Letters

The BMJ's Nuremberg issue

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7078.439 (Published 08 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:439

Many people are still uncomfortable with the topic of Nazi medicine

  1. E Ernst, Directora
  1. a Department of Complementary Medicine, Postgraduate Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter EX2 4NT
  2. b Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham B9 5SS
  3. c 99 Broadbottom Road, Mottram, Near Hyde, Cheshire SK14 6JA
  4. d 1A Boothby Road, London N19 4AA
  5. e Iona, Cannon Fields, Hathersage, Sheffield S30 1AG
  6. f Gastrointestinal Division, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029-6574, USA
  7. g Fife Health Board, Cupar, Fife KY15 5UP
  8. h 838 Doncaster Road, Doncaster, Victoria 3108, Australia

    Editor–The BMJ's issue commemorating the Nuremberg doctors' trial1 is a courageous attempt to address an uneasy topic, for which the editor deserves praise. The following short account may show just how brave it is.

    Having a longstanding interest in uncovering Nazi medical atrocities, I decided to write a four part series on the subject and suggested the idea to the Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Being one of two editors in chief of this journal, I did not want to exert any pressure and accepted without further comment that the Belgian coeditor in chief rejected my offer. The Royal Belgium Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, which is officially affiliated to the journal, apparently heard of my plan and its rejection and was outraged by the notion of the journal touching the subject. When I mentioned medicine during the Third Reich in a recent editorial in the journal2 the secretary general of the society reacted by demanding from the journal's publisher, Blackwell, that I immediately resign from my position as editor in chief: “With great dismay we read Professor Ernst's editorial and paper on Nazi medicine … and … demand Professor Ernst's resignation as editor in chief, otherwise the society will withdraw from the journal in 1997.” Blackwell stood behind me in this matter, and the journal is now dissociating from the Belgian society. I should add that my very brief mention of Nazi medicine was in the context of a historical account of homoeopathy in Germany and that my original four papers relating to the Nuremberg doctors' tribunal are currently being published in Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift, which is also published by Blackwell.3

    This anecdote illustrates how uncomfortable many people are with the topic of Nazi medicine. The BMJ and Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift …

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