Upon his death a few years later in 1915, he bequeathed money to the Nordau Institute, a forerunner of Hebrew University. Later, in a 1918 ceremony atop Har Hatzofim (Mount Scopus) when twelve foundation stones symbolizing the Tribes of Israel were laid for the university, Weizmann specifically mentioned Ehrlich in his address as being one “of the links in the long, unbroken chain of [Jewish] intellectual development.”
In 1912, the street on which Ehrlich’s institute was located was renamed Paul Ehrlichstrasse in his honor. In 1938 the Nazis erased his name from the street and from all other records. Ehrlich, who lived his life epitomizing the “ehrliche Yid” (an obvious but wholly apt pun), was buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Frankfurt. The Nazis later vandalized and defaced the gravesite and when his life and work were featured in the 1940 U.S. film “Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet” (with Edward G. Robinson, himself a Jew, cast in the title role), the Nazis censored even the mere mention of the film because it celebrated the life and important contributions of a Jew.
When pitching “Magic Bullet” to Warner Bros. in 1938, Norman Burnside made clear that he intended the subtext of the film to be the promotion of a forceful moral stand against Nazi anti-Semitism. However, the studio, consistent with the great care taken by Hollywood not to endorse any allegedly “Jewish agenda” on screen, made certain that the words “Jew” and “Jewish” were never so much as mentioned in the film, and the deathbed scene was changed so as to delete Ehrlich’s/Robinson’s reference to the Pentateuch.
Burnside – who was nominated for an academy Award for original screenplay for the film – severely criticized the Hollywood moguls who remained unforgivably silent about the Holocaust, saying: “Nazi hooligans in the street were slugging rabbis and women and children. And the Jewish movie producers for the most part hid their heads like ostriches…”
Exhibited on this page is an October 16, 1912 letter from Ehrlich to Dr. Salomon Ehrmann, a renowned Jewish-Austrian dermatologist, one of the foremost developers of dermopathology, and a close friend of Freud. He served as director of the dermatological department at Vienna General Hospital specializing in syphilology, and he is best remembered for his research involving the parasitic causative agent of syphilis.
A loyal Jew throughout his life, Ehrmann supported poor Jewish students and led both the Vienna Jewish community and the Austrian B’nai Brith. His motto was “nothing that is Jewish is alien to me” and, as he explained, “in the Jewish people, a traitor of the Torah is equivalent to what in other people is high treason.”
In this letter, Ehrlich is undoubtedly referring to Ehrmann’s seminal work, Vergleichend-diagnostscher Atlas der Hautkrankheiten und der Syphilde (1912), his comprehensive and definitive atlas:
Frankfurt, October 16, 1912
Esteemed and respected colleague!
Thank you very much for your extraordinary and affectionate gesture of sending your basic works in which you have created basically a genuine movement to your life’s work. I look forward to having the opportunity to take counsel and useful advice from them.
With heartfelt greetings and sincere wishes,
Your staunchest friend and supporter,
* * * * *
Ilya (Elie) Ilyich Metchnikoff (1845-1916), “the father of natural immunity,” was a Russian zoologist best known for his pioneering research, particularly his discovery of phagocytes and phagocytosis (1882), which demonstrates the process of how specific white blood cells can break down harmful bacteria in the body. Realizing that in animals the white blood cells gather at the site of inflammation, he theorized that certain white blood cells could surround and destroy harmful bacteria, a theory that initially met with great skepticism from leading specialists including, notably, Louis Pasteur.