because the authors are putting their facts into historic context, it seems worth mentioning that the Charleston was later called “nigger music” and Josephine Baker became famous in Berlin mostly because she was dancing topless wearing a skirt with banana leaves attached to it. By and large, the right bar is totally superfluous.

  • “Herbert Olivecrona was trained by Walter Dandy” (p. 40, left column). Not a single trace to support this statement can be found neither in Fox's biography on Dandy nor in Wikipedia.[7] [8] To judge from Fultoń s biography, Olivecrona was not even trained by Cushing; however, Cushing visited Stockholm in September 1929 and met Olivecrona, among others (e.g., Sven Hedin and wife), there and again 2 years later at the First International Neurological Congress in Berne.[5] This is also supported by Lunggren's biographical note on Olivecrona.[9] Olivecrona spent a year at Johns Hopkins to study with William Halstead from October 1, 1919 through June 1920,[9] by chance because he originally intended to commence his laboratory studies at the Rockefeller Institute, New York, which was under construction by then, and upon advice of the director of the Rockefeller Institute, he traveled on to Baltimore (i.e., Johns Hopkins).[9] Furthermore, it is not very likely that Cushing would get in touch with somebody who was trained by his great rival at Johns Hopkins.

  • Mentioning some of Tönnis' assistants at Würzburg, the authors forgot to mention Erich Fischer-Bruegge, who stayed with Tönnis for 14 months and implemented neurosurgery in Münster as early as January 1937. Fischer-Bruegge left us the classification of the ACA and ICA, still valid today. Okonek went to Göttingen later in 1937 after joining Tönnis shortly at the Hansaklinik.[10] [11]

  • “ . . . Emil Heymann, Fedor Krause's successor at the Augusta Hospital in Berlin since 1921, had died of a heart attack” (left column, p. 43). This statement suggests that Heymanńs position was free because of his untimely death. However, Heymann lost his job because of the Nazi jurisdiction already effective in 1935, and he therefore was already jobless when he died.[2] [12] [13] Not only did Heymann suffer that fate as a sequelae of the corresponding law (“Restoration of the Professional Public Service”) that went into effect on April 7, 1933, but other Jewish neurosurgeons such as Moritz Borchardt, Walter Lehmann, and Franz Schück-Breslauer, just to name a few, lost their jobs as well and had to emigrate.

  • Next, the authors state, one of Tönnis' reasons not to take the position as Heymann's successor at the Augusta-Hospital was the geographic distance between the Augusta Hospital and the Charité. According to Google Maps, the distance between these two hospitals is 1.2 km. In contrast, the distance between the Hansaklinik and the Charité is almost three times as long (3.5 km). The explanation given by Tönnis was already discussed elsewhere and appears rather a dummy argument than a rational one.[11] It should be kept in mind that until 1933, the Hansaklinik was a neurological research center privately run by the renowned Jewish neurologist F.H. Lewy (“Lewy bodies”). He emigrated to Great Britain and had to sell that hospital at an inadequately low price to the Charité in 1934. Thereafter, a nonoperative surgical ward of Sauerbruch's clinic and a neurologic ward were installed.

  • “The staff of this department included Zuelch and famous colleagues such as Irsigler, Kornmüller, Krücke, Krüger and Sorgo” (right column, p. 43). Both Kornmüller and Krücke were no coworkers of Tönnis. However, Irsigler and Sorgo were notorious rather than famous customers. Both individuals were not only early members of the Nazi party NSDAP, that is, they joined the NSDAP before 1933 (Tönnis did so only in 1937) but also in the Nazi associated paramilitary troop SS. In the wake of discharging ex-Nazis from public service or putting them to trial, Sorgo fled from Austria to Italy and Syria and continued to work as a neurosurgeon there, and Irsigler emigrated to South Africa, continuing writing racist and anti-Jewish pamphlets.

  • “Moreover, at the meeting in London 1937, Tönnis persuaded Geoffrey Jefferson, president of the . . .” (right column, p. 43). The secretary of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons already in November 1936 announced in a circular letter the Society's next summer meeting to be held in Berlin in 1937. It is a long tradition of the British Society to hold its summer meetings abroad. This year's summer meeting for instance will be jointly held with the Swiss Society of Neurosurgery in Lugano in June.

  • References

  • 1 Arnold H, Collmann H. Neurosurgery in Würzburg until World War II. J Neurol Surg A 2012; 73: 38-45
  • 2 Collmann H, Rosenow DE. Aus der Pionerzeit der Neurochirurgie: Emil Heymann (15.4.1878-11.1.1936). Zentralbl Neurochir 2004; 65 (1) 36-39
  • 3 Collmann H, Rosenow DE . Fast vergessen: Emil Heymann – ein Pionier der Neurochirurgie in Deutschland. Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde (Hrsg: G. Keil und B. Holdorff) 2008;14:407–418
  • 4 Bergmann E. Die Lehre von den Kopfverletzungen. Stuttgart: Enke; 1880
  • 5 Fulton JF. Harvey Cushing – A Biography. Oxford: Blackwell; 1956
  • 6 Congressbericht. Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift, 1913;50:1782
  • 7 Fox WL. Dandy of Johns Hopkins. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; 1984
  • 8 Olivecrona H . Available at: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Olivecrona
  • 9 Ljunggren B. Herbert Olivecrona: founder of Swedish neurosurgery. J Neurosurg 1993; 78 (1) 142-149
  • 10 Rosenow DE, Frowein RA, Dietz H. Erich Fischer-Brügge (28.12.1904–04.02.1951) - Founder of Neurosurgery at the University of Münster. Zbl Neurochir 2006; 67: 88-93
  • 11 Synowitz HJ, Rosenow DE. Die Hansaklinik in Berlin als Ort der ersten Neurochirurgischen Universitätsklinik in Deutschland von 1937–1943. Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde (Hrsg: B. Holdorff und E. Kumbier) 2011;17:287–304
  • 12 Synowitz HJ, Rosenow DE. Die Einrichtung und das Ende des Extraordinariats für Gehirnchirurgie an der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin in den Jahren 1937–1946. Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde (Hrsg: B. Holdorff und E. Kumbier) 2009;16:253–283
  • 13 Synowitz HJ, Collmann H, Rosenow DE . Zur Frage der Verflechtung hirnchirurgisch tätiger Ärzte Deutschlands mit dem NS-Regime. Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde (Hrsg: B. Holdorff und E. Kumbier) 2011;17:305–327