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Can J Neurol Sci. 2013 Jul;40(4):493-503.

Scandinavian neuroscience during the Nazi era.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.


Although Scandinavian neuroscience has a proud history, its status during the Nazi era has been overlooked. In fact, prominent neuroscientists in German-occupied Denmark and Norway, as well as in neutral Sweden, were directly affected. Mogens Fog, Poul Thygesen (Denmark) and Haakon Sæthre (Norway) were resistance fighters, tortured by the Gestapo: Thygesen was imprisoned in concentration camps and Sæthre executed. Jan Jansen (Norway), another neuroscientist resistor, escaped to Sweden, returning under disguise to continue fighting. Fritz Buchthal (Denmark) was one of almost 8000 Jews escaping deportation by fleeing from Copenhagen to Sweden. In contrast, Carl Værnet (Denmark) became a collaborator, conducting inhuman experiments in Buchenwald concentration camp, and Herman Lundborg (Sweden) and Thorleif Østrem (Norway) advanced racial hygiene in order to maintain the "superior genetic pool of the Nordic race." Compared to other Nazi-occupied countries, there was a high ratio of resistance fighters to collaborators and victims among the neuroscientists in Scandinavia.

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