Mathäus Lorenz Seitz

1877 Oeschelbronn/Pforzheim – Grafeneck 1940

M.L.Seitz self-portrait

Translation of his personal file

General Archive, State of Baden-Württemberg, Karlsruhe, Germany:
Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe, GLA, Abt. 463, Zug. 1983/20, 16.254

Heidelberg, Universitätsarchiv
Personalakte Mathäus Lorenz Seitz: Signatur 21/308


Grafeneck Memorial Site / History

Mathäus Lorenz Seitz was born on the 13th June 1877, in Oeschelbronn near Pforzheim, the illegitimate child of Christine Reich, maidservant of his father, Christian Lang. After the death of his parents he lived first with his grandparents and then with his half-sister, Katharina Seitz and her husband. From 1887 and 1893 he attended schools in Pforzheim and Brötzingen. In 1893-94 he served terms of imprisonment for theft. He was apprenticed to a goldsmith but broke off the apprenticeship after two years. Following a five-year period with the Foreign Legion in France and North Africa, he returned to Germany and joined the army but was dismissed after six months service. Seitz now travelled on foot through Switzerland, Northern Italy and the South of France, earning his living as a tinker. Back in North Africa and Algeria, he learnt Arabic and converted to Islam. At this time he again came into conflict with the law: in 1903 a French military court condemned him to five years hard labour for theft and for damage to property, following which he was deported from Algeria. Years of adventurous wanderings followed that took Seitz to Tunis, Tripoli, Alexandria and finally to India - Bombay, and then Hyderabad, where he was taken in by an Indian pasha. During the First World War he was interned by the British, spending most of this time in hospital. After his release Seitz returned to Europe in 1920 and, at last, back to Pforzheim.

During this difficult period and without papers he managed to survive as a casual labourer. In July 1921 the poorhouse of the town of Pforzheim had him transferred to the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Heidelberg. Despite his comment that he was “not crazy and had nothing else on his conscience” Seitz was diagnosed with “delusions and fantasies with religious and erotic content.” The Heidelberg doctors came to the conclusion that “with his delusions of grandeur and deranged ideas he was quite incorrigible” and arranged for him to go to the Wiesloch mental hospital. Although his record of treatment is no longer extant, it seems that during his first years there he did have some contact with his family. At the end of February 1940 Seitz was “released”. Together with 41 other patients he was taken from Wiesloch to Grafeneck where they were murdered.

Drawings by Mathäus Seitz, dating primarily from his stay at the Heidelberg Clinic in 1921, are today preserved in the Prinzhorn Collection.

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