Dr Max Herz

Dr Max Herz



Pioneering orthopaedic surgeon

Maximillian Markus Herz was a German-born, Sydney-based medical specialist who introduced treatments new to Australia in his Sydney clinic, and has been recognised as the first fully-trained orthopaedic surgeon to have practiced in Australasia. Dr Herz was known as a compassionate practitioner, who appreciated both the emotional component of physical disability and its broader disadvantage, an understanding reflected in his willing advocacy for those affected.

Photo: National Archives of Australia

Plaque location

3 Greenoaks Avenue, Darling Point

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Dr Max Markus Herz 17 February 1876 – 17 December 1948

Pioneering orthopaedic surgeon

Maximillian Markus Herz was a German-born, Sydney-based medical specialist who introduced treatments new to Australia in his Sydney clinic, and has been recognised as the first fully-trained orthopaedic surgeon to have practiced in Australasia. Dr Herz was known as a compassionate practitioner, who appreciated both the emotional component of physical disability and its broader disadvantage, an understanding reflected in his willing advocacy for those affected.

Birth and family background

Max Markus Herz was born on 17 February 1876 at Bochum, Westphaliai then a Prussian province, but now part of modern Germany. Max was the son of Hermann Herz and his wife Anna, née Blumlein. Hermann Herz, as a lace-maker, was part of the thriving textile industry which had flourished in Bochum from the sixteenth century, evolved from cottage to factory model by the time of Max Herz’s birth, and on the verge of giving way to mining and steel manufacture as the centre’s economic mainstay.ii Reflecting this change, the small agricultural settlement of Bochum was by the 1870s a populous and urbanised world.

Education, training and travels to Australasia

Max Herz was educated in the centre of Barmen, a short journey from Bochum, at the Barmen gymnasium. He studied medicine at the University of Munich, his studies concurrent with a period of compulsory military service. Herz was a gifted and diligent student, graduating with honours in 1898, and attaining accreditation for medical practice in 1899.

Dr Herz began his life’s work at the Schanz orthopaedic clinic at Dresden, and subsequently studied under Professor Adolf Lorenz in Vienna. Lorenz was already well-known in medical circles for the non-surgical treatments he had developed for the correction of musculoskeletal conditions, and he would later be much honoured.iv First-hand exposure to Lorenz’s teachings and techniques would have been an important early experience for a young doctor exploring orthopaedic practice.

In 1902, Max Herz was assisting Professor Albert Hoffa, another German pioneer of orthopaedic surgery and physiotherapy, who had recently succeeded the late Julius Wolff, founder of the Department of Orthopaedic surgery in Berlin. While under Hoffa’s tutelage, Herz was invited to visit New Zealand, to share with the medical world of the southern hemisphere the breakthrough methods of which he had clearly developed his own sound knowledge. That Herz, as a young doctor with only a few years’ experience, inspired such confidence in both his New Zealand hosts and German mentors, is an indication of his abilities. In taking up the invitation to New Zealand, Max Herz made the move which brought him from Europe to Australasia, and ultimately to Sydney.

In 1903, during his initial travels, Herz visited Melbourne, where he received a request to demonstrate Lorenz's techniques at the Hospital for Sick Children. At Ashburton and Christchurch, in the British colony of New Zealand, he attracted further publicity and was besieged with patients requesting his care. For a time he based himself in New Zealand, practicing as an orthopaedic surgeon in Auckland from 1906.

Developing a reputation for pioneering work

Herz’s work, and its results, drew publicity – which had both favourable and unfavourable consequences for him professionally. His European training introduced new techniques and practices to New Zealand; conservative practitioners were critical of his methods, and he found himself sidelined from New Zealand medical circles. It was a pattern which would be repeated in his experience of professional life, reaching a nadir in war-time Sydney. Not without reason does the subtitle of his biography, written by author and former patient Joan Clarke, reference ‘civil and medical bigotry’. v.

Herz was perhaps his own worst enemy in cultivating opposition, in that his natural inclination ran towards forthright commentary rather than obsequiousness, a quality which he may have expected to be more highly valued than it was. Likewise, he perhaps assumed his own playful sense of the absurd to be more widely shared and appreciated than would prove to be the case. Publishing a book of his frankly expressed observations of New Zealand vi – a work which would be translated into no less than 14 languages – might have been considered a dangerous move by a more cautious operator. While the book covered a breadth of topics related to the colony, much of it on the natural world, Herz also wrote with candid humour on New Zealand’s cultural life. Not all New Zealanders were amused.

The transfer to Sydney

After a visit home to Germany in 1910, Herz again left Europe, to settle in Sydney. The move to Australia was no doubt influenced by his marriage, five years earlier in Christchurch New Zealand, to Sydney-born Jane Ethel (Ethel) Cohen, daughter of Henry Edward Cohen and Sierlah Cohen, née Hyman.<a #vii">vii Ethel’s family was established and well-connected in Sydney, and it was no doubt a move of good sense as well as sentiment for the young couple to return to the place of her birth and upbringing.

In Sydney, Dr Herz practiced in Macquarie Street, joined the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association (B.M.A), and found various outlets beyond his practice to connect with and contribute to both the local medical establishment and the broader community of Sydney. He took up the position of honorary surgeon for the State Children’s Relief Board and held an honorary role at St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst. He wrote articles for Sydney medical journals and became the Sydney correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt, a Berlin publication, published between 1872 and 1939.

September 1913 saw him presenting a paper, ‘Shakespeare, the godfather of German literature’, to Sydney’s Shakespeare Society. In a response reminiscent of the reception to Herz’s book New Zealand in that country, coverage in certain quarters of the Sydney press highlighted several perceived slights made in passing by Herz. Throwaway lines by Herz on local theatrical productions, and reference to the voracious appetite of Australian audiences for musical comedy, were noted in a piece published under the headline, ‘Our theatres in a German’s eyes’, the report framing his presentation as an elitist slur. The emphasis ignored the actual thrust of Herz’s paper – lengthy, historically-based and scholarly, and centred on the greatness of Shakespeare, and the playwright’s transformative influence on German theatre. Nor did it mention the fact that Herz reserved his greatest severity for the state of late 16th century German culture, which he claimed was not sufficiently evolved to appreciate Shakespeare.viii The essential message of Herz's words was, nevertheless, summarised for us elsewhere in newsprint:

As a king of shreds and patches, Shakespeare entered German literature. In Shakespeare, the English and the German people had a common ideal, a common possession. It had never happened before, that one poet was the leader of the literary life of two nations, and if the two could and did admire – more than that, if they love – one poet, must not they be more than related, ought they not to be “one banded folk of brothers”? (Sydney Morning Herald 10.9.1913 p.16)

This sense of cultural unity and potential harmony was no doubt a part of the hopeful enthusiasm with which Max Herz embraced Sydney. In late 1911, the minutes of Woollahra Council record his application to build a house at Greenoaks Avenue, Darling Point,ix the family home Bimini, which remains today in the hands of his descendants. The desire to cement his relationship with Sydney in this tangible way suggests that Herz, at age 35, not only had the personal means to set down roots, but a belief that he had, in this community, found a home. In August 1914, Max Herz was naturalised as an Australian. x

Photograph of handwritten building applications
Granting of a Building Application submitted by Dr M. Herz for a house in Greenoaks Avenue, with estimated cost of £1930, as recorded in the Woollahra Municipal Council Minutes 23 October, 1911.

The war years – battling official and unofficial prejudice

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 set in motion events which would plunge Max Herz into a professional hiatus of over five years, and ushered in a most troubled period for his family. The momentum which drove these events was enabled by the far-reaching powers assumed by the government under the 1914 War Precautions Act, and fuelled by the pervasive anti-German sentiment in the community of war-time Australia.

However, it is difficult not to conclude that professional hostility, targeting Herz in a more focused way, played a role in his ordeal. Taken into custody in mid-1915, Herz was not released until April 1920 – almost eighteen months after the end of hostilities. Moreover, calls from the B.M.A. for Herz’s deportation did not end with his release, despite Prime Ministerial intervention which should have secured Herz’s position once and for all.

Once restored to his family there remained lengthy challenges: re-establishing his practice in the face of local B.M.A obstruction, and resolving the complex matter of his citizenship. The exercise of recovering private funds which had been confiscated with his detention was, likewise, protracted. Ultimately the effect of these years, and its aftermath, prevented Max Herz’s fulfilment of all he might have achieved – to both his own and the broader community’s detriment.

‘Disloyal and disaffected’

Under the terms of the wartime regulations, the reasons for Max Herz’s detention were not required to be disclosed by the authorities. As a ‘naturalised subject of enemy origin’, Herz's confinement was a matter for ministerial discretion – detained without charge, explanation or right of appeal.xi It was enough that, for an unknown reason, the Minister of Defence had been convinced that Herz was ‘disloyal and disaffected’ – the two behaviours established as the criteria for internment.

In a post-war Statutory Declaration drafted by Herz in 1919, he made reference to diary entries, written ‘in an abnormal state of mind’, when distressed by personally abusive anti-German ‘insults’ delivered to his wife and himself by mail and telephone.xii Seemingly, either with hindsight, or with the benefit of his solicitor’s post-war access to the relevant files, Herz had cause to believe that comments confided to his private diary had been construed as ‘disloyalty and disaffection’, with grave consequences for him.

Herz was no doubt in part a victim of the groundswell of agitation for the internment of all residents of German origin – a protest raised throughout the community, but specifically voiced by young men resisting recruitment campaigns. xiii It was an anti-enlistment argument which needed to be eliminated by the authorities, as national commitment to the war effort stalled.

However, if anti-German sentiment was prevalent among Australian men of service-age, it was also openly conspicuous among members of the local medical fraternity. In late 1915, a proposed amendment to the NSW Medical Practitioner’s Act provided for ‘the permanent exclusion of all graduates of German or Austrian universities’.xiv The amendment had been put forward by the Member for Middle Harbour, Dr Richard Arthur, himself a medical specialist. xv The move received censure from various quarters of the state’s regional press, which took a cynical view of the arguments:

One might suppose that the doctors themselves, in view of the benefits which they doubtless believe that their profession confers on the people, would be in favour of encouraging the influx of skilful practitioners from any quarter. But no! An amendment was moved by Dr Arthur, excluding without qualification , not only all doctors of German and Austrian birth, but also all who have graduated at German or Austrian universities. The amendment cut two ways. It gratified the prevalent anti-German feeling. It also shut out possible competition. (Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer 5.11.1915 p. 2.)

Whatever role the B.M.A. might have played in Max Herz’s initial detention, it is of interest that his internment in July 1915 occurred six weeks after his expulsion from the professional body at the end of May.xvi

In military custody

On 16 July 1915, xvii Max Herz was taken into military custody and sent to an encampment at Holsworthy, Liverpool. The story of his internment has been told in a number of published works, but nowhere is it as well told as in a collection of letters, preserved in the collections of the State Library of NSW – the correspondence between Max and his wife Ethel. xviii

The timing of Max’s separation from family was especially poignant, given the April birth of Helen Gretel, Max and Ethel’s only child, a matter of months before he was removed to Holsworthy. Renowned always for his great rapport with children, the lost opportunity to fully partake in his daughter’s first five years must have been a lifelong regret. The series of correspondence home begins on the day after Max’s arrival at camp, in a letter which eloquently expresses his sorrow at the family's circumstances and concern for his wife and child left behind, but also reveals an intact sense of humour and irrepressible curiosity in his new surroundings. ‘I’ll never sneer at bed socks any more’, he remarks with reference to the Liverpool frosts, before detailing the ingenuity of his fellow inmates and all they had achieved to make their incarceration more tolerable. His gifts as a writer, which had previously found an outlet in his journalism, were now concentrated in his letters to Ethel, signing off from his first, restricted by the authorities to 150 words, with,

Today is counted words, uncounted wishes.

And whenever he could introduce the fanciful and the humorous into his writing he would do so, such as comparing camp life to life on board ship:

Sleep, walk, pay visits, talk, play skat, talk, eat, talk, walk and talk – and a little gossip and scandal mixed into it. [Letter from Max to Ethel Herz 19.7.1915]

Photograph of a cook in a large kitchen
Cook in the camp kitchen, Trial Bay, New South Wales, ca.1917 / Paul Dubotzki. Photo: National Library of Australia.

The letters from Ethel, of which fewer survive, are more prosaic but similarly selfless in intent. She wrote to keep her husband in touch with the small domestic happenings at Bimini, to keep him abreast of Helen’s progress, and to keep him distracted and resassured by stories of the ordinary. From time-to-time the need to consult Max on business and administrative matters surfaces in the correspondence, as does the need to convey unwelcome news that could not be suppressed. One such example was the news of the confiscation of part of the family’s money and assets, creating further hardship in a situation which was difficult enough for her to manage alone.

Reciprocating, Max tells in detail of his surroundings, easily exceeding his word restrictions so his wife can fully appreciate and envision his surroundings, and remain vicariously a part of his daily life. In his earliest days at the camp he exclaims:

What the men have made for themselves is truly astounding. Their bunk beds are of bush-wood and wire netting, their tables and lockers of old cases. Many follow their trade: carpenters, tailors, barbers, boot-blackers are at work; posters announce laundries, razor-sharpening, mending etc. Others play cards, do woodcarving, book-binding, picture framing. One man has built himself a woodturning machine, another has opened a little shop for potato pancakes, next to him sings another at the top of his voice and sells Frankfurt sausages. A few have constructed a place with six hot showers fitted up with every detail and well run. The greatest effort is the theatre, but that deserves a special report. [Letter from Max to Ethel Herz 19.7.1915]

Early in 1916, in a general move of one group of the Liverpool internees, Herz’s place of internment became the former Trial Bay gaol, a disused 19th century facility where conditions were much more agreeable.

Seen from the sea, our present abode looks like one of those Saracen castles near Amalfi – like the home of the sea brigands… [Undated letter from Max to Ethel Herz]

Photograph of Trial Bay in the afternoon sunlight
Trial Bay in the afternoon sunlight, New South Wales, ca. 1917. Photo: National Library of Australia.

Contributing medical skills

Max Herz’s first offer of medical expertise to the Australian war effort, made at the very outset - in the days of General Holmes's Australian Expeditionary force - had been brushed aside by military authorities, xix but at Trial Bay he was able to set up a small hospital service to treat internees. In February 1916 he could announce to his wife,

Commenced duties yesterday – small things: cuts, wounds etc …The proper installation of the hospital will take a little time and a few requisitions …[Letter from Max to Ethel Herz 19.2.1916]

With progress through the flow of letters it becomes clear to the reader that some of those requisitions were to be furnished by Ethel. Her husband requested various items, including supplies of prepared catgut and pharmaceutical products. Dr Max Herz was to become well-known for his dedication and care as he exercised his medical skills in a new setting.

Of his patients from Macquarie Street, remote in the ‘outside world’, Herz had many despairing moments during the first part of his internment. Correspondence with the military authorities – also preserved in the State Library collections xx – records his requests for leave to visit those patients whose treatment was poised at a critical stage. Futile attempts were made to explain the impossibility of securing a locum tenens given the specialised nature of his work and the B.M.A.'s blacklisting of German physicians and surgeons. The arrangements eventually negotiated were limited in their usefulness, and inevitably short-lived, given Herz's transfer to Trial Bay. Even so, they attracted adverse commentary in the press.xxi

The sense of service derived by helping others in the camp was not always sufficient to ward off frustrations. In March 1916, depressed because his professional abilities were locked away while most acutely needed, Herz requested repatriation so that he could serve in a medical capacity with the German forces. This was not an expression of belligerence, but of helpless exasperation with a farcical situation. It was also no doubt indicative of an understandable lapse in Herz's generally robust mental state. xxii But It became a further matter which Herz was forced to explain through his 1919 Statutory Declaration.

Boosting morale with theatre and music

One of the most valuable contributions which Max Herz made to support his fellow internees at Trial Bay was the leading role he took in staging theatrical performances. The camp theatre, an already established diversion, blossomed under his direction. Letters home became filled with enthusiastic news of the performance currently under rehearsal, and Herz’s plans for the next. They also contained frequent requests for improbable items for use in costumes and props, and Ethel, or friends of the couple, would make great efforts to oblige. It was of course, not only a service to others, but an outlet for him:

My theatre position keeps me fully occupied. Have to select plays, cast them, read, rehearse them, teach men who have almost forgotten what a lady looks like how those dainty creatures walk, speak, behave. [Letter from Max to Ethel Herz 12.10.1916]

Another of his theatrical tasks, unlisted in his October 1916 letter, was translation – rendering the language of complex comedies or classic dramas into German. It was an occupation made for his multiple abilities.

In May 1917, Herz’s letters reveal he made arrangements with Ethel to have his ‘old cello’ sent up to the camp. Music – another of his gifts, and a great love – was now also to be reintroduced into his life, to bring enjoyment to others as he participated in camp concerts.

Images of these moments, caught on camera by photographer and fellow internee Paul Dubotzki, xxiii capture Herz’s pleasure and enthusiasm for these performances, emotions radiated to his audience. It was an perfect antidote to the anxiety, and sheer tedium, of the circumstances of internment.

Hertz’s letters also betray periods where he was overwhelmed by his circumstances – the ‘artificiality’ of the life, the fact he had missed each of Helen’s birthdays, and with their passing also the perfect age to first read her The Struwwelpeter. As the period of confinement progressed, and eventually exceeded the war years, the challenge of maintaining his equilibrium proved an increasing struggle.

Bookplate designed by Max Herz titled Ex Libris
Bookplate designed by Dr Max Herz. Courtesy of Susan Diver, OAM.

Ongoing citizenship battles

Had he expected an automatic resolution to his problems following the November 1918 armistice, Max Herz and his family would have been sorely disappointed. The immediate post-war period saw his Australian citizenship suddenly in contention,xxiv with his naturalisation revoked in 1919 - and the B.M.A not only upholding his 1915 expulsion from the body, but openly petitioning the government for his deportation. Herz remained at Trial Bay, and was later returned to Holsworthy. While he avoided deportation, Max Herz would not finally receive a certificate of naturalisation until August 1936.xxv

Melbourne-based solicitor William J W Strong was – on the advice of Ethel and Max Herz’s friends - retained by the family to investigate the options, make representations through the Attorney General’s office, and gain access to the files held on Herz.

In late February 1920, press reports announced that Dr Max Herz had left Sydney for Melbourne, from where he was to be deported along with the Rev Charles Jerger.xxvi But while Herz had travelled with Jerger to Melbourne, the boat left without him, as he knew in advance had been covertly arranged by Strong. The secret change of plan reflected Strong’s growing confidence that a favourable decision from the government was imminent.

William Strong's investigations had identified three main focus points for the case :

  • The diary entries referred to in Herz’s Statutory Declaration, and the need to establish their ‘harmlessness’;
  • The reasons for the letter seeking leave to serve in the medical corps of the German army, ‘and the proper construction to be put on same’;
  • The value to Australia of Dr Herz’s skills, and the success of his treatments.

Strong placed considerable weight on the third of these points, noting that a former patient of Herz had already received a ‘good hearing’ from Sir Robert Garran of the Attorney General’s department on the subject. He recommended that further such testimony might be advantageous, if more of Herz's former patients could be persuaded to visit or write to Garran on Herz’s account noting,

I think it could be of great help, as I think he is rather impressed by that aspect. [Letter, William Strong to Ethel Herz 19.3.1920]

The testimony of grateful patients would ultimately be given credit for providing the impetus which secured the intervention of Prime Minister William (Billy) Hughes on Herz’s behalf. Letters from patients continued to flow to Hughes even after Herz’s release, presumably in response to the continued lobbying of the B.M.A. to have Herz deported regardless.

Strong had instructed that these pleas be made not for the doctor, but from ‘the selfish point of view’ of a patient wishing to ensure the availability of a surgeon singularly guaranteed of giving effective treatment. However, some found it impossible not to write of the quality of the man himself. A retired policeman addressing the Prime Minister by letter, described firstly his cure at Herz’s hands, which took him from extensive paralysis to full mobility, but could not resist adding that Herz was:

A man of great intellectual ability, and full of information. He had a kindly sympathetic nature. I found he loved Australia and its people …the Sydney section of the B.M.A. has a paltry, parochial spirit. [Letter to the Rt Hon W Hughes from a former patient of Dr Max Herz, 21.1.1920]

The fact that Herz’s case was escalated to the level of Prime Ministerial involvement is a demonstration of what lay at stake in the decision - for both the Doctor's opponents and his beneficiaries. The stakes were perhaps lower for Herz himself. It is well established that at the conclusion of the war, many internees opted for, or willingly accepted repatriation to Germany, disillusioned by their treatment by Australia during the preceding years, and questioning

whether all Australian citizens who are descended from other than purely Australian ancestors, are to be liable to such treatment in any future war in which Australia may ever be involved (quoted in Helmi, Nadine The Enemy at home p. 234)

Herz himself confided to Ethel of being close to abandoning his quest to remain in Australia by the final stage of his incarceration. The farce of his removal to Melbourne to meet the boat for his deportation brought him to the brink.

I have a good bit of sense of humour … but had they persisted in playing this bluff on to the wharf, I don’t think I’d have called it. I would have gone. [Letter from Max to Ethel Herz 26.2.1920]

Some six weeks later, following a return to Holsworthy, Herz’s resilience, humour and strength of character was rewarded. The Sydney newspapers of 10 April 1920 would report his release, achieved the previous day. An alien’s Certificate of Registration card issued in his name in 1919, now held in the collection of the State Library of NSW, has an entry recorded by the Area Registration Officer in Double Bay, dated 9 April 1920. The entry records a ‘change of abode’ from The German Concentration Camp Holsworthy to Bimini, 3 Greenoaks Avenue Darling Point.xxvii Though much was still to be settled, Dr Herz was home.

A private hospital

The B.M.A. continued its calls to the government for Max Herz’s deportation, and the matter remained ‘under consideration’ for at least six months after Herz’s release.xxviii

The worries continued despite William Strong’s assurances that :

The bitter bias and jealousy on the part of the B.M.A. will only serve to strengthen your position in the eyes of the Prime Minister. [Letter, William Strong to Ethel Herz 15.5.1920]

But while the B.M.A. ultimately failed in its quest to have Herz removed from Australia, it was still able to enforce his professional exclusion. In 1921, acutely aware that he remained marginalised from the local medical establishment, Dr Max Herz opened his own private hospital, The Odin at Rushcutters Bay, in a former house where he would continue for decades to treat Australians crippled from injury or congenital deformities, .

The name of the hospital referenced the Norse god and his associations with healing, just as the hospital’s later name, Bona Dea, invoked the Roman goddess of healing. The names and their classical allusions also reflected the erudition of the man who would labour tirelessly in his clinic to find healing solutions to complex muscular skeletal problems.

The hospital was accommodated in a former house, Drumsturdy – since demolished – constructed c1917 on the eastern shoreline of the bay, on New Beach Road and eventually numbered 41. At first leased, the house had been purchased in Ethel Herz’s name by 1923.

Herz continued to practice quietly and alone, often waiving fees when he knew latitude was needed and advocating for the disabled when the opportunity arose. He had, on numerous occasions, described his work as his life, and he continued to be rewarded by the results of his own abilities and their impact on his patients. Years earlier he had remarked:

It was a favourite saying of Schopenhauer that the total amount of happiness never increased in this world, the fortune of one side being balanced by the misery of another, but when one has seen the face of a cripple who, for the first time in his life had walked on straight feet and upright, one felt very much inclined to contradict even so distinguished a philosopher as Schopenhauer. (Evening News 26.7.1910 p. 4)

From time to time these glimpses of happiness were projected outside the hospital via the press – such as the publication in 1926 of a feature article on the story of Patricia Coveny, wheel-chair bound for twenty-five years, who had learnt to walk again under Herz’s care.xxix

One grateful patient would ensure that Herz’s work was never forgotten – having never forgotten herself the moment when she realised what Herz had achieved for her. Joan Clark recounted for interviewer Hazel de Berg, in an Oral History recorded by the State Library of NSW, the emotions she felt when Dr Herz’s surgery restored the mobility taken from her by polio:

Exultant. I’d done it. I could walk by myself. Inside my head I could hear my pounding heart, like the urgent rhythm of summoning drums. I’m coming world. Wait for me! I’m coming. (Stephen, Tony ‘She danced with one good leg’ Sydney Morning Herald 8.7.2004 p. 31)

Joan Clark went on to write Herz’s biography (Dr Max Herz: surgeon extraordinary – the human price of civil and medical bigotry in Australia Syd., APCOL, 1976.) and was one of the strongest defendants of his medical and personal reputation. She recorded in the Australian Dictionary of Biography that :

Most patients, staff and friends found him good-humoured, witty and compassionate. His greatest rapport was with children. (Clarke, Joan 'Herz, Max Markus (1876–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983).

In her extended biography, Clark captured the working atmosphere of the hospital: Herz’s perfectionism, the dedication of his team to meeting his standards, his generosity to his staff in taking them to concerts and sharing his knowledge. In this he will be remembered by all those who had worked for him.xxx

Family and home life

Having returned in April 1920 to Bimini, the house remained home to Max Herz for the rest of his life. Herz appears to have avoided the social glare, immersing himself quietly, when not at work, in his love of music, literature and the arts – a man of broad interests and talents who would never be bored. His wife and daughter actively supported various causes, especially those related to the welfare and education of children, and so appeared in press accounts of Sydney social life, and his daughter Helen’s marriage to barrister John Phillips was covered by all the major Sydney dailies.

The years of the Second World War brought sadness – news from Germany of hardship and loss, and loss closer to home with the death of his son-in-law who served in both the AIF and the CMF. xxxi Helen Phillips later re-married; her second husband, Tristan Hearst, was a cousin, and the son of a well-known American concert pianist and musical educator, Djane Hearst. xxxii, The Herz household was well-placed to welcome and appreciate these musical and creative influences.

Max Herz lived to see the birth of his grandchildren, a granddaughter Susan born in 1945 and a grandson who bore his name, Tristan Max, born 5 October 1947 xxxiii.


Dr Max Herz died of hypertensive heart disease on 17 December 1948, survived by his wife Ethel, who died on 1 August 1966,xxxv and by his daughter Helen, who died on 14 September 1987. xxxvi His estate was valued for probate at £9,558.xxxiv

Max Herz left instructions at the end of his life for a cremation, ‘private and simple, without religious ceremony’.iii The terms matched the way he had lived.

Posthumous acknowledgement

In 1980 Dr William J. Cumming, in a paper delivered to the Australian Orthopaedic Association, acknowledged Herz as the first fully-trained orthopaedic surgeon to practice in Australia and New Zealand.xxxvii

A doctoral thesis charting the history of medical specialisation in Australia drew on an earlier history of orthopaedic practice in Australia to comment on the case of Dr Herz and his role in the emergent profession:

The first full time orthopaedic surgeon in Australia was not ‘home grown’. Dr Max Herz (1876-1948), a German orthopaedic surgeon, came to Australia in 1910 with a fine reputation for treating clubfoot. Soon after his arrival, he became a member of the BMA. At the outbreak of World War I, he was interred for six years. After his release, the BMA tried, unsuccessfully, to have him deported. To the shame of the AOA, he was never made a member, despite his obvious abilities and superior results. (Barry 1983, pp. 38-41).

Contribution and legacy

Because of the circumstances of his professional life, Max Herz was unable to leave a greater, more enduring inheritance, since he was lacking protégées, or even interested peers. It was an inevitable consequence of the fact that Herz’s methods, while highly effective according to the testimony of those who received his care, nevertheless did not find broad acceptance within the context of local medical practice. As a result, Max Herz worked largely alone in his own practice with his trusted team, and many of his ground-breaking techniques, and much of his knowledge, died with him. It is not as he would have wished.

Throughout his career, Herz felt a strong obligation to add social advocacy and public education to his role, in a bid to raise awareness of the disadvantages faced by the physically disabled, and to work for a greater understanding and better handling of their situation. Despite his retiring nature, this was a cause for which he was prepared to speak or write publicly, knowing that his work had given him a unique perspective into lives curtailed and disrupted by issues of pain and limited mobility. Unintentionally, he was himself an inspirational model for his patients, having risen above misfortune dealt to him by jealousy and prejudice, to find solace and purpose in his work and his family life.

In terms of his relationship with Woollahra, Dr Max Herz both lived and worked in the municipality for the greater part of his productive life, with his home and workplace situated on either side of Darling Point - one perched on the eastern side of the ridgeline, and the other on the shoreline of Rushcutters Bay.

The tangible reminder of Herz’s life and work in which he would have taken the greatest pride were to be found in the restored lives of the patients whose health and mobility were his legacy. Through their stories, recorded in many places, our knowledge of his work lives on.


Clarke, Joan Dr Max Herz, surgeon extraordinary: the human price of medical bigotry in Australia. Syd., Apcol, 1976.

Clarke, Joan Herz, “Max Markus Herz” Australian dictionary of biography Vol 9 1983

Helmi, Nadine The Enemy at home: German internees in World War I Australia/Nadine Helmi and Gerhard Fischer. Syd., UNSW Pr., 2011.

Digitised newspapers NLA TROVE database

Woollahra Municipal Council Minutes


i Clarke, Joan Herz, Max Markus Australian dictionary of biography Vol 9 1983.

iiThe Rise of the Ruhr area, Germany’s industrial heart land in the 19th century” Roh,Yong Ko KMLA [research paper] 2007 IV.2 Bochum

iii Newcastle Morning Herald 15.4.1949 p. 4.

iv“Adolf Lorenz – the bloodless surgeon of Vienna”/ Asfhar, Ahmadreza et al Mayo Clinic Proceedings July 2017; 92(7) p105-p106

v Clarke, Joan Dr Max Herz, surgeon extraordinary: the human price of medical bigotry in Australia. Syd., Apcol, 1976.

viNew Zealand: the country and the people / by Max. Herz. London : T. Werner Laurie, 1912.

vii BDM Online New Zealand Registration No 1905/6185 The bride’s name is recorded here as ‘Jane Ethel’, as it also is at the registration of her birth in NSW (NSW BDM Online index Ref : 28/1881).

viii The Daily Telegraph, 10.9.1910 p. 19

ix WMC Minutes23 Oct 1911 p. 492.

x Commonwealth of Australia; Department of Attorney General, Government Solicitor Legal Opinion No 1128 1921

xi These terms had been laid down by the Commonwealth in October 1914 ("Safeguards." The Sydney Morning Herald 31 October 1914 p. 13) and were further defined by the "Aliens restriction order 1915." Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 27 May 1915 p 977.

xiiHerz, Max Correspondence Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, 1915-1919, MLMSS 4562/Box 1/Item 5, Statutory Declaration dated 1919, Clauses 5, 6 and 7.

xiii The extent of this sentiment was eventually quantifiable with the collation of replies to a major recruitment drive carried out following the 1915 War Census - see World War I remembered – the 1915 War Census. The volume of War Census returns held in Woollahra Council’s archives records a similar pattern of response to the Sydney Morning Herald article of 1916 cited on the website.

xivThe Sydney Morning Herald 20.10.1915 p.12.

xvDr Richard Arthur NSW Parliament Members - former.

xvi Letter from the BMA announcing Herz’s expulsion, Herz, Max Correspondence Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, 1915-1919, MLMSS 4562/Box 1/Item 5 Letter dated 29.5.1915.

xviiAlbury Banner and Wodonga Express 17.9.1920, p. 2.

xviii Herz, Max Letters to his wife, 1915-1920 (op cit) and Herz Ethel Letters written by his wife to Max Herz, 1919.

xixThe Daily Telegraph 16.9.1915 September, p. 8.

xxMax Herz correspondence, 1915-1919, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, MLMSS 4562 / Box 1 / Item 5

xxiThe Sydney Morning Herald 24.12.1915 p. 6.

xxiiHerz, Max Correspondence Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, 1915-1919, MLMSS 4562/Box 1/Item 5, Statutory Declaration dated 1919, Clause 11.

xxiii Published in Helmi, Nadine The Enemy at home: German internees in World War I Australia/Nadine Helmi and Gerhard Fischer. Syd., UNSW Pr., 2011.

xxiv Herz was ‘denaturalised’ in 1919 and his circumstances remained under continuing investigation in 1921. Commonwealth of Australia; Department of Attorney General, Government Solicitor Legal Opinion No 1128 1921.

xxv Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 27.8.1936 p. 1574.

xxviGuyra Argus 26.2.1920 p. 2.

xxviiMax Herz correspondence, 1915-1919

xxviii Albury Banner and Wodonga Express 17.9.1920 p. 28

xxix Smith's Weekly 20.2.1926 p. 3

xxx Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s advocate 15.4.1949 p. 4

xxxiAustralian War Memorial Roll of Honour

xxxii"Guides young pianists to fame" The Australian Women's Weekly 5.11.1949 p. 24

xxxiiiThe Sydney Morning Herald 8.10.1947 p.26.

xxxiv Op. cit

xxxv Australian Cemetery Index 1808-2007; Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales 10.2.1967 p. 468.

xxxvi NSW BDM Online index Ref : 23005/1987; Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales 22.4.1988 p. 2388.

xxxviiClarke, Joan Herz, Max Markus Australian dictionary of biography.

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