Readers do not expect witnesses to historical tragedy to be supremely intelligent, producing gimlet-eyed conclusions about executioners and victims. Yet Ludwik Hirszfeld, a Polish Jewish microbiologist and serologist (expert in blood serum) who died in 1954, did just that in a book issued last August to no fanfare from University of Rochester Press.
“Ludwik Hirszfeld: The Story of One Life” was translated by Marta A. Balinska, and edited by Balinska with William Schneider. Hirszfeld’s memoir, dictated in the 1940s, is fascinating on many accounts; in the Warsaw ghetto, Hirszfeld heroically organized anti-epidemic measures and vaccination campaigns against typhus, as well as teaching clandestine medical classes. A major scientist who made discoveries about blood grouping with relation to disease, Hirszfeld recounts how the rise of European fascism affected the scientific world.
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