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However his eponymous association with the auto-immune vasculitis was rescinded following revelations of his close association with the Nazi Party during World War II, came to light.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
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 conductWoywodt 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
This disease was on the verge of being discovered. Somebody had to do it1990, Otorhinolaryngoly
Wegener was dismissive of his 1936/1939 studies, stating they contained “…too much vasculitis and not enough granuloma“. [1990, Otorhinolaryngoly]
- Wegener F. Über generalisierte septische Gefäßerkrankungen. Verhandlungen der Deutschen Pathologischen Gesellschaft. 1936;29:202–210. Translation: On generalised septic vessel diseases. Thorax. 1987 Dec; 42(12): 918–919.
- Wegener F. Über eine eigenartige rhinogene Granulomatose mit besonderer Beteiligung des Arterien systems und der Nieren. Beiträge zur Pathologie. 1939;102:30–68. [Re-print: Beiträge zur Pathologie. 1976;158(1):127-143]
- Wegener F. Wegener’s granulomatosis. Thoughts and observations of a pathologist. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 1990;247:133-142.
- Woywodt A, Matteson EL. Wegener’s granulomatosis–probing the untold past of the man behind the eponym. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2006 Oct;45(10):1303-6.
- Rosen MJ. Dr. Friedrich Wegener, the ACCP, and History. Chest. 2007 Sep;132(3):739-41.
- DeRemee RA. Friedrich Wegener and the nature of fame. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1993;336:1-4.
- Wiesel E. Without conscience. N Engl J Med 2005;352:1511-1513
- Woywodt A, Haubitz M, Haller H, Matteson EL. Wegener’s granulomatosis. Lancet. 2006 Apr 22;367(9519):1362-6.
- Feder BJ. A Nazi Past Casts a Pall on Name of a Disease. NY Times Jan 22 2008.
- Falk RJ, Gross WL, Guillevin L, Hoffman GS, Jayne DR, Jennette JC, Kallenberg CG, Luqmani R, Mahr AD, Matteson EL, Merkel PA, Specks U, Watts RA; American College of Rheumatology; American Society of Nephrology; European League Against Rheumatism. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s): an alternative name for Wegener’s granulomatosis. Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Apr;63(4):863-4.
- Bachmeyer C, Halioua B. “Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s)” for “Wegener granulomatosis”: dermatology journals should also adopt the alternative name. JAMA Dermatol. 2013 May;149(5):526-7.
- Lubitz MG. Granulomatosis With Polyangiitis-A Moral Impetus for Change. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Feb 1;144(2):101.
the person behind the name
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.
Thanks Piotr. I think most of the references are listed. The 2006 review by Woywodt and Matteson implies activities at Lodz, but I have been unable to find any direct involvement of Wegener in the activities