Alfred Kantorowicz

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A pediatric dentistry innovator, Kantorowicz was born in 1880. He received his dental degree in 1900 and his medical degree in 1906. After World War I he was appointed as director of the dental institute in Bonn, Germany in which capacity he served for 15 years. He was an amazing leader with a special interest in pediatric dentistry and was the developer of mobile clinics and preventive dentistry programs for children in Germany. According to the Bonn synogogue (2006) website

Kantorowicz had established the idea of dental care and examination at schools. As a young doctor he had developed the "Bonn Model": School dentists provided regular dental check-ups and treatment for all school students. Kantorowicz arranged for the introduction of a mobile dental clinic for area schools. This preventive care model was unique in Germany. His work in making the benefits of dentistry available even to the poorest sections of the population” was highly regarded throughout the dental profession in pre Nazi Europe.

Alfred Kantorowicz, had been living in Bonn since 1918. In 1923, he was awarded the first full professorship in the field of dentistry at Bonn University. After the Nazis came to power the political conflict at Bonn University deepened. The Bonn synagogue website states that “on April 4th, 1933, several professors from Bonn University published a declaration titled "Pro Adolf Hitler". On May 10th, the day of the ”Book Burning” students burned Jewish and Marxist literature on the market square. More than 50 professors had to leave Bonn University. Jewish Professors or dissenters were dismissed on April 7, 1933, on the grounds of the” Gesetz. As a deputy representing the Social Democratic Party in the Town Council, Kantorowicz had always warned against the NSDAP. In the Nazi newspaper "Westdeutscher Beobachter", Alfred Kantorowicz had already come under severe attack by the National Socialists as early as 1931.

In 1933 the Nazis had taken Kantorowicz into “Protective Custody” for his political beliefs and had kept him for four months in the prison at Bonn. He was then transferred to the Gestapo, S.A., and S.S. run Boergermoor hard labor concentration camp near Papenburg. There he spent another four months after which he was transferred to the concentration camp for prominent socialists, Jews, and intellectuals in Lichtenburg. Evidence in the Rockefeller Foundation archives shows that the Foundation was unable to interfere directly in the matter of extraditing Kantorowich from the concentration camp. According to a letter signed by fellow émigré in Turkey philosopher Hans Reichenbach (1940) who had already relocated to UCLA from Istanbul, and theoretical chemist Fritz London who was at Duke University, Kantorowicz was released because of pressure from prominent authorities in Scandinavian countries at which time he came to Turkey. However with due respect to Professor Reichenbach because Alfred Kantorowicz was already sought after by the Turkish government as evidenced by the fact that a contract had already been signed. There is reason to believe that it was the Turkish connection that played the more significant role in the Kantorowicz release from Lichtenburg and safe passage to Istanbul. The answer may well be fund in the newly opened Holocaust archives at Bad Arolsen, Germany. Herein lies a topic for an MA thesis.

Kantorowicz worked in Turkey from 1933 until his retirement in 1948. During this period he was instrumental in modernizing Turkey’s dental curricula. As director of dentistry from 1936 to 1948 he tried to create a department similar to its American counterparts. He was among the outstanding professors and held many patents for his research. Alfred Kantorowicz was a dedicated social reformer for most of his adult life. In 1950 Kantorowicz returned to Germany and continued his work on dental research and caries prevention. His “Lectio Aurea” took place on February 17, 1962 in the auditorium of the new dental institute of the University of Bonn. He was awarded many honorary degrees (Honoris causa) including one in medicine on June 18th 1955.

This article is based on Reisman A. “Public Health Dentistry Pioneer: Alfred Kantorowicz in Exile from Nazi Rule.” Journal of the History of Dentistry, 2007, Spring;55(1):6-16

For additional reading on Ernst Reuter’s exile in Turkey see Arnold Reisman TURKEY'S MODERNIZATION: Refugees from Nazism and Ataturk's Vision

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