Hans Reiter

Hans Conrad Julius Reiter ( Leipzig , 26 of February of 1881 – Kassel , 25 of November of 1969 ) was a physician , bacteriologist and hygienist German who served for the Nazi regime , as an officer of the SS and was the direct cause of cruel deaths Hundreds of Jewish prisoners in the Buchenwald concentration camp .



Hans Reiter was born in the city of Reudnitz , near Leipzig , day 26 of February of 1881 . He was the son of German parents: industrialist Richard Reiter and Margarete Heib. He studied medicine in Leipzig .


In mid-1936 Hans Reiter took over the post of director of the Mecklenburg-Schwerin State Department of Health, from which he emigrated to Berlin . In 1937 he was appointed president of the Reich Health Office, where he declared that it was the responsibility of medicine to avoid the transmission of inferior genes to future generations. At that time he published his first treatise on racial hygiene: Deutsches Gold. Gesundes Leben, Frohes Schaffen .

World War II

Reiter was captured and interrogated during the Nuremberg Trials held between 1945 and 1947 . The crimes committed by the Nazi doctors led to the drafting of a new legal code to try both them and their helpers. These legal principles were detailed in the Principles of Nuremberg , written by allied legalists to prevent future excesses on the part of the medical bodies of the prison camps. Interestingly, Hans Reiter’s activities during the time he was in charge of Buchenwald were known long after the Nuremberg trials thanks to the statements of medical assistants in the Buchenwald camp and some survivors who provided descriptions of the experiments and torture to Which were submitted.

Thanks to these testimonies it was found that Hans Reiter was involved in the creation of economic methods of sterilization and euthanasia , commissioned for it especially by the Nazi regime. He also participated in a study whose application included the inoculation of typhus virus to the inmates of the Buchenwald concentration camp. The result of this study was the death of hundreds of prisoners. He also supervised and gave orders to carry out many other experiments in the Buchenwald concentration camp; One of the best documented is the infection of 250 prisoners with Rickettsia and their subsequent murder.

His status as an outstanding researcher and acknowledged scholar caused a scandal that continues to this day. An example of this is the resistance of medical circles of Jewish origin to the use of the term Reiter’s syndrome to describe reactive arthritis, a condition studied and accurately described by the German physician, whose clinical manifestations are inflammation of the urethra , conjunctivitis and arthritis . In addition, its name is associated with Reiter ‘s spirochete , a variant of treponema, related to Treponema pallidum and Reiter’s Test, a test for the diagnosis of syphilis .

After three years’ imprisonment in Germany, Hans Reiter was released, as is clear from the Nuremberg files, on the ground that he had found nothing more than circumstantial evidence and no solid evidence linking him to the exterminations in Buchenwald. Once released, Hans Reiter returned to his field of research in rheumatology.

He died at the age of 88 at his country house near Hessen. 1


Medical bibliography about Hans Reiter and his works

  • Vaccinetherapie und Vaccinediagnostik . Stuttgart, 1936
  • Das Reichsgesundheitsamt 1933-1939. Sechs Jahre nationalsozialistischer Führung . Berlin, J. Springer, 1939
  • Deutsches Gold. Gesundes Leben, Frohes Schaffen . Berlin, 1937
  • Several articles in the Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift, including one under the title of Eine Bisher Unbekannte Spirochäteninfektion


  1. Back to top↑ Obituary of Hans Reiter , in Arthritis and Rheumatism 13 (3), May-June 1970, pp. 296-297. Retrieved on October 8, 2011.
  • Biographical chart in Who Named It.