"Current Status of Identification of Victims of the National Socialist Regime whose Bodies were used for Anatomical Purposes"

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Sabine Hildebrandt (Harvard University, Massachusetts)

"Current Status of Identification of Victims of the National Socialist Regime whose Bodies were used for Anatomical Purposes"

(Introduced by: Volker Roelcke, University of Giessen)

[30min13]

 

This paper was presented to the international symposium:

"Reassessing Nazi Human Experiments and Coerced Research, 1933-1945: New Findings, Interpretations and Problems"

4 - 7 July 2013, Wadham College, Oxford

 

Convened by Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes University), Marius Turda (Oxford Brookes University), and Volker Roelcke (University of Giessen).

Kindly funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and the University of Giessen

 

Abstract: Research on the history of anatomy in the Third Reich has often focused on the anatomists who collaborated with the National Socialist (NS) regime. Only recently has attention shifted to investigations on the victims, of whom there are two groups: the anatomists whose careers were disrupted by NS policies, and the victims of the NS regime whose bodies were used for anatomical purposes. No systematic approach has yet been undertaken towards the identification of all the different groups of victims and the individuals' fates.

This overview of currently available data on NS victims whose bodies were used for anatomical purposes reveals that an estimated total number of all bodies used lies at more than 40,000 and that the currently documented number of executed persons is at a minimum of 3,749. The various sources of body procurement and their significant changes during the NS period from the traditional sources can be traced. Only about 500 NS victims’ names and biographies have been at least partially identified so far. However, existing memorials rarely name individuals. New approaches to the identification of victims will be presented. The potential of a data bank of these victims’ biographies as an appropriate memorial needs to be examined.

 

Bio: Sabine Hildebrandt received her medical education and an early training in experimental rheumatology in Germany and the US. Since 2002 she has worked as an educator in anatomy at the University of Michigan and has recently moved to Harvard Medical School/Boston Childrens’ Hospital. Her time is divided between the teaching of anatomy and research on the history and ethics of anatomy, with a focus on anatomy in the Third Reich. She has developed seminars for medical students on the history and ethics of anatomical dissection.

 

 

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