Heinrich Pette and the Nazi era

The Heinrich Pette Institute, Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology (HPI) carries the name of its founding father Prof. Dr. Heinrich Wilhelm Pette (1887-1964).

As a neurologist and researcher in the field of spinal polio and multiple sclerosis, Heinrich Pette held an outstanding international position. However, his political and scientific activities related to National Socialism as well as his function on the board of the Society of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists (GDNP) have remained partly in the dark until now.

Against this background and due to critical inquiries from inside and outside the institute regarding Heinrich Pette's membership in the NSDAP since the year 1933, the HPI began in 2012 to investigate Heinrich Pette's past for the years 1933 to 1945. The aim was to bring about a firm and criticism-free basis for the future use of the name Heinrich Pette.

In February 2012, the HPI commissioned the renowned medical historian Prof. Heinz-Peter Schmiedebach to prepare an expert opinion on Heinrich Pette's position in National Socialism. The resulting expert opinion by Dr. Andrea Brinckmann and Prof. Heinz-Peter Schmiedebach "Gutachten über das Verhältnis des Neurologen Professor Dr. Heinrich Pette zum Nationalsozialismus und sein wissenschaftliches Werk zwischen 1933 und 1945" did not initially provide a clear picture of Heinrich Pette's work, as only a small amount of source material could be examined due to the very short prepartaion period of eight weeks.

As a result, the institute decided to start an extensive process of reappraisal and in 2014 handed over the coordination of a second expert opinion to Prof. Axel Schildt, then director of the Research Center for Contemporary History in Hamburg (FZH), and to historian Prof. Malte Thießen. The second expert opinion entitled "Heinrich Pette und der Nationalsozialismus" was submitted in its final, revised version at the end of 2020.

Based on the results of both expert opinions, the institute has had many detailed discussions with the Supervisory Board, as well as with the involvement of the Scientific Counsel and a number of historians established and renowned in the field, about the handling of the name "Heinrich Pette" and has decided not to use the name Heinrich Pette Institute in the future

Until a name-finding process is completed, the institute prefers to be called by the second part of the original name "Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology" (HPI).