Fritz Jacob Heine was born on 10 November 1884 in Berlin, the son of a merchant, Hermann Heine, and his wife Marie, née Baender. He was baptized a Protestant. It is not known which of his Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity, or when. Fritz Heine received his schooling at the Köllnische Gymnasium in Berlin, where he gained his school-leaving diploma. He subsequently studied medicine in Berlin and, for one semester (his second), Munich. In a curriculum vitae of 1912, he wrote: “My studies were interrupted by a six-month period of military service from October 1907 to April 1908 with the 2nd Guards Uhlan Regiment,” not mentioning an injury he sustained. He graduated in medicine in early 1910 and was registered as a doctor on 25 March 1911. On 15 November 1911, he started working as a trainee junior doctor at the University of Berlin’s Pathology Institute. In 1912 he gained a PhD with a dissertation on “Anatomical findings regarding shots in the head”.
At some point, he set up his own practice as a surgeon, which was said to have “run well”. In 1914 he moved into an elegant rented apartment at Reichsstraße 104 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. It is possible that his practice was in the same building. Dr. Fritz Heine married in to a globally active entrepreneurial family. His wife Johanna (known as Hanna) was born on 9 April 1895 in Hamburg, the daughter of a factory owner, Dr. Henry Pels (born on 6 June 1865 in Hamburg), son of a Jewish merchant and his wife Alice, née Wiener.
Henry Pels had founded the company “Henry Pels & Co.” in Hamburg, trading in tooling machines. In 1894 he relocated to Berlin. In 1902 he founded a machine-manufacturing business, “Berlin-Erfurt Maschinenfabrik Henry Pels & Co.” (known as BEM), with headquarters in Berlin. In 1926-27 he converted it into a joint stock company with capital stock amounting to 3.5 million Reich marks. Henry Pels was director general.
When Henry Pels died on 1 April 1931 his wife Alice took over the factory. Just a few months later, in November 1931, she, too, passed away. Their only son Rudolf, an officer, had fallen in the First World War, leaving Johanna as the sole heir. She became the majority shareholder, and remained so until 1936. Her husband Fritz Heine joined the supervisory board on her behalf, to represent the interests of the founding Pels family. He still ran his practice, but was rarely involved in the operations, as Joachim Scholtyseck writes in his book “Der Aufstieg der Quandts. Eine Deutsche Unternehmerdynastie”.
Although BEM was targeted by the Nazis as early as 1933, Fritz Heine managed to stay on the board until 1936, possibly because he was a war veteran and the factory was already largely “Aryanized”. He was last mentioned in the company records as attending a stockholders’ meeting in May 1937. The Erfurt branch of BEM was “affiliated” with (i.e. swallowed by) the Quandt group’s munitions company “Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken AG” (DWM). Scholtyseck, author of the above-mentioned history of the Quandt group, has pointed out that when Günther Quandt took over BEM, he was “primarily concerned with extending his own company’s structure within the newly acquired branches”. A not uncommon practice, some entrepreneurs were prepared to “become entangled in the functioning of the Nazi regime to increase their own economic use.” They then bought Jewish companies well below value.
In 1932 or early 1933, the Heine family moved out of Reichstraße 104 to the nearby villa where Johanna’s parents had lived, at Eichenallee 3. Henry and Alice Pels had bought it in 1919 and lived there until they died.
The address Anklamer Straße 39 in Berlin-Mitte also appears in the Berlin directories of the years 1935 to 1938. This tenement belonged to a Jewish chemist, J. Semmel, who ran the pharmacy “Zions-Apotheke und Drogerie J. Semmel” in the same building (and in number 40 next door). It is likely that Fritz Heine ran his practice here in this period, until the Nazis revoked his licence to practice medicine on 30 September 1938, pursuant to a new regulation concerning the “withdrawal of appointments of Jewish doctors” under the Reich Citizenship Law of 25 July 1938.
Fritz and Johanna had two children who, like themselves, were baptized Protestants. Their son Hans-Joachim (born in 1915) studied engineering and emigrated to the United States in 1936. Their daughter Anne (born in 1918) escaped to England in 1939 with the help of the Confessing Church and the group around the priest Heinrich Grüber.
Johanna, too, “had made it known that she wanted to leave Nazi Germany”. Yet she and her husband Fritz decided to stay in Germany. “They felt German, and were confident that the ‘horrific Nazi episode’ would soon be over,” writes Scholtyseck.
The Heine’s last place of residence was rented accommodation at Augsburger Straße 46 in Charlottenburg. They had probably been forced to move there. In the Berlin directories, Eichenallee 3 is listed as their home address until 1943, long after they had been deported. The villa was destroyed in the war. The building now standing on the site was built in 1989 (as reported by a current resident).
As “non-Aryan” Christians, the Heine family were subjected to the same ordeals as Jewish citizens. On 24 October 1941, they were deported from Berlin to the Lodz/Litzmannstadt ghetto, where they were housed at Sulzfelderstraße 10-13. Johanna was murdered there a short time later, in November 1941. Fritz Heine was made to work as a camp doctor until early July 1944.
The ghetto chronicle’s daily news brief of Monday 3 July 1944 noted: “Concerning work outside the ghetto: Today in the early hours of the morning the 5th transport departed from Radegast station with 700 people on board. The accompanying physician was Dr. Fritz Heine (Berlin).” Fritz Heine never returned from this “shift”; the 5th transport took him to Chelmno/Kulmhof extermination camp.