Biography of Hans Eppinger
Hans Eppinger was the son of the physician Hans Eppinger senior (1846-1916), professor of pathological anatomy at Graz. He received his education in Graz and Strassburg and became doctor of medicine in Graz in 1903. He became an assistant at the medical clinic in Graz in 1903 and in 1908 in Vienna under Carl Harko von Noorden (1858-1944) and Karel Frederik Wenkebach (1864-1940). He was habilitated for internal medicine in 1909, becoming extraordinary professor in 1918. In 1926 he accepted a call to Freiburg im Breisgau as professor, and in 1930 to Köln.
Later, as professor and director of the internal clinic at the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna, Eppinger became one of the most notorious of Nazi doctors. In the Dachau concentration camp he and his colleague professor Wilhelm Beigelbock conducted cruel experiments on 90 Gypsy prisoners to test the potability of sea water. The Gypsies became so profoundly dehydrated that they were seen licking the floors after they were mopped just to get a drop of water. Having sea water as their only source of fluid, the Gypsies developed severe physical problems and died within six to twelve days.
Eppinger was also notorious for his inhuman treatment of patients. On one occasion he brought a patient to the lecture theatre and introduced him to the students with the following words: "Nephritis can be compared with a tragedy in five acts and" – pointing to the patient – "this is the final act of the tragedy." The patient broke down in tears and was obviously distressed throughout the demonstration. (Otto Flemming).
In 1976 Eppinger's name was attached to a crater on the Moon, but this was changed on October 28, 2002, by the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN), after Eppinger's connection with the Nazi prison camps had been brought to their attention by the Lunar Republic Society and others.
In 1936 Eppinger was called to Moscow to treat the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. After the war, although no longer head of the clinic, he became an independent examining doctor to the Soviet high command.
Eppinger had a Swiss bank account but never enjoyed his prosperity. He killed himself with poison on September 25, 1946, one month before he was scheduled to testify in the Nuremberg trial. His colleague Wilhelm Beigelbock was sentenced.
We thank Patrick Jucker-Kupper, Switzerland, for information submitted.