Medicine in Theresienstadt
Dr Anna Hajkova of the History Dept, Warwick.
Refreshments will be served. All are welcome.
“After the war I realized, he was actually operating on people who were designated to die. But above all, he was a physician,” remembered former nurse Emilie Valentová in 1979. She was describing her boss, Richard Stein, an eminent physician throughout his life, from pre-war Brno, to Theresienstadt, and after 1949, as one of the founding Israeli ophthalmologists. Surrounded by starvation, fear of transports, and overcrowding in the Theresienstadt transit ghetto, the medical services operated well, indeed were probably the best functioning department within the Jewish self-administration.
Illness was a defining experience for people in the Holocaust, yet there is surprisingly little scholarship on the medical care among Jewish communities during the Nazi persecution. Medical histories of the Holocaust have examined the forced medical experiments in the concentration camps, or the biographies of Jewish physicians. This talk will concentrate instead on the missing third theme, the medical history of Theresienstadt, scrutinising physicians, medical staff, the diseases prevalent in the ghetto, and the patients. Examining medical care in extremis, this paper studies the continuities and ruptures in the medical profession, and asks: where do Richard Stein’s eye operations fit in the medical history of the European 20th century?