The Story of Dr. Max Gradwohl

When doing research on the Gradwohl family in Hörstein, I encountered an unusual side-story: Dr. Ingrid Grendel, a retired family-doctor who practiced in Hörstein for many years, wrote a family history on Dr. Max Gradwohl. She did so because she remembered in the 1960’s, when she started her practice in Hörstein, many of her former patients talked about “der Hörsteiner Judedoktor – ein sehr tuechtiger Arzt und ein gutter Mensch” (“The Hörsteiner Jewish doctor – a very laborious physician and a good man”). The fact that a doctor decides to write a family history about a colleague is perhaps indicative of the mark Dr. Gradwohl left on the town. The rest of this excerpt consists of parts of her work, translated from the German. 

Max Gradwohl (a nephew of Bernhard Gradwohl) was born in Hörstein in 1901 as the second child after his sister Betty, to his parents Raphael and Regina Gradwohl in their house on Weinbergstrasse 19. His father had a shop in which imported goods and shoes were sold. They lived a modest life: Raphael went door-to-door with his suitcase to sell his merchandise. Apparently, they worked very hard in order to enable their son to study. 

Max studied in the Volkschule in Hörstein. Upon graduation, he entered the Humanistischen Gymnasium in Aschaffenburg, where he graduated in 1921. That year he enrolled in the medical faculty in Frankfurt University. In order to lower the burden on his parents he made major efforts to complete his studies as early as possible and indeed he passed the State Exams in June 1926. Upon finishing his studies, he had a series of practicums in the State Hospital in Wiesbaden where he received his doctorate from Prof. Embden in 1929. Already in the summer of 1928 he started a practice in Hörstein. Very soon he became very liked, and in the 1930’s he started a second clinic in Dettingen. He married Erika Rosa Arfeld in 1933. Erika came from Diez-an-der-Lahn, a town that is otherwise related to the family history. Their only son Walter was born in 1934.

Dr. Gradwohl developed a very good reputation and name for himself as an excellent physician and a good person. In a case of an 11-year-old boy with a severe heart problem, he made it a point of visiting him twice a day until his condition improved. Two older residents of Hörstein told Dr. Grendel that Dr. Gradwohl saved their lives, at a time when no antibiotic medication existed and every minor illness could lead to a dangerous end-result. Furthermore, they told of times Dr. Gradwohl would not charge them. In another case there was a brutal attack on Aug. 31, 1933 by SS people on three HörsteinJews in which the 55-year old butcher Moritz Loewenthal was very badly wounded. Dr. Gradwohl sneaked out at a time when the SS people were roaming the streets to treat the wounded and practically saved their lives.As life in Germany became more and more dangerous for Jews, their immigration was imminent. They first considered going to Palestine but Ms. Gradwohl did not want to live in a Kibbutz so they went to the US. The family arrived in the US in 1938. There he practiced medicine in Kew Gardens, New York for 15 years. During that time, he acquired a further specialization – psychiatry. He later moved to Bolivar, Tennessee, where family members of his wife lived and where he practiced as a psychiatrist at the Tennessee Western State Psychiatric Hospital until his retirement. He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he died in 1974. Max Gradwohl was the uncle of Martin Weinberg (son of his sister Betty) whom my cousin Betty and I met with his wife in 2010.