The “Aryanisation” of the Nazi era extended to medical Jewish authors.
I am grateful to the medical historian Prof. Dr. Peter Voswinckel, who sent me the Karina Urbach’s Die Zeit article Stolen Books – Geraubte Bücher’ (10th December 2020) describing his “painstaking detailed” research of the history of Knaurs Gesundheitslexikon – Knaur’s Health Encyclopaedia – a popular reference book issued and edited from 1930 by the Austrian Jewish medical practitioner Josef Löbel.
Löbel, famous as a physician, author and journalist, had his medical bestsellers translated into 16 languages. The Nazi-era publisher, C.H. Beck, took over over the Otto Liebmann publishing house and continued to publish the still popular Knaur encyclopaedia with the new name of Peter Hiron, a pseudonym of the physician Herbert Volkmann.
Volkman diligently added new material on subjects such as race, homosexuality, prison psychosis and megalomania. The same gentleman had previously stolen other work, such as those of Dr. Walter Guttmann. Peter Voswinkel also discovered that Gutmanns “Medizinische Terminologie – medical terminology“ had been taken over by Volkmann from the 29th edition onwards.
These thefts had tragic consequences. Both Löbelr and Gutmann committed suicide. Löbel had lost everything overnight after Austria’s “Anschluss“ – annexation by the Third Reich – and seen the Nazi’s deport his wife. Guttmann, dispossessed and impoverished, took his life in 1941 in Berlin.
Karina Urbach researched her famous grandmother’s fate. Alice Urbach survived in London where she had fled from Vienna. She had written the bestselling cookery book “So kocht man in Wien“- “That’s how one cooks in Vienna”. After the “Anschluss” the Munich publisher substituted Urbach’s name with that of one Rudolf Rösch, who hastened to delete such names of dishes as “ Omelette Rothschild” as well as all slightly feminist remarks.
Not all authors were reinstated nor was everyone awarded the stolen royalties. Publishers maintained that contracts had been “correctly cancelled” or said that amendments made to the text meant this no longer had anything to do with the original version. Alice Urbach received a dismissive response from her publisher after the war. By exposing the shameful theft of her grandmother’s intellectual property, Karina obtained a modicum of justice by getting the famous cookbook published again with it’s original author’s name.
A personal note: I had met Peter Voswinckel in the eighties, when I had accompanied my dear friend Dr. Anne Alexander, who had visited him at the Aachen Faculty of Medical History to give him the memoirs of her father. I then wrote a short story about Professor Voswinckel (in “Die Reise nach Gaborone – the Journey to Gaborone, using a pseudonym for Voswinckel), which years later resulted in our renewed contact.