Hall 8 - BOARD 21


Dr. Rudolph Archibald Reiss

(Rudolph Archibald Reiss) 1875-1929.
Swiss criminologist, Professor at the University of Lausanne. He was recognised for his investigation of the Austro-Hungarian war crimes over Serbian civilians during World War I. He described his visit to Valjevo in the autumn of 1914, before the outbreak of a major typhus epidemics in the book What I saw and lived through in the Great Days.

Valjevo was the main seat of the Serbian Army and the whole Headquarters was focused. (...) The soldiers walk through this commotion and greet. Their heads are bandaged or they carry bandaged hand. (...) In a four -whee cars liepale and motionless bodies in torn, dirty uniforms and bandages that are no longer clean. (...) These are seriously wounded, that are brought from the battlefield in oxen-drawn carts. (...) Let's follow this cart to the hospitals and let's get into them. The hospitals are many, too many. And there are still not enough of them. The wounded has evento be accommodated under largetents in the courtyards. (...)

John Reed

(John Reed) 1887-1920
American journalist, author of Ten Days that Shook the World, dedicated to the October Revolution in Russia. Before going to Russia he visited Serbia and described the horrors of war that he personally experienced in his book The War in Serbia in 1915 where he described the situation in Valjevo.

Valjevo was one of the worst focus pointof the outbreaks of typhoid in Serbia. Even now, when the infection has dropped so much, the streets of Valjevo were the only avenue hospital. (...) There was also a terrible room full of people with typhoid gangrene, a terrible disease that in almost fifty percent in military cases comes with typhus, and from which flesh rots and bones crumble. The only hope to stop this in the fact that the diseased part be amputated - and this room was full of people without arms and legs, people whose face and chest.are rotting.

Dr. Hans Zinsser

(Hans Zinsser) 1878 – 1940
American bacteriologist; worked for the Red Cross in France, Russia and China. During World War I he lived in Serbia and contributed greatly to supressing the typhus epidemics. After the war, he wrote numerous scientific papers in which he described his experiences.

The first and worst focus of the epidemics was Valjevo, a town of about population of 10,000 in north-western Serbia, near the border with Bosnia.

When the Serbs retreated from it during the Austrians invasion', there were no cases of typhus among the troops in the town. When the Serbs, at the beginning of December 1914, launched their counter-offensive, and started capturing more and more Austrians when they entered the Valjevo, they found more than 3,000 thousands of wounded and sick Austrians, suffering from typhus and recurrence in the most difficult conditions. In the cellars of a completely new school over 150 dead Austrian soldiers were found.

Over 40,000 prisoners were distributed throughout the country, to be used as much-needed labor force. Typhus and recurrence were rapidly following this concentration and distribution, and were blown all along the railway tracks and in all major cities in Serbia, even to Bitola and Gevgelija.

Dr. Arius van Tienhoven

(Arius van Tienhoven) 1886-1965
Dutch physician who worked as a war surgeon in Serbia during the Balkan Wars and the First World War. He was Head of the Surgical Department of the Valjevo Hospital. Since he recovered from tzphus in 1915, he returned to the Netherlands and, based on his diary notes, together with a journalist J. M. Bruse wrote a book: The Horrors of War in Serbia

And then came Christmas (...) And with the New Year new accidents were towering this troubled country. The number of patients with tzphus grew more and more. Fifth Barracks, located just outside the city on a beautiful hill, in whom they had previously housed internal patients, soldiers who suffered from rheumatism, pneumonia or dysentery, had to be completely rearranged for typhus patients. And typhus began to takes lives. (...)

Of the three diseases which then brought so much evil, not only to Valjevo, but to many places in this tragic country, typhoid fever is quite enough known with us (...) In the meantime, also massive, cases of "febris reccurens " began to be reported , a disease that is little known to us. Fortunately, its course is usually benign and patients generally get away. However, the typhus epidemics overshadowedthem all (...) It should be added that the hospital staff everywhere were infected so that there could hardly be someone to take care of patients. (...)

Dr Ludwig Hirszfeld

(Ludwig Hirszfeld) 1884 – 1957
Polish physician, microbiologist; before the First World War he worked as a university lecturer in Switzerland. In the early spring of 1915, together with his wife Hana, he came to Valjevo and participate actively in combating the typhus epidemics. He wrote his memoirs: A Story of One Life in which he remembered his stay in Valjevo:

In hospital doctors did not visited the patients, nor did the orderlies because they were all ill. Those who were less seriously ill were going out to town to buy some food. In one bed there were a few patients, but they were mostly lying on the floor. What happened was that ill, delirious patients escaped into the citywearing just shirts, spreading fear and epidemics. Several semi-conscious patients ran out of our hospitals and drowned in thenearby river. It was not possible to bury them all. The corpses were laid in piles near the hospital.(...)

I got occupied with the organization of laboratories. With the whole army I commandeered drug tubules that I used instead of tubes. With the help of a local tinsmith I built a gas sterilizer. I made goalposts from tecture, great thermostat from tinplate. (...)

There were no professional nurses. They were mainly replaced by those who were lso fighting for their own lives. I emphasize that the Serbs, in relation to them (prisoners of war), did not feel a shred of hatred, but vice versa. Their relation was was deeply human. (...)

We decided to get down to the assignment: grab the monster of the epidemics by the head and conduct disinfection of the entire town. I requested that we have adequate quantities of sulfur available and together with the local doctors I disinfected literally all the apartments and all things. (...)

Fra Gabro Cvitanović

Fra Gabro Cvitanović 1887 – 1955
Franciscan friar who, as a troop priest in Austro-Hungarian army, ended up in Valjevo after its occupation in November, and after the liberation in December 1914 he stayed in order to provide treatment for the sick that were left by the occupying troops after their retreat. He survived a typhoid fever.

Our Military Region (...) leave with the wounded in Valjevo on December 7, thirteen doctors, one dispenser, two medical corps officers, me -military priest and an appropriate number of soldiers - ordelies with a large quantity of food. (...) The wounded, which ours left, were joined by new ones: both the Austrian and Serbian. (...) At the same time civilian reugees began to come back. (...)

A lot of prisoners have gathered. The wounded, both Serbian and ours, have been in the trenches for months, and neither have changed. Muddy and dirty, they were placed next to each other in hospitals, barracks, warehouses, etc. The men get covered in all sorts of vermin and dirt, from most of which "recurrent typhus" emerges and soon after that those few cases of "exantematicus" turned into a terrible epidemics. (...)

Black banners, which are in Serbia put up to the house when someone dies, could be seen everywhere, and what is even more unfortunate is that in many cases the same banner in one house meant two, three, four dead men (...)

The organisation started only at the beginning of february 1915; underwear, bedding, medications, food became better, and that was the same for us an dfor the Serba, because for the sake of truth it must be said: Serbs made no distinctions between the prisoners and their patients.