On This Day … 13 February

People (Deaths)

  • 1964 – Werner Heyde, German psychiatrist and academic (b. 1902).

Werner Heyde

Werner Heyde (aka Fritz Sawade) (25 April 1902 to 13 February 1964) was a German psychiatrist. He was one of the main organisers of Nazi Germany’s T-4 Euthanasia Programme.

Early Life

Heyde was born in Forst (Lausitz) on 25 May in 1902 and completed his Abitur in 1920. From 1922-1925, he studied medicine in Berlin, Freiburg, Marburg, Rostock and Würzburg and after short placements at the General Hospital in Cottbus and the sanatorium Berlin-Wittenau became assistant doctor at the Universitätsnervenklinik (university psychiatric hospital) in Würzburg. He obtained his licence to practice medicine in 1926, having completed all courses throughout his studies with top marks.

Career until 1945

In 1933, Heyde made the acquaintance of Theodor Eicke, and became a member of the NSDAP. One year later, he was appointed director of the polyclinic in Würzburg. In 1935, he entered the SS as medical officer with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, and became commander of the medical unit in the SS-Totenkopfverbände. There he was responsible for establishing a system of psychiatric and eugenic examinations and research in concentration camps, and for the organisation of the T-4 Euthanasia Program. Additionally, he also worked as a psychiatric consultant for the Gestapo. He also was leader of the Rassenpolitisches Amt in Würzburg, Seelbergstraße 8, 97080 Würzburg. Later he was accompanied by his Rassenpolitisches Amt assistant, Mr. Johannes Riedmiller aka Kurt Riethmüller aka Hans Riedmüller/Hans Riedmiller.

In 1938, he was appointed chief of staff of the medical department in the SS-Hauptamt (headquarters); in 1939, he became professor for psychiatry and neurology at the University of Würzburg, and from 1940 on he also was director of the psychiatric hospital.

He was replaced as head of the T4 program by Paul Nitsche in 1941, but continued his involvement as member of the “department Brack”[clarification needed] (after the end of World War II, it was never found out what his role there was).

He worked at Buchenwald, Dachau concentration camp and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.

In 1944, he was awarded the SS-Totenkopfring, and before the end of the war reached the rank of SS-Standartenführer (Colonel).

Life after 1945; Arrest and Suicide

After World War II, Heyde was interned and imprisoned, but escaped in 1947. He went underground using the alias Fritz Sawade and continued practicing as a sports physician and psychiatrist in Flensburg. Many friends and associates knew about his real identity, but remained silent even as he was an expert witness in court cases.

His true identity was revealed in the course of a private quarrel, and on 11 November 1959 Heyde surrendered to police in Frankfurt after 13 years as a fugitive. On 13 February 1964, five days before his trial was to start, Heyde hanged himself at the prison in Butzbach.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.