Walther Birkmayer, Co-describer of L-Dopa, and his Nazi connections: victim or perpetrator?J Hist Neurosci. 2014; 23(2):160-91.JH
Walther Birkmayer, an Austrian neurologist, codiscovered the efficacy of levodopa therapy for Parkinsonism in 1961. However, little has been published regarding Birkmayer's ties to National Socialism. Through documentary review, we have determined that he was an early illegal member of the SS and the Nazi party, taking part in the "de-Jewification" of the Vienna University Clinic of Psychiatry and Neurology. He also was a leader in the Nazi racial policy office and was praised for his dedication and fanaticism despite being forced to later resign from the SS. He sought support from leading Viennese Nazis, and was able to maintain his professional status for the war's remainder. Postwar, he succeeded at reintegration personally and professionally into Austrian society, all but erasing any obvious ties to his Nazi past. His story reflects ethical transgressions regarding professional and personal behavior in response to a tyrannical regime and provides lessons for today's neuroscientists.