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Pediatr Neurol. 2001 Aug;25(2):162-5.

Julius Hallervorden's wartime activities: implications for science under dictatorship.

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  • 1Department of Neurology/Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The eponym Hallervorden-Spatz syndrome recalls Julius Hallervorden's and Hugo Spatz's original description of this pediatric neurodegenerative disorder. Julius Hallervorden's important contribution to the practice of neuropathology over a long career cannot be underestimated. However, his work as a pathologist during the Third Reich put him in close proximity with the implementation of biologic solutions (i.e., euthanasia) targeting those individuals with significant intellectual or physical disabilities in chronic-care facilities. The Nazi program of active euthanasia provided a scientific opportunity to gain quick access to pathologic materials. This opportunity was recognized and used by Hallervorden to achieve personal scientific objectives and research efforts. These efforts resulted in a number of postwar scientific publications using materials obtained through the euthanasia program. The participation of distinguished academic physicians in such a program provides a cautionary tale of the potential results of ethical compromise and the effects of the abrogation of personal autonomy in the setting of a totalitarian dictatorship.

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