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Books, Journals, New Media
September 19, 2001

HistoryMedicine and the German Jews: A History

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 2001;286(11):1383. doi:10.1001/jama.286.11.1383

John Efron's book Medicine and The German Jews: A History traces the story of the relationship of the Jews of Germany and the medical profession. Beginning with the emergence of the medieval Jewish physician, Efron describes how practicing medicine provided a vehicle to escape social marginalization and enter the mainstream.

As elsewhere during the Middle Ages, as Efron shows, German Jewish doctors were believed to have unique healing powers and were sought after on the one hand and feared on the other. Modern anti-Semitism was deeply rooted in the 16th-century defamations of Luther, Paracelsus, and others who reviled Jewish doctors as being murderous, corrupt charlatans. Similar accusations remained an indelible fixture of German anti-Semitism enduring into the modern period. Yet, despite the accusations, Christian patients kept coming, many believing that Jews were the best doctors. For some, the Jew's very otherness provided a source of comfort and hope that the Jewish doctor was privy to esoteric mystical information.

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