Gerstmann, Sträussler, and Scheinker: the persecution of the men behind the syndrome.Neurology. 2014 Jul 15; 83(3):272-7.Neur
In 1936, Austrian neuroscientists Josef Gerstmann and Ernst Sträussler, along with expatriate Russian neuroscientist Ilya Mark Scheinker, described the familial prion disorder later named for them from a case they mutually treated at a Viennese neurologic hospital. In 1938, Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany in the Anschluss, effectively ending any collaboration between the 3 men. Gerstmann and Scheinker eventually immigrated to America, and Sträussler, although dismissed from his faculty position, remained protected from persecution in Vienna throughout the war likely because of his marriage to an "Aryan woman." Although he attained some degree of success in exile, Gerstmann was never again director of a hospital and primarily maintained a private practice after some brief consulting positions in New York in the 1940s. His medical degree was retroactively stripped by the Nazis without his knowledge, and was not reinstated until 1955. Gerstmann also became embroiled in a bitter struggle to regain his confiscated property in Vienna. Scheinker, aided by the refugee resettlement committee, settled in Cincinnati where he had several successful years and published 3 textbooks, but was denied university tenure and entered private practice until his untimely death. All 3 neurologists lost significant career momentum, and had to pick up the pieces of their fractured lives after the war or their forced exile. Their stories reflect many of the tragic realities of Nazi persecution of Jewish physicians.