Modern medicine has come a long way through the advances of a number of people, one of the greatest being Richard Lewisohn. Born July 12, 1875, in Hamburg, Germany, Lewisohn studied medicine at the University of Freiburg, which is still one of the most prestigious medical schools in Europe. He obtained his medical degree in 1899, and in 1906, he immigrated to New York. Lewisohn’s initial interest was in the digestive system (gastroenterology). He began his work at Mount Sinai Hospital, but, it ended up being his work with blood transfusions that made him the medical hero he was.

The blood is a complicated matter, and the study of the blood, or rather the experimentational use of the blood, often ended with tragic, and even fatal results. Of course, much of the problem came from having no understanding, or even any knowledge of blood types. The discovery of blood types didn’t come about until 1901, when Karl Landsteiner discovered that blood consisted of different types. Some types were compatible and could be transfused, leading to healing, but other types coagulated when mixed and would kill you. It was an amazing discovery, but Landsteiner’s discovery did not change medicine overnight. Doctors still faced the the fact that when blood was removed to transfuse into another person, it quickly clotted, making it unusable. That led to a direct method of transfusion, crazy in and of itself, in which doctors would sew the veins and arteries of the donor and the recipient together. Maybe it worked, but it just wasn’t practical. Not only did you have to have a donor with the correct type on hand, but the physician didn’t know how much blood was being pumped into the patient, or out of the donor, for that matter. They needed a way to have blood on hand, and in measurable containers, all without having to deal with spoilage.

In April 1914, a Belgian physician named Albert Hustin, proved that sodium citrate could be used as an anticoagulant in diluted blood. Lewisohn immediately jumped upon this insight and set up detailed experiments using sodium citrate and dog blood. Through Lewisohn’s experiments transfusing dogs, he was able to determine the exact concentration of sodium citrate that was both safe and effective for blood transfusions. He was also able to keep the extracted blood viable for two days prior to transfusion. More study would eventually increase that timeframe up to 14 days.

This was exactly what the world needed…blood could be stored, and made available as needed. Lewisohn’s work led to the storage of blood in blood banks. It is a discovery that is credited with saving over 1 billion lives to date. Lewisohn’s discovery, occurring at the time of World War I, as well as his findings concerning blood storage for transfusions was used as a method to save the lives of wounded soldiers. Use of blood transfusions expanded after the war. By the 1930s Blood Banks became common in cities worldwide, making blood transfusions the most important lifesaving medical advance in history.

In 1955 Lewisohn received the American Association of Blood Banks’ Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award. In January 1959 he became an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, having been a fellow of the American College of Surgeons since 1916. Lewisohn was also a Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association, and served on the American Board of Surgery. He passed away (probably of natural causes, but I cannot confirm that) on August 11, 1961 in New York City. He was 86 years old.

The Neuengamme concentration camp was established in December 1938, and used by the Nazis as a forced labor camp from December 13, 1938 to May 4, 1945, when it was liberated by British troops. At the time of its liberation, about half of the approximately 106,000 Jews held there over time had died. Neuengamme was located on the Elbe river, near Hamburg, Germany. One hundred inmates who were transferred from Sachsenhausen concentration camp, were forced to build the Neuengamme concentration camp. It was established around an empty brickworks in Hamburg-Neuengamme. The bricks produced there were to be used for the “Fuehrer buildings” part of the National Socialists’ redevelopment plans for the river Elbe in Hamburg.

The prisoners worked on the construction of the camp and brickmaking. The bricks were used for regulating the flow of the Dove-Elbe river and the building of a branch canal. The prisoners were also used to mine the clay used to make the bricks. That reminds me of the Jews in Egypt who were forced to build the pyramids. In 1940, the population of the camp was 2,000 prisoners, with a proportion of 80% German inmates among them. Between 1940 and 1945, more than 95,000 prisoners were incarcerated in Neuengamme. On April 10th, 1945, the number of prisoners in the camp itself was 13,500. Over the years that Neuengamme was open, it is estimated that 103,000 to 106,000 people were held there. We may never really know, because they didn’t keep clear records of all the people who went through the camps.

From 1942 on, the inmates were forced to work in the Nazi armament production. At first, the work was performed in the Neuengamme workshops, but soon it was decided to transfer the prisoners to the armaments factories in the surroundings areas. At the end of the war, the prisoners of Neuengamme were spread all over northern Germany. As the Allied troops advanced, hundreds of inmates were forced to dig antitank ditches. In many large north German cities, The prisoners were also require to clear rubble and removed corpses after bombing raids. There were 96 sub-camps, 20 of them for women. In early spring 1945, more than 45,000 inmates were working for the Nazi industry. A third of the women were forced to be among a part of the Nazi industry workforce. By this time, the internal population of Neuengamme was 13,500, which made it completely overcrowded. The estimated number of victims in Neuengamme is approximately 56,000. Thousands of inmates were hanged, shot, gassed, killed by lethal injection or transferred to the death camps Auschwitz and Majdanek. As the war neared its end, the SS decided to evacuate Neuengamme. They had hoped to avoid having them liberated…probably hoping to regroup further north. This was the start of one of the worst death marches of the war. During these death marches, approximately 10,000 inmates perished by shootings or simply starvation. Nevertheless, the Allies won this war, and then they went in and liberated the prisoners of the many death camp.

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