The Alexander & Helena and Gustav & Miriam Schonfeld Lecture in Medicine

Schonfeld Lecture in Medicine

Dr. Alexander Schonfeld was born in 1902 in Munkacs, Czechoslovakia. Helena Gottesman Schonfeld was born in 1913 in Nagyleta, Hungary. Dr. Schonfeld graduated from Charles University Medical School in Prague in 1928. The couple was married in 1931 in Debrecen, Hungary, and lived in Munkacs where Dr. Schonfeld was a general practitioner. He was particularly interested in surgery and obstetrics.

In 1944, the Schonfelds and their two sons were deported to the Auschwitz death camp by the Nazis. Dr. Schonfeld and his son Gustav later were sent to clean up the remains of the Warsaw Ghetto after it was destroyed by the Germans. In May 1945, U.S. troops freed Dr. Schonfeld and Gustav from a concentration camp near Dachau, Germany, and the two were soon reunited with Helena, who had survived Auschwitz. The couple’s other son, Solomon, died at the camp. In his work as a doctor, Dr. Schonfeld saved the lives of many fellow prisoners by hospitalizing them when they were at the point of starvation. Helena saved many lives by stealing food from the camp kitchens.

After the war, Dr. Schonfeld worked in a tuberculosis sanitarium near Prague. Then, in 1946, the family migrated to the United States. They settled in St. Louis where they had relatives. After completing an internship and residency at the Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Dr. Schonfeld established a general practice in East St. Louis in 1948. He was a member of the St. Clair County Medical Society and maintained his practice until 1978, when he retired.

Mrs. Schonfeld was active with the B’nai Brith and the Ladies Auxiliary of the St. Clair Medical Society and, in later years, with the American Heart Association and the Arthritis Federation. Dr. Schonfeld was president of the St. Louis Yeshiva Hebrew School, a benefactor of the Epstein Hebrew Academy, and recipient of the President’s Award of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The couple visited Israel frequently, where they endowed the Schonfeld Synagogue and scholarships at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, both in Jerusalem. For many years, they were regular donors to the medical schools at both Washington and St. Louis Universities.

Dr. Alexander Schonfeld died in 1987. Helena died in St. Louis in August 2006, and is buried in Jerusalem, Israel, next to her husband Alexander. Dr. Gustav Schonfeld, former chairman of the Department of Medicine and the Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, passed away on May 21, 2011. Mrs. Mariam Schonfeld passed away peacefully on October 25, 2021. Mr. and Mrs. Schonfeld were much loved by their three children and nine grandchildren.

Previous Distinguished Guest Speakers

Mitchell A. Lazar, MD, PhD

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Jan Breslow, MD

Rockefeller University

Dan Steinberg, MD, PhD

University of California, San Diego

Harvey Lodish, PhD

The Whitehead Institute & Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Robert Mahley, MD, PhD

The Gladstone Institutes at the University of California, San Francisco

Ronald M. Evans, PhD

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, La Jolla, CA

M. Daniel Lane, PhD

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Marc R. Montminy, MD, PhD

The Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA

Joseph L. Goldstein, MD

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (1985 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine [together with Michael S. Brown, MD])

Brian K. Kobilka, MD

Stanford University School of Medicine (2012 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry)

Steven G. Young, MD

UCLA Department of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA