Thanks to the complex hand-drawn illustrations — showing the human body peeled back layer by layer — Dr Mackinnon, from Washington University in St Louis, was able to complete the procedure. The book she had used, the innocuous-sounding Pernkopf Topographic Anatomy of Man, is widely considered to be the best example of anatomical drawings in the world. It is richer in detail and more vivid in colour than any other. Skin, muscle, tendons, nerves, organs and bone are revealed in graphic detail. Yet despite its hefty asking price, few would proudly display it in their clinic, library or home.
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Early life[ edit ] Pernkopf was born in in the Lower Austria village of Rappottenstein , near the border with Bavaria. The youngest of three sons, he seemed to be considering a career in music upon his completion of the Gymnasium in Horn. During his time there he became a member of the Student Academic Fraternity of Germany, a student group with a strong German nationalist persuasion.
Hochstetter became his mentor and one of his strongest influences. He served in the military as a physician for a year during World War I. In he earned the title of associate professor , with a promotion to full professor two years later. The following year he became a member of the Sturmabteilung , better known as the SA, Storm Troopers or "brownshirts".
In he was promoted again, becoming dean of the medical school. In his new position, in a supportive political environment, Pernkopf put his Nazi beliefs into action. He required medical faculty to declare their ethnic lineage as either "Aryan" or "non-Aryan" and swear loyalty to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
He forwarded a list of those who refused the latter to the university administration, who dismissed them from their jobs.
They should "[promote] those whose heredity is more valuable and whose biological constitution due to heredity gives the promise of healthy offspring [and prevent] offspring to those who are racially inferior and of those who do not belong. As he had begun his speech with "Heil Hitler! So may our call express only what each of us feels from the bottom of his heart; Adolf Hitler, Sieg Heil!
Sieg Heil! He kept expanding it, and it became popular with the rest of the university instructors and the Austrian medical community. As he attained his full professorship he was offered a contract to expand it into a publishable book, and he eagerly accepted. He worked hour days dissecting corpses, teaching classes and discharging his administrative responsibilities while a team of artists created the images that would eventually be in the atlas.
These became the descriptive text that accompanied the images. The other three all had some degree of formal training. This was enabled by a special treatment of the paper used for watercolor images that allowed greater detail than that type of paint normally did. The only deviation from this high level of realism was the use of color, where Pernkopf instructed them to use brighter hues than those found in real cadavers so that a reader would better learn to recognize and distinguish key anatomical landmarks.
They signaled this through the use of Nazi symbols in their work for the atlas. In his signature, Lepier frequently used the "r" at the end of his name as the basis for a swastika , and Endtrasser likewise used two Sig runes , the lightning-bolt insignia of the Schutzstaffel SS , for the "ss" in his name. It was large enough that it required two books, one devoted to anatomy in general and the other covering more specifically the chest and pectoral limbs.
Four years later, in , the second volume, likewise requiring two books, came out. It covered the abdomen, pelvis and pelvic limbs. With the exception of Lepier, ineligible for service because of his severe varicose veins , all the artists entered military service. Lepier nevertheless volunteered as an air raid warden , as did Batke when he returned home after being wounded and receiving the Iron Cross on the Eastern front.
These duties interrupted their artistic work. He continued to serve in those positions until World War II ended two years later, with the surrender of Germany , including Austria. His fortunes would change radically as a result.
Fearing that he might suffer legal or political repercussions for his previous Nazi party membership and prewar actions, he went on what he claimed was a vacation to Strobl in the state of Salzburg. However, he was arrested by American military authorities in August , and by May he had been terminated from all his remaining positions with the university.
Although he was ultimately never charged with any crimes, he was required to do regular hard labor throughout his imprisonment. The experience left him drained and exhausted when he returned to Vienna after his release, hoping to continue his work on the atlas. They continued working in the small space Hoff gave them.
He worked by himself while Pernkopf resumed his prewar schedule despite the privations he had endured. Wilhelm Dietz, older than the others, contributed paintings of the neck and pharynx during his two years on the project. Elfie von Siber painted facial muscles. The third volume, covering the head and neck, was released in Two of his former colleagues, Alexander Pickler and Werner Platzer, completed it for its publication.
Since little translation was necessary, this was the version of the atlas which medical students and physicians elsewhere in the world came to know and revere.
Howard Israel, an oral surgeon at Columbia University , revealed that the subject bodies may have in some cases been those of executed political prisoners, LGBT men and women, gypsies and Jews. Since then physicians have discussed whether it is ethical to use the atlas as it resulted from Nazi medical research. Israel directed a request to the University of Vienna to investigate the issue. This resulted in the establishment of the Senatorial Project of the University of Vienna "Studies in Anatomical Science in Vienna from to "  in The project confirmed that at least 1, bodies of executed persons were delivered to the University during the Nazi times and its usage cannot be excluded from at least images of the atlas.
Wiesenthal himself answered that it was unlikely, since during the Third Reich the Vienna Landsgericht, or district court, passed death sentences solely on "non-Jewish Austrian patriots, communists and other enemies of the Nazis. Opponents have asserted that any use of the atlas makes the user complicit in Nazi crimes and that modern technology, such as the Visible Human Project based on the tomographic dissection of a man executed in the United States , will make the atlas redundant if it has not done so already.
Proponents have countered that the knowledge gained from the atlas can be ethically separated from its origins nor can it be in some cases easily replaced by modern technology or other atlases.
Herein lies the paradox of the Pernkopf Atlas, as a legacy of the Third Reich: the fact that Pernkopf and his illustrators, by embracing Nazi ideology and benefiting from the atrocities committed, created a Nazi anatomy atlas in which irreconcilable opposites were forcibly reconciled. Beautiful anatomical drawings were created, but this was only made possible by the unethical and unlawful procurement of the anatomical remains of murdered victims of an evil Nazi regime—thus beauty and evil were fused.
This fusion not only perverts and diminishes the status and content of the Pernkopf Atlas, but also explains why it should be rejected.
Kagor Medicine and Murder Although never charged with war crimes, Pernkopf spent three years in an Allied prison camp near Salzburg after the war. We thank David J. Two of his former colleagues, Alexander Pickler and Werner Platzer, completed it for its publication. Basic science advances can be obtained with non-human tissue e. This raises quite real ethical questions.
Eduard Pernkopf: The Nazi book of anatomy still used by surgeons
Eduard Pernkopf — was an ardent, politically active Austrian-Nazi; the signatures of the artists who painted the illustrations in his atlas include Nazi insignia. His first action in his capacity as dean of the medical school at the University of Vienna, Pernkopf expelled all Jews from the faculty — of the faculty members, among them, three Nobel Laureates. Some of these were deported to concentration camps like Theresienstadt and Dachau, in which only a few survived. Others committed suicide and the fate of others are unknown. Pernkopf Anatomy Atlas, He began writing the meticulous text of the Atlas in , collecting and dissecting human bodies that had been murdered by the Nazis; overseeing the avowedly Nazi artists who painted the intricate details even incorporated Nazi iconography into the illustrations.
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