Hans Conrad Julius Reiter

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For the Knight's Cross recipient, see Hans Reiter.

Hans Conrad Julius Reiter (February 26, 1881 – November 25, 1969) was a German physician convicted of war crimes for his medical experiments at the concentration camp at Buchenwald. He wrote a book on "racial hygiene" called Deutsches Gold, Gesundes Leben - Frohes Schaffen.

Reiter was born in Reudnitz near Leipzig in the German Empire. He studied medicine at Leipzig and Breslau (now Wrocław) and received a doctorate from Tübingen on the subject of tuberculosis. After receiving his doctorate, he went on to study at the hygiene institute in Berlin, the Pasteur Institute in Paris and St. Mary's Hospital in London, where he worked with Sir Almroth Wright for two years. Reiter was also known for implementing strict anti-smoking laws in Nazi Germany.

First World War[edit]

During the First World War, Hans Reiter worked as a military physician on the Western Front and in the Balkans, where he served in the 1st Hungarian Army. It was here in 1916 that he reported a German Lieutenant with non-gonococcal urethritis, arthritis and uveitis. He was not the first person to describe this syndrome, which would later become known as Reiter's syndrome (later renamed to Reactive arthritis when his Nazi affiliation came to light). In the same year, and quite separately, the triad was reported by Feissinger & Leroy, and the triad was first reported by Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie (English surgeon 1783-1862). However, the combination of two of the elements (arthritis and urethritis) had been known from the 16th century. Reiter erroneously thought the triad to be due to a spirochaete related to but distinct from the causative agent of syphilis. This error probably was influenced by his discovery of the spirochaete cause of leptospirosis and a nonpathogenic strain of treponema related to T. pallidum (the cause of syphilis). This "Reiter strain" of treponema enabled drug companies to later develop the "Reiter Complement Fixation Test" for syphilis.


After the war ended, Reiter became chief of the hygiene department at Rostock. Hans Reiter was a political man, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi regime. His career was further boosted when, in 1932, he signed an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. In 1933 he was made department director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Experimental Therapy. In 1936, his meteoric rise continued when he was made director of the health department of Mecklenberg-Schwerin and received an honorary professorship in Berlin. With Johann Breger he wrote a book on racial hygiene—Deutsches Gold, Gesundes Leben—Frohes Schaffen ("German Gold, Healthy Life—Glad Work"). He was also a strong supporter of Hitler's anti-smoking campaign, medically progressive at the time. Reiter was a talented teacher who was popular with his students.

Second World War[edit]

As a member of the SS during the Second World War, Hans Reiter designed typhus inoculation experiments that killed more than 250 prisoners at concentration camps like Buchenwald. He was an enthusiastic supporter of and participant in enforced racial sterilisation and euthanasia. After the Nazis were defeated, he was arrested by the Red Army in Soviet Union-occupied Germany and tried at Nuremberg, where he was found guilty of his involvement in the deaths of hundreds of inmates at Buchenwald. He was interned at an American prisoner-of-war camp.

Later life[edit]

After his release, Reiter went back to work in the field of medicine and research in rheumatology. He died, aged 88, in 1969 at his country estate in Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe.[1]


In 1977 a group of doctors began a campaign to replace the term "Reiter's Syndrome" with "reactive arthritis". In addition to Reiter's war crimes, they pointed out that he was not the first to describe the syndrome, nor were his conclusions correct regarding its pathogenesis. The campaign has gradually gained momentum, and the term "Reiter's syndrome" has become increasingly anachronistic.[2]


  1. ^ Obituary Arthritis and Rheumatism, Vol.13, No.3 (May–June 1970). pp.296-297. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  2. ^ Panush, RS; Wallace, DJ; Dorff, RE; Engleman, EP (2007). "Retraction of the suggestion to use the term "Reiter's syndrome" sixty-five years later: the legacy of Reiter, a war criminal, should not be eponymic honor but rather condemnation". Arthritis Rheum 56 (2): 693–694. doi:10.1002/art.22374. PMID 17265506. 

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