Michael Jürgs: Alzheimer’s. C. Bertelsmann Verlag (Paperback)


Searching for Clues in a Twilight Zone

Original Title: Alzheimer

Paperback, with flaps, 448 pages, 12.5 x 20.5 cm, 4.9 x 8.1 in.
ISBN: 978-3-570-00934-5
€ 14.99 [D] | € 15.50 [A] | CHF 21.90 * (* rec. retail price) recommended retail price

Publishing House: C. Bertelsmann

Date of publication: August 28, 2006
This title is available.


Michael  Jürgs - Alzheimer’s


It begins with an occasional absent-mindedness, but then it follows its implacable course, a descent into a mental void and death: Alzheimer’s disease, one of the greatest scourges of humanity. Michael Jürgs has set out on a search for evidence in this “twilight zone”, and the result is a comprehensive presentation of the condition, including the biography and family history of the man after whom this illness is named: Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915). An informative and moving book, including the perspectives of the patients, families, doctors, caretakers and researchers.

Munich 1906. Somewhat by chance, the neurologist Alois Alzheimer finds traces of protein deposits, dead nerve cells and matted nerve coverings in the brain of a deceased patient, evidence of a condition that would some day carry his name. Especially considering the ageing population, the disease he discovered is seen as one of the greatest challenges for our society. The causes of the deterioration of the mind, as well as who becomes afflicted when and why, are unclear to this day.

Researchers are certain about one thing: Alzheimer’s can affect anyone. One afflicted with it at first begins losing certain mental abilities, then a grasp on reality, a knowledge of personal identity and even a sense of self-existence in a progressive and irreversible slide into dementia. In advanced stages, reality is fragmentary, and the external world becomes a completely foreign realm. As the connections between the inner world of the sufferer and the outer world of reality break down, he or she is no longer capable of responding in any meaningful way. Ultimately, there is the complete disappearance of the personality, total helplessness, infirmity, and death.

The private life of Alzheimer is a gripping story in itself. His wife, Cäcilie was Jewish. In the perverse logic of the race laws in the Third Reich, their children were labelled “mixed race“. How they survived the Nazi era, what his wife’s fortune had to do with the discovery of the disease, and how this discovery was forgotten for decades are not only events in German history but part of the history of medicine – and as suspense-filled as a mystery novel.

Michael Jürgs has set out on a moving journey. He spoke with patients in permanent care facilities whose sense of being was fading with every day. He refers to case studies of famous Alzheimer patients such as Ronald Reagan, Iris Murdoch and Immanuel Kant. He spoke with relatives, caretakers and doctors, and he visited laboratories where research is feverishly taking place to find medication to stem the dreadful destruction of memory. Here is a journey into the past and a return to the present, and hope for a near future when a cure for this malady is possible. Until then, geriatric clinics and Alzheimer organisations are the only help.


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