- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Julius Hallervorden

Born  1882
Died  1965

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German neuropathologist, born October 21, 1882; died May 29, 1965.

Biography of Julius Hallervorden

Julius Hallervorden and Hugo Spatz: The murderers among us.

Julius Hallervorden was born in East Prussia. He studied medicine in Königsberg and from 1910 worked in a private nerve clinic in Berlin. From 1913 he was first an official assistant physician (Medizinalrat) and later physician-in-chief at the state psychiatric institution – Psychiatrischer Landesanstalt in Landsberg an der Warthe. He subsequently also worked in a military hospital and as a district, also gaining experience in post mortem work.

In 1921 – and again in 1925/1926 – he was on a sabbatical leave with a scholarship to work with Walther Spielmeyer (1879-1935) in the department of neurohistology at the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie (now Max-Planck-Gesellschaft) in Munich, headed by Emil Kraepelin. He brought with him the brain of a girl who had suffered from the syndrome. He met Spatz there and together they described the syndrome. Hallervorden worked with Spatz from then on.

From 1928 he was freed of his clinical duties as head of clinical medicine at the Landesanstalt Landsberg with the task of establishing a central prosecturate for the Brandenburg institutions.

From January 1, 1938, Hallervorden was professor and head of the neuropathological department of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Hirnforschung in Berlin-Buch, succeeding Max Bielschowsky who had been dismissed as early as in 1933 because of his Jewish faith. After the war this institute was re-established as the Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung in Gießen, respectively Frankfurt am Main. Following the war he was a neuropathologist at the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt.

Like his friend, Hugo Spatz, Hallervorden became a notorious Nazi war criminal. When Adolf Hitler's infamous words on the morning of September 1, 1939, "Seit fünf Uhr fünfundvierzig wird jetzt zurückgeschossen", marked the attack on Poland, Hallervorden was the Prosector (Pathologist) at the Brandenburg State Hospital. That year a euthanasia centre had been established at the Brandenburg-Görden centre, where there was a sudden surge in institutional deaths. It is now assumed that a majority of the some 700 brains he investigated during the Nazi period were victims of euthanasia, and that he was present at the killing of more than 60 children and adolescents in the Anstalt Brandenburg on October 28, 1940.

"I accepted the brains, of course. Where they came from and how they came to me was really none of my business".

This saying may be described as something like "the truth according to Joseph Goebbels" (1897-1945). The term euthanasia is a euphemism that was first used in this context by the Nazis themselves, and is not the correct term here. What really happened, as is well known, was the mass murder of vast numbers of mentally ill children and adults. This crime is sometimes forgotten, in view of the numerically much larger mass murder of millions of Jews and others on racial and political grounds.

Hallervorden and Spatz were not merely "aware of" the mass murder program from which they "benefited"; it is quite clear that they helped plan it and were active participants.

Post-war concerns regarding the origins of much of Hallervorden personal pathological collection caused the removal of the collection from continued scientific use at the Edinger Institute. There is currently a laudable movement to rename Hallervorden-Spatz disease, so that the memory of these murderers will no longer be perpetuated.

It has been said that Adolf Hitler loved his dog. Hallervorden loved symphonic works. But murderers they were.

More information on Hallervorden is in the article on Hugo Spatz, German neuropathologist, 1888-1969.

We thank:

Dr. Ethan Taub for submitting important information about the war crimes of Hallervorden and Spatz. Dr. Traub is a neurosurgeon in Zürich, Switzerland.

Dr. Günter Krämer, Zürich, Switzerland, for biographical information.


  • J. Hallervorden:
    Ueber eine Kohlenoxydvergiftung im Fetalleben mit Entwicklungsstörung der Hirnrinde. Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie und ihre Grenzgebiete, Berlin, 1949, 124: 289-298. Biographical etc.
  • G. Ule:
    Julius Hallervorden. 1882-1965.
    Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, Berlin 1965, 207: 165–167
  • B. Ostertag:
    Julius Hallervorden. Sein Wirken und seine Bedeutung für die moderne Neuropathologie.
    Die medizinische Welt, Stuttgart, 1967, Neue Folge 18: 234–236.
  • M. I. Shevell:
    Racial hygiene, active euthanasia, and Julius Hallervorden.
    Neurology 1992, 42: 2214–2219.
  • J. Peiffer:
    Hirnforschung im Zwielicht: Beispiele verführbarer Wissenschaft aus der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Julius Hallervoren – H.-J.Scherer – Berthold Ostertag.
    Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenschaften, Heft 79; hrsg. von Winau G, Müller-Dietz H). Husum, Matthiesen Verlag Ingewert Paulsen Jr. 1997.
  • M. L. Shevell, J. Peiffer:
    Julius Hallervorden's wartime activities: Implications for science under dictatorship.
    Pediatric Neurology, New York, 2001, 25: 162–165.
  • Hans-Walter Schmuhl:
    Hirnforschung und Krankenmord. Das Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Hirnforschung 1937-1945.
    Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 2002, 50: 559-609.
    Präsidentkommission der Max-Planck Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V.

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