Georg Klemperer

born 10.05.1865 Landsberg an der Warthe
d. 25.12.1946 Boston

DGIM Honorary Member 1895 – 1940

Georg Klemperer was one of the most influential members of the DGIM in the first half of the 20th century. He was the son of the Reform rabbi Wilhelm Klemperer, the elder brother of the literary scholar Victor Klemperer and the internist Felix Klemperer, and the cousin of the conductor Otto Klemperer. Georg Klemperer himself became known for his reform-oriented work at the Moabit Hospital. He had been working here as chief physician since 1906.1 It was Klemperer's achievement that his I. Internal Department and the I. Surgical Department headed by Moritz Borchardt, were elevated to the IV. Berlin University Hospital by ministerial decree in 1919.2

Prominent Personality of the DGIM

Klemperer was a DGIM board member from 1914 to 1921 and its chairman in 1921. He had already determined the fate of the society as a member of the committee (1906-1910) and the drug committee prior to his appointment as chairman.3

Klemperer, along with the chairman, was at the center of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the first Congress of Internal Medicine in 1932. He had written a 164-page, closely printed history of the DGIM to mark the occasion and was made an honorary member in the anniversary year.4

Removal of the Venia Legendi

His employment contract in Moabit had been extended beyond the regular retirement age of 67, until March 31, 1933. Even before the appointment of his successor Victor Schilling, his contract was subsequently not extended again – as had generally been expected – due to the new balance of power.5 Georg Klemperer is mentioned again and again in the daily diaries of his brother Victor, which have become famous. Georg reports in May 1933 that, if one had wanted, he "could have been kept."6 But not only was he dismissed, he also explicitly lost his venia legendi. Moreover, he was not allowed to continue the editorship of the journal "Therapie der Gegenwart", which he had coined, and of the pocket dictionary "Neue Deutsche Klinik."7

Retirement in the USA

The retiree first helped his children find jobs abroad. His son Otto, born in 1899, had already been working at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in the fall of 1933; another son, who had studied political economy, had moved to Chicago.8 The other two sons also seemed to be in safety in January 1934. Georg Klemperer himself planned to "settle somewhere in southern Germany in the summer."9 "Lonely and embittered," he rented an apartment in Freiburg on April 1, 1934, but then traveled frequently throughout Europe and the United States, visiting both patients and his sons.10 He gave up Germany as a place of residence, and – unlike his brother Victor, who lived in Dresden – also distanced himself emotionally from his homeland.11 He announced his emigration in October 1935 and reported from Boston in March of the following year.12 Contrary to his hopes, Harvard University strictly adhered to the 65-year age limit, so that the 71-year-old withdrew more and more into private life. Although a Spanish textbook was still published in 1943, to which he contributed significantly, benefiting from his successful internal medicine textbook published in 26 editions in Germany from 1890 to 1931.13

Klemperer "no longer felt youthful enough for the very lively medical competition" in the United States. Instead he wrote his memoirs and awaited "the end with equanimity."14 The melancholy phases alternated with those of activity. From Newtonville, Massachusetts he traveled to his sons' families, all of whom had "escaped the inferno germanico."15

Increased Awareness and Commemoration Since the turn of the Millennium

He supported his brother Victor – who had stayed behind in Dresden – financially and sought a job opportunity for him outside of Germany.16 Georg Klemperer lost his wife Maria in October 1937. She died in Merano while on a trip to Europe.17 His own death nine years later, shortly after the war had ended, was barely noticed in Germany.18 Following the publication of a dissertation in 2001 and 2003 that dealt with Klemperer, the Berlin Medical Association has awarded a "Georg Klemperer Medal of Honor" since 2007.19 A Georg Klemperer honorary lecture has been held since 2007 by the German Society for Nutritional Medicine as part of the "Ernährung – Diätetik – Infusionstherapie" ("edi) (Nutrition – Dietetics – Infusion Therapy) congresses.20


For biographical details see in detail Ulrike Wolf, Leben und Wirken des Berliner Internisten Georg Klemperer (1865-1946), Aachen 2003, p. 3 ff, on his activity in Moabit ibid, p. 20 ff.See Wolf, Leben, p. 11 u. p. 33.See Verhandlungen der DGIM, vol. 45 (1933), p. XIII, zum Arzneimittelausschuss Wolf, Leben, p. 110.Georg Klemperer, 50 Jahre Kongress für Innere Medizin 1882-1932, Berlin 1932.See Wolf, Leben, p. 11 ff. u. p. 37 f.Victor Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum letzten. Tagebücher 1933-1941, 5th ed. Berlin 1996, p. 29, 22.5.1933.See Wolf, Leben, p. 110.See Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 60, 9.10.1933 and p. 79, Jan. 16, 1934.See Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 80, Jan. 16, 1934.Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 82, Jan. 27, 1934; cf. ibid, p. 110, 6/13/1934; ibid, p. 202, 5/30/1935.See Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 110, 6/13/1934; p. 202, 5/30/1935; p. 206, 6/20/1935.See Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 224, 10/19/1935; p. 252, 3/23/1935.Georg Klemperer/Bernardo Clariana/Pedro Domingo Sanjuán, Tratamiento de las enfermedades internas con atención a su profilaxis y pronóstico, La Habana 1943; Georg Klemperer, Grundriss der klinischen Diagnostik, Berlin 1890. Cf. Wolf, Leben, p. 110.Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 268, 30.5. 1936.See Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 313, 10.10.1936.See Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 206, 6/20/1935; p. 369, 7/26/1937; p. 423, 9/11/1938; p. 426, 10/2/1938; p. 470, 4/20/1939; p. 592, 4/25/1941.See Klemperer, Zeugnis, p. 383, Oct. 27, 1937.See Wolf, Life, p. 110.See Wolf, Life;, ins. 6/15/2020.See, ins. 6/15/2020

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