Hans Hoff, Prof. Dr.

11.12.1897 – 23.8.1969
born in Wien, Austria died in Wien, Austria


Dean Faculty of Medicine 1961/62

Hans Hoff had graduated at the Medical School at the University of Vienna in 1918 with the academic degree 'Dr. med'. From 1922 on he worked as an resident physician and from 1928 on as an assistant professor at the psychiatric-neurological clinic (head: Julius Wagner-Jauregg). He was promoted lecturer ('Dozent') for Psychiatrie und Neurologie at the Medical School of the University of Vienna in 1932 and head of the neurological department of the "Poliklinik" in Vienna. He was persecuted in times of Nazism as a Jew lost his position and was thrown out of the university on April 22nd, 1938.
He emigrated to Baghdad/Iraq, where he was appointed professor at the Royal Medical School. In 1942 he emigrated further to the USA and worked as research associate at the Columbia University in New York. After serving in the US-army in Baghdad for 2 years from 1943 on, he worked again at the Columbia University from 1945 on (1947 assistant professor) and at the Goldwater Memorial Hospital.

Hans Hoff returned to Austria in 1949 and became head of the insane asylum Rosenhügel in Vienna. In 1950 he was appointed professor and head of the psychiatric-neurological clinic of the University of Vienna. With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation he established a children’s section at the clinic in 1951. Hoff was elected dean of the Medical School of the University of Vienna in 1961/62.

Hoff was in the 1960s as one of the most prominent Viennese psychiatrists. At his clinic he promoted different approaches, besides psychoanalysis and numerous social-psychiatric projects also repressive and violent methods which are today rejected as inhumane such as electric shocks, neurosurgery (lobotomy) or the "malaria therapy" of his former teacher Julius Wagner-Jauregg. Therefore, patients with severe psychiatric disorders were infected with malaria in order to achieve an improvement by fever. This method was already outdated around 1960, but nonetheless used in Austria, even with mentally ill children and adolescents.
Hoff also collaborated with court psychiatrist Heinrich Gross, together they published an article in the “Wiener Zeitschrift für Nervenheilkunde” (1959) on brains of children who had been murdered during the Nazi era under Gross’ supervision ("Spiegelgrund").

In 1963 Hans Hoff played a dubious role when he treated a 19-year-old Saudi Arabian Prince, Abdallah Ibn Dschallawi, in the closed section for the most serious cases without a written consent of the patient - at that time already required by law. The prince, whose family was at this time an increasing competitor for Saudi Arabia's King Saud, had been referred to the "clinic Hoff" on orders of King Saud himself. Hoff attested Prince Abdallah (as well as his father, who had recently been murdered) a mental disorder and treated him with electric shocks. Because of the missing written consent of the patient the Minister of Internal Affairs, Franz Olah, established a detective team, which investigated the case and interrogated Hans Hoff. Although the Prince demanded his dismissal, after hearing Hoff’s statement the Commission confirmed the continuation of clinical treatment for two more months.
Franz Olah himself resigned the following year in 1964 as Minister of the Interior. Internal party opponents had mobilized Hans Hoff, who presented party leader Pittermann a psychiatric report which assessed Olah as schizophrenic and not responsible for his actions.

Currently, a Historical Commission (headed by Gernot Heiss) set up by the Medical University of Vienna, examines the methods in research and patient treatment at the Medical Faculty of the University of Vienna in the postwar according to ethical principles. The focus lies on the "malaria therapy" of mentally ill patients at the former "clinic Hoff" in the 1950s and 1960s.

Katharina Kniefacz

Zuletzt aktualisiert am 09/02/21