Photo: Portrait Heinrich Finkelstein | © Charité, Bildarchiv Institut für die Geschichte der Medizin
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Heinrich Finkelstein, (Leipzig 1865-1942 Santiago de Chile), became an Associate Professor in 1899. He was later Professor of the University Children's Hospital and from 1902-1918 he was Head of the Berlin Childrens’ Asylum and Municipal Orphanage. After this he took on the position of Medical Director of the Kaiser- und Kaiserin-Friedrich Municipal Childrens’ Hospital (Children's Hospital, Wedding), where he contributed significantly to the reduction in infant mortality and the detection of causes of nosocomial infection. Between 1905 and 1941 his „Manual of Infant Disease" was a standard work and appeared in numerous editions.
In 1933 he retired due to his age and in 1936 his teaching license was revoked due to his Jewish heritage. He travelled to Chicago as a visiting professor but returned to Germany „in order that in old age I should not be a burden to anyone abroad". In 1939 assisted by South American colleagues he fled to Chile. Several of his students from Berlin assisted his escape. Finkelstein was an avid mountaineer and spent time in the Swiss Alps each year.
In exile in Chile he wrote "it is beautiful, but it's not my country, and the mountains are beautiful, but they are not my mountains". Ten days before his death he commented to a fellow colleague who had emigrated to Mexico: "Do you have at least a few people here who understand you? I have only 1-1 ½ persons here who understand me but perhaps this is my own fault. But I miss nothing, I am used to loneliness."
(Text: Udo Schagen, 2013)