Hermann Freund grew up in Breslau as the youngest son of the Jewish lawyer and notary Wilhelm Salomon Freund (1831-1915) and his wife Clara, née Immerwahr (1845-1914).1 Salomon Freund was a lawyer and honorary doctor of the University of Breslau, and also a member of parliament for the Left Liberals in the Prussian Landtag and the German Reichstag.
After graduating from his high school, the St. Maria Magdalena-Gymnasium with his Abitur in 1900, Hermann Freund studied chemistry and medicine in Freiburg im Breisgau, Breslau, and Munich. He received his doctorate in chemistry on March 15, 1906, in Breslau under Albert Ladenburg (1842-1911) and his doctorate in medicine on June 30, 1909, in Heidelberg under Ludolf von Krehl (1861-1937).2
Freund completed his medical internship at the Psychiatric Clinic in Breslau led by Karl Bonhoeffer (1868-1948) and at the Municipal Hospital in Wiesbaden under the internist Wilhelm Weintraud (1866-1920). After receiving his license to practice medicine on February 16, 1909, he first worked as a volunteer and then as an intern at the medical clinic in Heidelberg headed by Krehl.
During the First World War Freund was made "indispensable". He worked back home as a field hospital doctor and was awarded the War Merit Cross of the Grand Duke of Baden for his services in 1916.3
Venia Legendi and Call to Münster
Freund habilitated in internal medicine in December 1916 and became a private lecturer.4 On December 1, 1918, he moved to the position of first assistant to Rudolf Gottlieb (1864-1924) at the Pharmacological Institute in Heidelberg. Shortly thereafter, his venia legendi was extended to include the subject of experimental pharmacology. He was appointed associate professor of internal medicine and experimental pharmacology in December 1921.5
When the Westphalian Wilhelms University of Münster established a medical faculty in 1924, Freund became full professor and head of the newly founded Pharmacological Institute, whose planning and construction he supervised. He had distinguished himself with an "exceptionally in-depth training in internal medicine and pathological physiology" during the appointment process.6
The institute in Münster was officially opened together with the entire faculty on May 1, 1925. Freund described its research orientation with the following words: "The Pharmacological Institute [...] has the task, with regard to research, to study the drugs in chemical terms (methodology of chemistry) and, above all, to determine their effect on the living organism (methodology of physiology). Often it is also important to elucidate the nature of disease symptoms in order to gain points of view for the application of appropriate healing methods (experimental pathology). The highest goal, combating the causes of disease, demands the aid of bacteriological and serological methodology (experimental therapy)."7
In Münster, Freund found "ideal institutional conditions" to be able to realize his research in the manner he had described.8 He later turned down calls to the chairs of pharmacology in Heidelberg (1925) and Düsseldorf (1930).
Freund's extensive list of publications testifies to a high level of research activity.9 While still working under Krehl, he conducted research primarily on the physiology of thermoregulation, fever and blood sugar. Later he was increasingly devoted to the effect of diseases on the pharmacological action of drugs and to muscle metabolism. He also critically examined homeopathy in several essays.
In his obituary, Ludwig Lendle credited Freund with shaping his own direction in pharmacology, which in its experimental studies was strongly oriented toward clinical medicine and emphasized the inclusion of pathophysiological considerations ("Pharmacology for the Clinic").10
Freund was also a member of the German Pharmacological Society in addition to being a member of the DGIM. He hosted the annual meeting of the DPG in 1929, which was chaired by Wolfgang Heubner (1877-1957).11
Repressions Under the National Socialists
Freund was prevented from continuing his official duties and from staying on the premises of his office by an SA storm leader on March 30, 1933, one week before the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" came into force. After Freund's leave of absence, the pharmacologist Dr. med. Dr. phil. Walter Haarmann (1901-1971) took over the institute as provisional director. Probably as a result of the successful intervention of two of Freund's students, Günther von Bruck and Willy König, the leave of absence was revoked in October 1933.
Freund resigned from the Jewish community in June 1933, presumably to demonstrate political reliability as a German citizen. He took the civil servants' oath of service to Adolf Hitler in September 1934. Nevertheless, with reference to section four of the "First Ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Law of November 14, 1935," a professional ban was imposed on him at the turn of the year 1936 and a final dismissal from the university was ordered. He was succeeded by Ludwig Lendle (1899-1969), who held the chair until 1943 and then moved to Leipzig.
In the course of his dismissal, Freund also had to give up his apartment in the attic of the Pharmacological Institute; he moved to Annette von Droste-Hülshoff-Allee 16. There he continued private research and remained in contact with colleagues and friends. He was, however, no longer able to publish from 1937 due to the publication ban. As a "non-Aryan," he was banned several times from traveling to congresses abroad.12
Emigration, Deportation, and Death
Freund emigrated to the Netherlands on October 3, 1939 and found employment in the pharmaceutical company of Dr. Johannes J. Duyvené de Witt (1909-1965) in Amsterdam. He was no longer allowed to teach at university, as this had been a condition imposed by the Nazi authorities for him to be allowed to leave the country.13 The situation for Freund again became precarious when the Wehrmacht invaded the Netherlands in 1940. The authorities stopped payment of his pension on September 1, 1941, on the grounds of "hostility to the people and the state.14 Parts of his assets had already been seized on September 6, 1938, under a "security order" for possible "Reich escape taxes"; the rest was confiscated in June 1941 in favor of the German Reich. The Gestapo Münster initiated expatriation proceedings against Freund the same month.
Freund was arrested by the Gestapo in Amsterdam on November 26, 1942 and taken to the "Jewish transit camp" Westerbork. He was deported from there with 870 other Jews to Theresienstadt on January 18, 1944 and to Auschwitz on October 12, 1944, where he was murdered two days later.
Freund had three older siblings, Lisbeth (1872-1963), Walther (1874-1952), and Rudolf Ernst (1877-1959), all of whom survived the Holocaust. Walther Freund was a renowned pediatrician in Breslau who studied under Adalbert Czerny (1893-1941) and became chairman of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in 1932. As a result of the anti-Semitic repressive policies of the National Socialists, he was dismissed, his property was confiscated, and he was deported to an internment camp in the south of France. He narrowly escaped further transport to an extermination camp and fled to Switzerland. After several years in the USA, he returned to Freiburg in Germany in 1950.16
Hermann Freund remained unmarried and had no children. However, he kept a close relationship with his student Willy König (1903-1963) and his wife Irmgard König, née Fischer (*1897), whom he legally adopted as a daughter in 1933.
The first meeting of the German Pharmacological Society after the Second World War took place in Hamburg in 1947. The chairman, Behrend Behrens (1895-1969), remembered Freund in his opening speech with terse words: "We were equally shocked by the news of Hermann Freund's death."17 In the detailed tribute to deceased members by Paul Martini, who gave the opening address as chairman of the first postwar congress of the German Society of Internal Medicine in 1948, Freund, who had been a member of the DGIM for almost 30 years, was not mentioned.18
Hermann Freund's successor in Münster, Ludwig Lendle, wrote a lengthy obituary for him in 1953 in Naunyn-Schmiedeberg's Archiv für Experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie. In it he honored Freund as a lively, intelligent and independent thinker whom "the pressure of party terror [...] soon forced out of office and from the circle of his friends into loneliness" and made him "fall irredeemably into the fate of Judaism".19 Citing Freund's brother Walther, Lendle erroneously assumed that Freund "was taken to the Mauthausen camp in the fall of 1944, 'where he is said to have died a quiet death from phlegmon that developed as a result of an injury to his foot'."20
Hermann Freund's true fate was only discovered much later.21 To honor his memory, the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Westphalian Wilhelm University of Münster and the German Society of Pharmacology had "Stolpersteine" (stumbling stones) laid in 2010 in front of his last place of work (Domagkstrasse 12, then: Am Westring 12) and in front of his last home (Annette-Allee 16).