Samson Hirsch

born 17.11.1890 Hannover
d. 02.10.1960 Rom/Italien

DGIM Honorary Member 1922 – 1938

Samson Raphael Hirsch was the son of the Jewish physician Raphael Hirsch and his wife Lina, née Löwenthal.1 He was named after his great-grandfather Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1880), the Reform rabbi who became known as the founder of Neo-Orthodoxy. His aunt, the internist Rahel Hirsch (1870-1953) and likewise an emigrated DGIM member, was one of the first German female physicians to attain the title of professor. Samson Hirsch's younger brother Julius (1892-1962) also studied medicine and became a recognized full professor of microbiology and hygiene in Istanbul.2

Hirsch moved to Frankfurt am Main after the early death of his father and attended the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gymnasium there from 1901. In 1909, he passed the Abitur and began studying medicine in Heidelberg. After stations in Munich and Berlin, he was licensed in Heidelberg in 1914 and received his doctorate in the same year with a thesis on neurasthenic symptoms in chronic lead poisoning under Ludolf von Krehl (1861-1937).3

Hirsch's license to practice coincided with the outbreak of World War I, so he initially worked as a military doctor.

New Scientific Territory

After the end of the war, Hirsch accepted a position as senior physician in the internal medicine department at the Sandhof Municipal Hospital in Frankfurt. At the same time, he became a staff member at the Institute of Pharmacology at the University of Frankfurt, where he took over as head of the X-ray department. During this time, he produced numerous scientific papers, including the first international study in 1922 demonstrating successful clinical use of theophylline in bronchial asthma.4 In another landmark study, in 1923, he and Joseph Berberich demonstrated the first successful performance of angiography on the living using strontium bromide.5

Later, Hirsch settled in Frankfurt am Main as a specialist in internal diseases. Between 1927 and 1933, he also worked as an expert witness for the Reich Insurance Institution for Salaried Employees and for the Appeals Board of the War Injured Welfare.6 Together with his wife Erna, née Falk (b. 1903), he lived at Brentanostraße 14.

Flight and Life in Exile

From 1933, Hirsch faced repression by the National Socialists. He lost his employment as an expert and was subsequently also dismissed from the hospital. He decided to emigrate to Belgium In 1938 – probably under the impression of the revocation of his license to practice medicine ordered on September 30, 1938. On March 19, 1940, his German citizenship was revoked on the basis of § 2 of the "Law on the Revocation of Naturalizations and the Revocation of German Citizenship of July 14, 1933."7

When Belgium was occupied by Wehrmacht troops in 1940, the Hirsch couple had to go into hiding. Both survived and remained in Belgium after the end of the war. Hirsch settled in Brussels in 1945, where he worked as a physician, scientist, and publicist; he obtained a position at the Institute of Pathology at the University of Brussels, among other things.8 The more than 50 publications that have been produced since then attest to a high level of research activity even after World War II. Hirsch's scientific interests and activities were wide-ranging; his main focus was on cardiology and cardiovascular diseases.

Other interests included philosophy and music in particular. Hirsch was also a member of the Bnei Briss Lodge and for a time president of the Hermann Cohen Lodge in Frankfurt; when living in Belgium, he acted as a liaison between the lodges.9

Hirsch died during a visit in Rome, where he attended the 3rd European Congress of Cardiology, just prior to his 70th birthday.


See (here and hereafter, unless otherwise noted) Renate Heuer/Siegbert Wolf, Die Juden der Frankfurter Universität, Frankfurt a. M. 1997, pp. 417-418; G.[erhard] Schultze-Werninghaus/J.[ürgen] Meier-Sydow, The Clinical and Pharmacological History of Theophylline. First Report on the Bronchospasmolytic Action in Man by S. R. Hirsch in Frankfurt (Main) 1922, in Clinical Allergy 12 (1982), pp. 211-215.See Dietrich von Engelhardt (ed.), Biographische Enzyklopädie deutschsprachiger Mediziner, vol. 1, Frankfurt a. M. 2002, p. 283.See Samson Hirsch, Über neurasthenische Symptome und chronische Blei-Vergiftung, Diss. med. Heidelberg 1914; Samson Hirsch, Ueber die Neurasthenie der Bleikranken, in: Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 40 (1914), pp. 382-385.See Samson Hirsch/Walter Alwens, Clinical and Experimental Contribution to the Antispasmodic Action of the Purine Derivatives, in Klinische Wochenschrift 1 (1922), pp. 615-618; Charles D. May, History of the Introduction of Theophylline into the Treatment of Asthma, in Clinical Allergy 4 (1974), pp. 211-217.See Joseph Berberich/Samson Hirsch, Die Röntgenographische Darstellung der Arterien und Venen am Lebenden Menschen, in: Klinische Wochenschrift 2 (1923), pp. 2226-2228; René van Tiggelen, The Rise of Contrast-enhanced Roentgenology. An Illustrated and Chronological Overview, in Journal of the Belgian Society of Radiology 100 (2016), pp. 1-9.See Joseph Walk, Kurzbiographien zur Geschichte der Juden 1918-1945, Munich et al. 2014 (reprint), p. 155.National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, DC, Name Index of Jews Whose German Nationality Was Annulled by the Nazi Regime (Berlin Documents Center); Record Group: 242, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675-1958; Record Group ARC ID: 569; Publication Number: T355; Roll: 4, Hartmann, Margarethe - Kapp, Hildegard.Archives, patrimoine et réserve précieuse de l'Université de Bruxelles (information by e-mail 26.2.2021).See Paul Arnsberg, Die Geschichte der Frankfurter Juden seit der Französischen Revolution, Darmstadt 1983, pp. 202-203.

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