Rothmann was born in Berlin in 1899 as the son of the Jewish internist and neurologist Max Rothmann (1868-1915) and his wife Anna, née Neumann (1871-1936).1 Rothmann studied in Freiburg and Berlin and worked as an intern for Albert Fraenkel (1848-1916) and Hermann Munk (1839-1912) for several years, before qualifying as professor of neurology in 1899. As professor (extraordinarius) at the University of Berlin, his work and research focused mainly on neuroanatomy. He committed suicide in 1915.2
Hans Rothmann attended the Mommsen Gymnasium and the Köllnische Gymnasium before being called up for military service in June 1917. He served, among other things, as a medic in an epidemic hospital in Sedan.3 He passed his A-levels during a furlough at the Gymnasium in Rostock and enrolled in medicine at the university. He was assigned to the garrison in Münster (Westphalia) after the end of the war, where he was able to attend university at the same time.
After being discharged from military service, Rothmann studied medicine in Rostock and Berlin, where he passed the state examination in July 1923. He completed the practical year with Bernard Brouwer (1881-1949) at the neurological clinic in Amsterdam and with Friedrich Kraus (1858-1936) at the II Medical Clinic of the Charité.4 While in Amsterdam, he undertook research with Cornelius Ubbo Ariëns Kappers (1877-1946) at the Netherlands Central Institute for Brain Research (Nederlands Centraal Instituut voor Hersenonderzoek).5Rothmann received his license to practice medicine in 1924 and was awarded his doctorate the same year in Berlin under Kraus and Kurt Dresel (1892-1951) with the thesis "Ueber Eiweissspeicherung in der Leber nach Eiweissmast und die Einwirkung des Adrenalins auf dieselbe."6
Rothmann stayed on at the clinic with Kraus, first as a volunteer, then as a research assistant. At the same time, he settled as a physician in Berlin. He became a private assistant to Theodor Brugsch (1878-1963). Brugsch was appointed director of the clinic and chair of internal medicine in Halle in October 1927. Rothmann went with him and was appointed ward physician at the university medical clinic. He qualified as a professor of internal medicine in 1930 after giving an inaugural lecture on "Die Einsonderungsorgane in ihrer Beziehung zur Konstitution" and went on to teach as a private lecturer.7
Rothmann worked on many topics in the field of experimental medicine. One of his main interests was metabolic physiology.8
National Socialist Repressions and Emigration to the USA
Rothmann was urged to take leave of absence at his own request in the spring of 1933 after the National Socialists had come to power. His teaching license was revoked in September 1933, citing § 3 of the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service". He was forced into retirement on October 10, 1933 and salary payments were stopped as of December 1933.9
Rothmann's initial plan to emigrate to Sweden failed.10He moved back to Berlin and opened a private practice there in order to secure his livelihood. He decided to emigrate to the USA in 1936 due to ongoing repressions. He arrived in New York via Le Havre, France, on October 12, 1936, aboard the passenger ship "Normandie".11
Medical Practice in the USA
Rothmann opened a private practice in July 1937 after having received his medical license from the state of New York. He simultaneously worked as a clinical assistant at Beth David Hospital in New York.12
Rothmann met his future wife Frances Bertha Bransten (1914-1984) while in San Francisco. They married in 1938.13 The marriage produced three children, Susan (b. December 3, 1938), William (b. February 22, 1940), and John (b. March 2, 1949). Rothmann received American citizenship in 1940 and the family relocated from New York to the West Coast. To obtain his Californian license to practice medicine, Rothmann completed a year as an intern at Franklin Hospital and Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco.14
After receiving his license to practice medicine in California in 1942, Rothmann initially served in the Pacific War as a military physician in the U.S. Army, ultimately with the rank of major.15 He set up his own practice as an internist in San Francisco after the end of the war.
Rothmann was a member of major U.S. medical societies, including the San Francisco Medical Society and the Medical Society of the County of New York.16
Rothmann's older brother Otto (1896-1914) enlisted as a war volunteer in 1914 and was killed the same year.17 The loss of his eldest son weighed heavily on his father. This and the failed attempt to enlist the only 15-year-old Hans in the navy as a cadet a short time later, ultimately led to Max Rothmann's suicide.18
His younger sister Eva (1897-1960) also became a doctor. She was married to the neurologist and psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965). She helped him to escape via Zurich to Amsterdam after he had been arrested and mistreated by SA soldiers. The couple lived in Amsterdam for a year, where they were supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. They then emigrated to New York in the United States.19
The University of Halle conduced a commemorative act for its members who had been displaced under National Socialism in 2013. Among those present was Rothmann's youngest son John F. Rothmann. He had come from the USA with his family and gave a moving speech.20