Friedrich Wegener

Friedrich Wegener (1907-1990)

Friedrich Wegener (1907-1990) was a German pathologist

Wegener described the histological findings of three cases of granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA) in 1936 and 1939.

Wegener’s affiliation with the condition was popularized in papers by Ringertz (1947); Johnsson (1948) and Churg (1954).

However his eponymous association with the auto-immune vasculitis was rescinded following revelations of his close association with the Nazi Party during World War II, came to light.

  • Born on April 7, 1907, Varel, Germany
  • 1927-1932 Medical student in Munich and Kiel
  • 1931 – German champion in Schleuderball
  • 1932 – Member of the Sturmabteilung (Braunhemden or’brown-shirts’), the paramilitary storm troopers of the early Nazi movement
  • 1933 – Assistant at the Pathological Institute, University of Kiel under Prof Martin Staemmler (1890–1974) an ardent supporter of the Nazi regime
  • 1934 – MD thesis entitled ‘Testicular Tumour’
  • 1935 – Assistant at the Pathological Institute at Breslau University under Prof Martin Staemmler.
  • 1938 – German medical corps, SA-Sanitäts-Obersturmführer (lieutenant colonel)
  • 1939 – Military pathologist, Lodz (renamed Litzmannstadt in occupation). Members of his office allegedly conducted research on embolism, injecting oxygen into the bloodstream of some prisoners and selecting victims to be killed in hospitals and concentration camps. There are no data to prove or disprove the active participation of Wegener in such experiments/activities. Systematic murder of the inmates of the Lodz ghetto was undertaken from 1941 to 1944 in the nearby death camp at Chelmno. Of the 250,000 inmates imprisoned in the Lodz ghetto in 1940, less than 1000 survived.
  • 1944 – On Polish institute for the Prosecution of German War Crimes (IPN) wanted list as ‘Wegner (sic) – Director of the Pathological Institute, Lodz‘. The file was forwarded to the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC). Wegener never faced trial or charges.
  • 1947 – Wegener underwent de-nazification. Witnesses testified to his honourable behaviour during the Nazi years and was rehabilitated and allowed to practise medicine in postwar Germany.
  • 1948 – Appeared on the central list of war criminals and security suspects (Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects, 1948:I).
  • 1966-1969 Professor of dissection, anatomy and histology – Lübeck Medical Academy
  • 1976 – ‘Doctor Honoris Causae’, medical school of Lübeck
  • 1989 – Inducted as ‘Master Clinician’ of the American College of Chest Physicians
  • Died on July 9, 1990, Lübeck

Medical Eponyms
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA)

The eponym ‘Wegener granulomatosis’ has been replaced with the term ‘Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA)‘. This transition was in part to achieve nomenclature symmetry with Microscopic Polyangiitis (MPA) and Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA, Churg-Strauss); and to remove any historical association with Friedrich Wegener following revelations of his association with the Nazi Party in World War II


1989 – The American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) recognised Wegener as a ‘Master Clinician’. However, in 2000 following revelations about his association with the Nazi Party, the ACCP rescinded the prize and joined the campaign to rename the eponymous clinical condition as GPA

2006 – Woywodt and Matteson publish on Wegener’s granulmatosis (Lancet, 2006) and record in detail the significant historical review undertaken to connect Wegener with potential war crimes (Rheumatology, 2006). They conclude:

The facts we have uncovered do not prove Dr Friedrich Wegener guilty of war crimes. However, the evidence suggests that Dr Wegener was, at least at some point of his career, a follower of the Nazi regime…his mentor Martin Staemmler, was an ardent supporter of the racial hygiene…he (Wegener) worked in close proximity to the genocide machinery in Lodz…our data raise serious concerns about Dr Wegener’s professional conduct

Woywodt and Matteson 2006

2010 – The American College of Rheumatology, American Society of Nephrology, and the European League against Rheumatism recommended a shift away from eponyms, including Wegener’s granulomatosis and proposed the alternative name of Granulomatosis with polyangiitis

Notable Quotables

This disease was on the verge of being discovered. Somebody had to do it

1990, Otorhinolaryngoly

Wegener was dismissive of his 1936/1939 studies, stating they contained “…too much vasculitis and not enough granuloma“. [1990, Otorhinolaryngoly]

Major Publications



Historical review

Dr Callum MacLean MBChB. | LinkedIn |

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |


  1. Members of his office conducted research on embolism, injecting oxygen into the bloodstream of some prisoners and selecting victims to be killed in hospitals and concentration camps. What is the source of this information? I have been conducting research on the Friedrich Wegener’s professional activity for two years and I have not been able to confirm this fact.

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