Sue Young Histories

Erwin Liek 1878 - 1935

January 06, 2009

Erwin Liek 1878 - 1935 was a German physician and writer.

Liek was founding editor of Hippokrates, a magazine of general health interest with strong ties to homeopathy.

August Karl Gustav Bier became extremely interested in homeopathy and he demanded that regular medicine became more open to it, in which view he was supported by Erwin Liek, Ernst Ferdinand Sauerbruch, Kapferer and Mummert, and also Edward Hitschmann, whose grandfather was a homeopath, and Heinrich Meng who became the Chief Physician of the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, which was itself founded by a homeopath and now houses a Homeopathic Archive.

(translated from German) Liek studied from 1896 to 1902 medicine at the Universities of Freiburg, and Königsberg.

After a year as a ship’s doctor took him to Togo, Cameroon, South and North America has led, he was assistant physician in Wiesbaden, Greifswald and Gdansk, which began in 1909 when he surgical own private clinic opened.

During the First World War, he was a staff physician at the East and West Front surgically, and after the war took his Danziger practice again.

In 1925 came as a publicist Liek also showed his themes were the relationship between natural and “medicine” (The Miracle of medicine) and medical ethics (The doctor and his mission). _Liek founded in 1928 the general medical journal _Hippocrates, homeopathy and a healthy diet and was receptive to the doctors like Bernhard Aschner, Eugen Bircher and medical historian Henry E Sigerist cooperated.

After his death, a hospital in Berlin Reinickendorf named after him.

Liek is widely criticised today for being too close to the Nazi movement:

Liek is difficult to pigeonhole, however, and his attitude toward Nazism was, at least for a time, ambivalent.

He never joined the party but was nonetheless apparently offered - prior to 1933 and by Hitler himself - the position of Reich Physicians’ Fuhrer (eventually assumed by his admirer, Gerhard Wagner; Liek’s failing health precluded his appointment)…

In his thirty year professional career he produced writings on a broad range of topics - including a stirring attack on overzealous human experimentation - but he was best known for his critique of the “spiritual crisis” of modern medicine, medicine enervated by specialization, bureaucratization, and scientization, warped by greed and myopia, but also by its failure to appreciate the natural capacity of the body to heal itself.

Liek was a hands on practitioner but also something of a romantic, yearning after simpler times when science was not the be all and end all of medicine, when the doctor patient relationship was (purportedly) intimate and sacred.

As founding editor of Hippokrates, a magazine of general health interest with strong ties to homeopathy and the natural foods movement…

Liek wrote two books on cancer. In his 1932 volume on The Spread, Prevention, and Control of Cancer, the Danzig surgeon argued that cancer was a disease of civilization, a “cultural disease” whose incidence was on the rise.

A natural way of life was the best protection: “the simpler and more natural one’s way of life, the rarer is cancer.”

Liek endorsed the view that cancer was rare among the primitive races of the world, a view dating back at least to the 1840s and subsequently upheld by people like Frederick Hoffman, the American insurance agent, and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the Arctic explorer.

Liek was convinced that the growth of cancer could be traced to things like arsenic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, excessive smoking and drinking, and sexual promiscuity.

People were getting too many X-rays, and stress from the rapid pace of modern life was weakening our overall bodily resistance, making us vulnerable to cancer. Faulty nutrition, in Liek’s view, was the single most important cause of cancer.

Japan’s high rate of stomach cancer, for example, must have something to do with their consumption of “enormous quantities” of spicy foods, compounded by their infrequent consumption of meat.

In Germany, the pumping of massive quantities of petrochemical preservatives and colorings into foods must play a role.

Vegetables, Lick complained, were too often “greened” with copper sulfate (one hundred milligrams per kilogram was the legal limit in his day), while sugar was routinely “blued” with a dye known as “ultramarine” (a sulfated sodium aluminum silicate - later replaced by the coal tar derivative indanthrene).

Bread was regularly bleached with benzoyl peroxide after many of the natural vitamins and fibers found in traditional whole grain breads had been destroyed by overprocessing.

All of these things, in Liek’s view, contributed to the cancer burden.

In his second book on this topic The Struggle against Cancer, published in 1934 Liek admitted exaggerations on the part of some food critics.

He did not believe, for example, that aluminum pans were a cause of cancer (a near hysterical fear in the late 1920s), and he questioned whether the dangers of lead or mercury had been exaggerated (fears of poisoning from dental fillings had already begun to be raised).

He also corrected certain errors in his 1932 book - that raw sugar was superior to refined, for example, and that the most common “blueing” agent of sugar was a coal tar derivative (the coal tar product was introduced later).

The larger point was still valid, however, he maintained: cancer could be prevented. If lifestyle degradations were behind the increase, then lifestyle changes could reverse the trend.

What was needed was a reorientation of medicine from cure and care to prevention: Fürsorge and Nachsorge (comfort and care) were to be complemented by an increased attention to Vorsorge (taking precautions).

Liek was well aware that powerful financial interests would resist efforts to remove carcinogens from the environment - suppliers of alcohol, food products, and pharmaceuticals, for example, who made it their business to convince the public that beer was food, that tin cans were a convenience, and that Brand X toothpaste would fight cavities.

He pointed out that resistance was to be expected from such companies; he also pointed out, though, that new political winds were blowing which might change all this… continue reading:


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