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Mark J. Rosen, MD, FCCP; Richard S. Irwin, MD, Master FCCP
Author and Funding Information

From the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine (Dr Rosen), North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center; Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Dr Rosen); the University of Massachusetts Medical School (Dr Irwin); and CHEST (Dr Irwin).

Correspondence to: Mark J. Rosen, MD, FCCP, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, 410 Lakeville Rd, Ste 107, New Hyde Park, NY 11040; e-mail: mrosen@nshs.edu


Financial/nonfinancial disclosures: The authors have reported to CHEST that no potential conflicts of interest exist with any companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2010;138(3):753-754. doi:10.1378/chest.10-1178
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To the Editor:

We welcome the opportunity to respond to Dr DeRemee’s criticism of the editorials that appeared in CHEST about the decision of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) to withdraw the honorific of “Master Clinician” bestowed on Dr Friedrich Wegener in 1989.1,2 Dr DeRemee acknowledges that this decision was within the purview of the ACCP Board of Regents; however, it is for historians to decide whether charges about Dr Wegener’s activities as a member of the National Socialist Party were “unfounded and egregious.” Erasing Wegener’s name from the medical lexicon is the prerogative of the medical community, just as the editors of international rheumatology journals agreed to expunge the term Reiter syndrome from their publications in 2003, replacing it with reactive arthritis to accurately describe this arthritic condition and to stop paying homage to Hans Reiter, who carried out human experiments in Nazi concentration camps.3 It is our understanding from a personal communication with Dr Stanley Cohen, president of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), that the executive committees of the ACR and European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) will be sending a letter shortly to the ACR/EULAR task force working on updating the classification criteria for the vasculitides. In this letter, a recommendation will be made that eponyms be removed from the nomenclature in favor of naming these diseases according to their pathophysiology or other descriptive features, such as organ involvement and autoantibodies. If and when the nomenclature of the vasculitides changes, CHEST will follow the lead of the ACR and EULAR. We disagree with Dr DeRemee’s assertion that the use of footnote or asterisk citations of Wegener’s name is a “self-defeating process” because we hope that the reader will be curious enough to determine why the asterisk was used.

Dr DeRemee acknowledges the “awareness of the sensitivity of the Jewish community,” but we are appalled that he identifies withdrawing the ACCP award as a Jewish issue. Thousands of non-Jews who fought against the Nazis and died would surely object to honoring a former Nazi officer with a medical eponym. As for the other examples of former Nazis who achieved success and acclaim after the war, we do not see the parallels. Herbert van Karajan was lauded as a great conductor, but his career was tainted with controversy because he embraced the Nazi party while other celebrated conductors left Germany. Günter Grass was drafted into the Waffen Schutzstaffel at the age of 17 but became a public critic of Germany’s Nazi past and a left-leaning peace activist, ultimately disclosing his Schutzstaffel membership, albeit 60 years later. Richard Strauss is known to have been at odds with Nazi political policies and the government, and Richard von Weizsäker as president of Germany spoke about German responsibility and attempted to reconcile with the past. We have no information to confirm that Dr Wegener ever objected to the Nazi philosophy or that he ever spoke publicly about his role in the regime.

Wegener’s prowess as schleuderball champion notwithstanding, sponsorship of his athletic career is no justification for a political alliance with the Nazis. Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest boxer of all time, chose to jeopardize his career by refusing to serve in the Vietnam War; he was sentenced to 5 years in prison, which was reversed on appeal. Finally, we believe it ludicrous to compare Wegener with Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to save hundreds of Jews during World War II.

As Dr DeRemee states, perhaps our opinions and those of the ACCP Board of Regents are “facile” and “naive.” Nevertheless, speaking for ourselves, we consider Wegener’s silence while serving as a willing Nazi officer and not speaking publicly about these years after the war are sufficient reasons to not honor him even in the absence of “proof of nefarious activity.”

Rosen MJ. Dr. Friedrich Wegener and the ACCP, revisited. Chest. 2007;1326:1723-1741. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Rosen MJ. Dr. Friedrich Wegener, the ACCP, and history. Chest. 2007;1323:739-741. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Wallace DJ, Weisman M. Should a war criminal be rewarded with eponymous distinction? The double life of Hans Reiter (1881-1969). J Clin Rheumatol. 2000;61:49-54. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 

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References

Rosen MJ. Dr. Friedrich Wegener and the ACCP, revisited. Chest. 2007;1326:1723-1741. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Rosen MJ. Dr. Friedrich Wegener, the ACCP, and history. Chest. 2007;1323:739-741. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Wallace DJ, Weisman M. Should a war criminal be rewarded with eponymous distinction? The double life of Hans Reiter (1881-1969). J Clin Rheumatol. 2000;61:49-54. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
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