- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt

Born 1885-06-02
Died 1964

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German neuropathologist, born June 2, 1885, Harburg an der Elbe, died 1964.

Biography of Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt

Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt was born into a medical family in Harburg, which was incorporated into Hamburg in 1937. He absolved his military service in Kiel and attended the universities of Jena and Rostock, receiving his doctorate at the latter in 1909. Part of his practical training was undertaken at St George’s Hospital in Hamburg. After qualification he sought adventure as a ship’s surgeon, especially voyaging the Pacific Ocean, taking the opportunity to study local crafts, linguistics, and tropical plants.

After returning to Germany, Creutzfeldt worked at the St. Georg Krankenhaus in Hamburg, at the neurological institute in Frankfurt, and at the psychiatric-neurological clinics in Breslau, Kiel and Berlin, and at the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie in Munich. He was habilitated at Kiel in 1920, and in 1925 became extraordinarius of psychiatry and neurology. In 1938 he was appointed professor and director of the university psychiatric and neurological division in Kiel.

Creutzfeldt was 54 years of age when the Second World War broke out. Unlike Hans Reiter, who enjoyed the spoils of his allegiance to Hitler and Nazism, Creutzfeldt had little sympathy for the Nazi regime and saved some people from ending their lives in concentrations camps. On November 26, 1943, the special court in Kiel - der Sondergericht - sentenced his wife, Cläre Creutzfeldt, to four years in prison for spiteful and malicious remarks. She had criticized the Total War and, even worse, Der Führer himself. She had to serve the sentence. During the war bombing destroyed his home and clinic. Although not directly involved in any crimes, he was a part of the National Socialist system, and as an expert witness in the military court, his statements that the defendant was not mentally ill, caused some to be executed.

After the war he was rector of the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel for six months, before being dismissed by the British occupational forces. His efforts to rebuild the university caused several conflicts with the British because he wanted to allow more former army officers to study there. In 1953 he moved on to Munich to work scientifically.

Obituary in: Medizinische Klinik, München, 1965, 14: 553.

We thank Dr. Paul Foley for information submitted.

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