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March 4, 1983

The Nicolal Case: A Biography

JAMA. 1983;249(9):1202-1203. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330330080048

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The First World War began with the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by Serbian nationalists. Four and one-half years later, more than 13 million men had died under arms and 26 million were wounded; nations lay shattered or were bled white and bankrupt. In terms of its effects on Western civilization, it was the most disastrous war since the Fourth Crusade—and easily the stupidest.

Each nation claimed the special prerogatives of history, justice, and divine favor (some with less reason than others) and summoned its scientists and men of letters to write in defense of the cause. However, a few did speak out against the war; among them was a professor of medicine at the University of Berlin named Georg Friedrich Nicolai. Dr Nicolai is the subject of a new biography by Wolf Zuelzer, MD, emeritus professor in pediatric research at Wayne State University,