I take off from our usual topic of St. Paul’s Church today to remember Prof. Dr. Albert Uffenheimer, who died in Albany on this day in 1941. There are many tragedies related to Nazi racism, but this story, of the destruction of one of “the most virtuous of men”, touches us in this city directly.
Albert Uffenheimer was born in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany on May 24, 1876, the son of Jewish parents. He completed his medical training at German universities and was awarded a doctorate by the University of Munich in 1899. The early part of Uffenheimer’s career was spent in pediatric hospitals and clinics where he conducted significant research in bacteriology, infectious diseases, immunology, and the physiology of the gastrointestinal tract.
After obtaining the Habilitation (a post-doctoral credential required of university professors) at Munich in 1906, Uffenheimer assumed administrative roles in pediatric hospitals and clinics. During World War I, he served as a physician in military hospitals. For the decade after the war, he conducted a private practice in Munich and taught at the university there.
In 1925, Dr. Uffenheimer was appointed both Director of the Magdeburg Children’s Clinic and Magdeburg Municipal Pediatrician. As Director, he modernized and reorganized the Clinic and increased its role as a medical training institution. As Municipal Pediatrician, he expanded the agency’s public health efforts, with particular emphasis on reducing infant mortality. During this period, he continued his medical research and served as co-editor of a pediatrics journal. He developed a particular interest in children with developmental disabilities, for whom he created a special clinic.
With the enactment in April 1933 of Nazi laws that denied civil service positions to any person with more than two Jewish grandparents, Uffenheimer was forced to resign his positions. Assisted by the Academic Assistance Council, he obtained a six-month trial appointment at a mental health hospital in England. In 1935, he moved with his family to Kattenhorn, on Lake Constance near the Swiss border. Uffenheimer had become a Catholic in the early 1930s and during the middle part of that decade he studied briefly at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. We assume that it was at this time that he took the saint’s name Maurus as his middle name.
In August 1938 Uffenheimer was forced to leave Germany, and he moved to Hertfordshire, England, where he worked with troubled children. This position was also obtained for him by the Academic Assistance Council. His wife was able to follow him to England in December 1938 only after Uffenheimer transferred the contents of two Swiss bank accounts to the German government.
In February 1940, Uffenheimer and his wife emigrated to the United States. Later that year he obtained a position teaching psychology at Siena College, which had been founded only three years earlier. The strain of these losses, of poverty, forced moves and the adjustments they required were considerable for a man in his sixty-fifth year: Albert Uffenheimer suffered a stroke in early 1941 and, while recovering, died of a heart attack on April 9, 1941 in Albany.
The Siena News, April 25, 1941. Courtesy Siena College Archives.
Siena Yearbook 1941. Courtesy Siena College Archives
His tombstone in St. Agnes Cemetery bears an inscription copied from the tomb of Pope Adrian VI: “Alas! How much depends upon the age in which even the most virtuous of men is placed.”
Uffenheimer’s only other memorial is a square in Magdeburg, named in his honor.