Wilhelm Pfannenstiel

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Wilhelm Pfannenstiel
Prof. Dr. med. Wilhelm Pfannenstiel (1890-1982).jpg
Prof. Dr. med. Pfannenstiel
Birth date 12 February 1890(1890-02-12)
Place of birth Breslau, German Empire
Death date 1 November 1982 (aged 92)
Place of death Marburg, West Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
National Socialist Germany National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
Flag Schutzstaffel.png Schutzstaffel
Balkenkreuz.jpg Wehrmacht
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Oberleutnant der Reserve
Oberstabsarzt der Reserve
Unit Fliegertruppe

Wilhelm Hermann Johannes Pfannenstiel (12 February 1890 – 1 November 1982) was a German physician, an officer of the Imperial German Army in World War I, an officer of the medical corps of the Wehrmacht and an officer of the medical corps of the SS, at last SS-Standartenführer in World War II.

Life (chronology)

Prof. Dr. W. Pfannenstiel, director of the Marburg Hygienic Institute, which von Behring headed for many years, opened the scientific conference on the occasion of the Emil von Behring celebrations at the University of Marburg, 1940
  • Eastern 1908 Abitur at Landgraf-Ludwigs-Gymnasium in Gießen
  • Einjährig-Freiwilliger
  • Study of medicine at the Universities of Oxford, Heidelberg and Munich
    • in Munich he was member of the Luftfahrt-Verein Touring-Club e . V., took part in balloon competitions and also developed his love for powered flight.
  • 14.10.1914 Promotion to Dr. med. at the University of Munich, then worked as a doctor at the Red Cross in Darmstadt
  • 16.9.1914 Called up for the Fliegertruppe, participated in World War I as a flying officer
    • Leutnant der Reserve, since 1917 Oberleutnant der Reserve
  • 12.1916-12.1918 Detachment to the German military mission in Constantinople, aviator with the Turkish Field Aviation Battalion 1 Dardanelles and leader of a fighter aircraft battalion in Odessa
  • 1.4.1919-30.6.1919 Volunteer assistant at the Hygienic Institute in Frankfurt am Main
  • 1.7.1919-31.3.1923 scheduled assistant at the State Institute for Experimental Therapy in Frankfurt am Main (planmäßiger Assistent am Staatlichen Institut für Experimentelle Therapie in Frankfurt am Main)
  • 1.4.1923-30.9.1926 Scientific employee of the chemical factory E. Merk in Darmstadt in the serum department (wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter der chemischen Fabrik E. Merk in Darmstadt in der Serumabteilung)
  • 1.1.1925-30.9.1926 Scientific employee / research associate at the Pharmacological Institute of the University of Münster (wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Pharmakologischen Institut der Universität Münster)
  • 1.10.1926 planmäßiger Assistent
  • 2.11.1927 Habilitation in hygiene and bacteriology at the University of Münster
  • 1930-1931 Substitute for the professorship for hygiene at the University of Marburg (Vertretung der Professur für Hygiene an der Universität Marburg) and commissionery leader of the medical examination office in Marburg
  • 14.4.1931 Appointed full professor for hygiene and director of the medical examination office in Marburg (Direktor des Medizinal-Untersuchungsamtes Marburg)
  • 1933 Foundation of a local group of the "German Society for Racial Hygiene" („Deutschen Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene“) in Marburg
  • 1.5.1933 Member of the NSDAP (NSDAP-No. 2,828,629)
  • 1933 Signer of the Vow of allegiance of the Professors of the German Universities and High-Schools to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic State
  • 1934 Entry into the SS rune.png (SS-No. 273,083)
    • In the same year, he declined a call to the University of Ankara as Professor
  • 1935 He nominated Paul Uhlenhuth for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in chemotherapy.[1]
  • 1936-1939 Wehrmacht reserve exercises as Stabsarzt der Reserve
  • 1937 Lectureship for aviation medicine and SS doctor for the upper section Fulda-Werra (Lehrauftrag für Luftfahrtmedizin sowie SS-Arzt des Oberabschnitts Fulda-Werra)
    • Highly esteemed Professor please I dare to ask if whether you are still interested that we carry out the experiments on human beings on the fostering of altitude resistance by administering vitamins. If so, I would devotedly request you to apply to the Reich Research Council and Chief of the business managing board Standartenführer SS Wolfram Sievers .... so that a mobile low pressure chamber may be obtained through the Luftwaffe for your and my joint experiments [...] .[2]


  • 1939 Oberstabsarzt der Reserve
  • End 1939 as SS-Sturmbannführer advisory hygienist at the SS medical office (SS-Sanitätsamt) upon request from by Dr. med. Friedrich Karl „Fritz“ Dermietzel (1899–1981)
  • 1940 Leave of absence from lecturing at the University of Marburg and assignment as a medical inspector in Berlin, including the inspection of concentration camps in the General Government (Beurlaubung von der Vorlesungstätigkeit an der Universität Marburg und Einsatz als Sanitätsinspekteur in Berlin, darunter Inspektion von Konzentrationslagern im Generalgouvernement)
  • April 1940 as part-time (nebenamtlich) hygienist at the Waffen-SS
  • 1941 SS-Obersturmbannführer
    • Pfannenstiel was with Kurt Gerstein in Belzec (Gerstein Report)
      • I was trained in hygiene and assigned to work in the this field during the war. I was occasionally called upon in connection with disinfection work, for which, as I already knew at the time, liquid prussic acid was used. I myself, however, never worked with this during the war. This liquid form of prussic acid was also called Zyklon B. During the summer of 1942, as a specialist in hygiene, I was ordered to proceed to Lublin to assist in an advisory capacity in urban sanitation work (supply of drinking water, sewage disposal). I accordingly went to Berlin to obtain a car because by that time the train journey was taking too long. I was unable to get the use of a car, but I was told that Dr. Gerstein was traveling to Lublin and I was instructed to get in touch with him, which I did. Dr. Gerstein told me that he would have to travel by way of Prague and I agreed to go along. An empty truck made the journey behind our car. As we drove, Dr. Gerstein explained to me that he had to go to pick up some prussic acid from a plat at Kolin near Prague. He didn't tell me what it was to be used for and I did not ask him. Knowing that Dr. Gerstein was in charge of disinfection work, I thought it quite natural that the acid should be intended for that purpose. But I soon learned at the factory – it was a small plant – that the chemical in question was gaseous prussic acid. Until then, I had been unaware of the existence of prussic acid in that form. But its disadvantages were pointed out to me at the same time, namely that, under considerable pressure, it decomposed. Dr. Gerstein and I then went on to Lublin. During the journey, one of the cylinders started to let in air and had to be buried. At Lublin, I carried out my assigned tasks. In this connection, I learned that there was a camp at Belzec [...]. I wanted to see it. The camp was under the direction of a man named Wirth[3] and it had been equipped by S.S. Police Chief Globocnik, who was also a Brigade Commander (S.S.) and a Police General. I made the acquaintance of the latter through Dr. Gerstein, who had often been to Lublin and Belzec. I, too, had business with him because he was my superior [...] I asked, if I might view the camp. Globocnik, who was very proud of his institution, granted permission and took Gerstein and myself into the camp. [...] When Globocnik authorized me to visit the camp, he made it clear to me that I must not talk about it to anyone, on pain of death. When I got back to Berlin, I informed Professor Dr. Ernst Grawitz, the senior physician of the S.S., of what I had seen and expressed to him the horror that I felt. He assured me that he would see to it that this business was stopped. I have no idea what happened then.[4][5]
  • September 1944 Deployment at the war front
  • 9.11.1944 SS-Standartenführer
  • 1945 Dismissal from the employment with the University of Marburg
  • 1945-1950 Internment by the US occupation authority (other sources claim until 1948[6])
  • 1954-1959 Head of vaccine department in the chemical-pharmaceutical factory of the pharmaceutical company Schaper & Brümmer in Salzgitter-Ringelheim


Son Peter

Wilhelm Hermann Johannes Pfannenstiel was born in 1890 in Breslau, Lower Silesia, as son of Hermann Johannes Pfannenstiel (1862–1909), renowned gynecologist, who had married his mother, Elisabeth, née Behlendorff, in 1889.[7]


Dr. Pfannenstiel married in 1925 in Darmstadt his fiancée Hildegard Gennes. They had for children, three sons and one daughter, who died at a young age. Son Peter (b. 20 October 1934 in Marburg; d. 4 March 2013) would also become a medical doctor and professor of internal medicine in Mainz.[8]


Pfannenstiel worked on general and social hygiene, bacteriology and serology, microbiology and the role of vitamins in infectious diseases, especially tuberculosis. He also published on serum bactericides, tubercle and diphtheria bacilli, aviation medicine, balneology and climate medicine, and hygiene in pest control, among his works were:

  • Beiträge zu den histologischen Befunden an Skleralnarben nach Glaukomoperationen mit Berücksichtigung ihrer Filtrationsfähigkeit, München 1914 (Dissertation)
  • Die tierexperimentellen Grundlagen zur Behandlung von Typhus- und Paratyphusbazillenausscheidern, Jena 1931
  • Einwirkungen verschiedenartiger Vitaminzufuhr auf den Gesundheitszustand. Elwert`sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Marburg 1932
  • Tierexperimentelle Studien über Mineralwasser-Wirkungen auf das Blut. Staatlicher Mineralbrunnen, Berlin 1933
  • Bevölkerungspolitische Entwicklung und Rassenhygiene im nationalsozialistischen Staat. In: Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. 24, 1934, S. 95–109
  • Neuere Ergebnisse biologischer Heilquellenwirkungen. Staatlicher Mineralbrunnen, Berlin 1937
  • Kurzer Überblick über die Entwicklung des Hygienischen Instituts Marburg innerhalb der letzten zehn Jahre – 1930–1940, 1940
  • Der Einfluß Emil von Behrings auf die Entwicklung der Immunbiologie, in: "Deutsches Ärzteblatt. Amtsblatt der Reichsärztekammer und der Kassenärztlichen Vereinigung Deutschlands", Nr. 16 from 1 June 1942
  • Die Verpflichtung der deutschen Gesundheitswissenschaft im Kriege, in: "Ziel und Weg" 1944, H. 5, p. 94-100
  • Der moderne Krieg als Lehrmeister der Hygiene. Stalling, Oldenburg 1944
  • Über den Heilwert der westdeutschen natürlichen Versand-Heilwässer, Köln 1960
  • Was ist ein "natürliches Heilwasser"?, c. 1961

External links


  1. The Nomination Database for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1901-1953 Nobel Prize.Org
  2. Letter to Professor Pfannensteil concerning high altitude; Nuremburg Trials Project; Harvard Law School
  3. SS-Sturmbannführer Christian Wirth (24 November 1885 – 26 May 1944), first commander of the Belzec camp, was born in November 1885 and trained as a joiner and then a police officer. Wirth served in World War One on the Western Front where he was decorated for bravery. After the war, he returned to the building trade before, once again, joining the police. Wirth gained a reputation for efficiency and complete dedication to duty. By the time World War Two started, Wirth was working for the police in Stuggart in a department attached to the Gestapo. In October 1939, Wirth held the rank of SS-Obersturmfűhrer and he was sent to the Grafeneck psychiatric clinic. Wirth met Josef Oberhauser (21 January 1915 – 22 November 1979) there who was to become his adjutant at Belzec.
  4. From the deposition of Wilhelm Pfannenstiel before the Darmstadt Criminal Court on 6 June 1950
  5. »Das Lager besaß saubere sanitäre Einrichtungen«. Prof. Wilhelm Pfannenstiel, Hygieniker der Waffen-SS, über eine Vergasung in Belzec (25 April 1960)
  6. Anne Christine Nagel, Ulrich Sieg: Die Philipps-Universität Marburg im Nationalsozialismus – Dokumente zu ihrer Geschichte, 2000, p. 539
  7. (1990) "Hermann Johannes Pfannenstiel (1862-1909). On the 80th anniversary of his death. A biography of a famous German gynecologist". Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde 50 (4): 326–34. doi:10.1055/s-2007-1026488. PMID 2192940.
  8. Pfannenstiel, Wilhelm Hermann