Should a War Criminal Be Rewarded with Eponymous Distinction? The Double Life of Hans Reiter (1881–1969)

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The combination of arthritis, urethritis, conjunctivitis, often associated with a psoriasiform rash has been termed Reiter's syndrome, particularly if the patient is HLA-B27 positive. In this report, the history of “Reiter's syndrome” is investigated by reviewing descriptions of the syndrome and the life and times of Hans Reiter from source materials and recent publications that shed new light on medicine and clinical research in the Nazi regime. The description of the syndrome clearly antedates Reiter's work by several hundred years. Numerous other investigators accurately described a reactive cutaneo-arthropathy before Reiter.Hans Reiter gave his imprimatur to some of the most horrific experiments conducted on concentration camp internees during World War II. We conclude that Reiter does not deserve eponymous distinction. The disorder should be renamed “reactive cutaneo-arthropathy,” or a “reactive arthritis” syndrome.

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