04292017

An Invaluable Gift to Science

Honoring former head of Krupp who supported early stem cell research

The last German patriarch: Berthold Beitz

Berthold Beitz was honored by the Jewish Voice during his lifetime as a “Mentsh”. His towering personality holds as much part within German, as is does within Jewish history. His great deeds during the Nazi period and his post-war impact on German business are well known. If Berthold Beitz could be said to have one defining feature it was his propensity for independent thought and his refusal to simply go with the times. When looking back over his many achievements however, one should not forget his enormous and little known contribution to German science. Apart from the generous financial support many scientific institutes continue to receive from the Krupp Foundation, perhaps Beitz’s greatest contribution was his impact on the debate around cell stem research which raged in Germany at the beginning of this century.

It was during discussions about stem cell research in 2001 that the North Rhine Westphalia minister president Wolfgang Clement petitioned Berthold Beitz to support the scientists at the University of Bonn whose research was in jeopardy. Berthold Beitz was convinced that the scientists needed to continue their work and he also believed that it was essential to Germany’s reputation as a center of science that the research was allowed to continue.

A wise decision

He agreed to the request and cleared the way for scientists at the University of Bonn to receive financial support from the Krupp Foundation. This enabled the team to continue its work under the auspices of the Israel Foundation in Haifa until the necessary legal basis for this field of study was developed in Germany and work could continue in Bonn.

With this, Berthold Beitz gave encouragement to Wolfgang Clement as well as other proponents of stem cell research from politics and the sciences to keep going. The sagacity of his decision was confirmed by the German parliament on January 30, 2002. In a free ballot, members of parliament were asked to vote on the “Law to Secure the Protection of Embryos.” The ensuing debate must count as one of the great moments of German parliamentary history. In the end the law was passed by a majority.

The decision by Berthold Beitz to support the Bonn scientists in continuing their research into stem cells until a necessary legal framework had been developed remains one of his great contributions to Germany and should not be forgotten.

Photo Credit: Privatarchiv Berthold Beitz

What Next?

Related Articles