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AJR plaque to honour Sir Ludwig Guttmann

AJR plaque to honour Sir Ludwig Guttmann

We were delighted to unveil a plaque dedicated to Sir Ludwig Guttmann at a special event at the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) part of Stoke Mandeville hospital on Thursday 24 October.

Sir Ludwig is now widely known as the founder of the Paralympics having fled Nazi Germany and found refuge in Britain in March 1939. His escape was made possible by the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (now succeeded by the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics) which was responsible in the 1930s for finding posts for a large number of refugee academics and scientists, mostly Jewish, who had been dismissed from their positions by the Nazis.

Sir Ludwig was an active and longstanding member of the AJR, serving on its Board for over 25 years. He gave generously of his expert advice to the AJR on questions relating to the homes for elderly refugees that it administered jointly with the Central British Fund.

The NSIC is the oldest, and one of the largest spinal injuries centres in the world and was founded by Sir Ludwig at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in 1944 to treat servicemen who had sustained spinal cord injuries in World War II. Professor Guttmann introduced a new approach to the way paraplegic, and later tetraplegic, patients were treated. Sport was a vital ingredient in Professor Guttmann’s rehabilitation programme and it was in 1948, in the grounds of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, that he organised a competition for 16 disabled men and women to coincide with the opening ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games in London. The annual Stoke Mandeville Games became an international event in 1952 and in 1960 the inaugural Paralympic Games were held in Rome, immediately after the Olympic Games.

Frank Harding, a Trustee of the AJR, said: “It gives us great pleasure to honour the life of Sir Ludwig Guttmann whose work and legacy have been rightly celebrated and have had an enormous impact on the lives of many hundreds of individuals in the United Kingdom and on British society, and of many thousands of athletes across the world.”

Sally Loring, assistant chief operating officer of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We are really excited about having this plaque at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. We are tremendously proud of Professor Guttmann’s work at the Hospital, in both establishing our National Spinal Injuries Centre and his unique approach to rehabilitation which led to the creation of the Paralympic movement. We hope that, as well as providing an important reminder of his work, the plaque will be an inspiration to our staff and spinal patients.”

Guests at the unveiling also heard from Hannah Peters, who as well as reflecting on her own personal connection, spoke of her grandfather’s legacy and the enormous success of the Paralympic Games last summer.

Pictured at the unveiling are representatives from Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA), Poppa Guttmann Trust, Guttmann family members and the AJR.

Through our plaque scheme, the AJR is establishing permanent memorials to some of the most prominent Jewish émigrés who fled Nazi oppression and found refuge in Britain as well as places and buildings with a strong connection to the Jewish refugees. The first AJR plaque, to honour the life of Sir Hans Krebs, was unveiled at the Department of Biochemistry in Oxford in May 2013 and the next plaque to be unveiled, on Tuesday 19 November, will be in honour of The Cosmo, a famous restaurant and meeting place for the refugees.