Bibliothek der Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien

Bibliothek der Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien


Library of the College of Physicians in Vienna

other name: Wiener medizinische Bibliothek – Billrothhaus (1939–1945)

The Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien (GdÄW), founded by researchers in the Medical Faculty of the University of Vienna and doctors at the Allgemeines Krankenhaus (General Hospital) in Vienna in 1837, established itself in the nineteenth century as a centre of medical research. The articles of association already provided for the establishment of a library, which was installed in 1840. Most of its acquisitions came through gifts and donations, the subscriptions of the members of the GdÄW and later through the takeover of the inventories of the Allgemeines Krankenhaus Vienna department and institute libraries. As such the library grew continuously and alongside the libraries at the Josephinum (later site of the branch library for the history of medicine), the Doktoren-Kollegium and the Ärztliches Lesezimmer in the Allgemeines Krankenhaus, became the largest central medical library facility in Vienna.

After the annexation in March 1938, Jewish members of the GdÄW were forced to resign, effectively resulting in the society's dissolution and cessation of activities. One of those forced to resign was the long-standing librarian and lecturer in the history of medicine Isidor Fischer. On 22 March 1938, the Gau chairman of the NS-Ärztebund (Gau Vienna), Otto Planner-Plann, appointed Adolf Irtl, the former asset manager of the GdÄW, as temporary head of the library. Irtl had been a functionary of the GdÄW before 1938 and had joined the NSDAP on 1 March 1938. The GdÄW was in danger of dissolution under the Gesetz über die Überleitung und Eingliederung von Vereinen, Organisationen und Verbänden (Law on the Transfer and Incorporation of Societies, Organizations and Associations) in May 1938 and the corresponding regulation by the Reichsstatthalter in Austria. Until October 1938, Irtl attempted to maintain the society and library by intervening with the office of the dean of the Medical Faculty and higher-level offices. His aim was to preserve the library inventory and to re-establish the society on National Socialist principles, for which purpose he even drafted his own articles of association. The board of the Reichsärztekammer (Reich medical association) and the Liquidation Commissar finally ordered that the GdÄW assets be transferred to the Reichsärztekammer in Berlin, which would also be responsible for the library. This was followed by the dissolution of the GdÄW on 14 October 1938. The Wiener medizinische Gesellschaft was founded in February 1939 as a successor organization and the former GdÄW library integrated into it under the name Wiener medizinische Bibliothek – Billrothhaus, with Irtl as its director until 1945. The former library was thus the only library in a non-university medical society not to have been dismantled by the National Socialist regime. This was probably due to its undisputed academic significance and to the material value of the contents. The assessment of 31 March 1938 put the value of the GdÄW headquarters at Frankgasse 8 in the 9th district at 90,000 schillings and the library there at 250,000 schillings (fire insurance valuation) and it was designated as being of "inestimable value" and the "largest [non-university] German medical library". The library continued to operate from 1938 to 1945. Additions came in the form of gifts from doctors, correspondence with German libraries and the acquisition of estates, including that of the surgeon Anton Eiselsberg. In April 1939, the library obtained books from the Paracelsus library in Leipzig from Kurt Blome, representative of the Reichsärzteführer for advanced medical training. Between 1940 and 1942 it received additions through the Reichsaustauschstelle (Reich exchange) in Berlin, including books from the Senckenberg Library in Frankfurt am Main and from medical university libraries and medical facilities in Germany. After the occupation of France, it was sent French magazines by Auslandszeitungshandel GmbH in Cologne. Also in 1941 and 1942 it acquired more than three hundred books in French through Alfons Rosse, head of the press department of the Vienna Gestapo. The books probably came from seizures by the Gestapo in France.

After the liberation of Austria, the GdÄW was provisionally re-established on 10 June 1945 on the initiative of the KPÖ functionary and municipal councillor for culture and popular education Viktor Matejka with a temporary administration board. The official board was elected on 19 October 1945. Under the Vereins-Reorganisationsgesetz (Association Reorganization Law) of 31 July 1945, the society was able to operate again from 13 June 1946. The library had been moved in 1944 to a barn in Peigarten near Waidhofen an der Thaya to protect it from air raids. It was secured in 1945 and returned to its original location at Frankgasse 8 in autumn 1945. It was not until 1949 that it was released by the US occupation force and given back to the GdÄW. Until then Billrothaus was still registered as belonging to the Reichsärztekammer and was therefore considered to be German property. Most of the GdÄW library was transferred in the 1960s and above all in 1976 and 2003 in several batches to the branch library of the history of medicine, creating a central location for Vienna's documents about the history of medicine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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Publications about the person / institution

Harald Albrecht/Bruno Bauer/Walter Mentzel, Josephinische Bibliothek und medizinhistorische Bestände der Universitätsbibliothek der Medizinischen Universität Wien, in: GMS Medizin – Bibliothek – Information, 12 (2012).

Peter Malina, Die Gestapo als Bücherlieferant. Vorläufige Ergebnisse der Provenienzforschung an der Universität Wien, in: Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Buchforschung (2006) 2, 30–41, URL: (3.12.2020).

Max Neuburger, Die Entwicklung des wissenschaftlichen Vereinswesens und seine Bedeutung für den medizinischen Fortschritt, in: Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift (1937) 20, 666–674.

Friedrich Ribar, Die Geschichte der Bibliothek der Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien 1837–1987, Wien 1990.

Karl Hermann Spitzy (Hg.), Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien 1837–1987, Wien 1987.

Franz Weisz, Die Geheime Staatspolizei. Staatspolizeileitstelle Wien 1938–1945. Organisation, Arbeitsweise und personale Belange, Dissertation Universität Wien 1991.


UAW, Med. Fak., Dekanat, Zl. 1.259/1937–1938.
UAW, Rektorat, Zl. 258/1941–1942, Universitätsbibliothek Wien.
UAW, Rektorat, Zl. 150/1944–1945, Bergung der Bibliothek des “Billroth-Hauses“.

WStLA, M.Abt. 119, A41, VEAV 217, 9. Bez., Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien.