Jewish skeleton collection

The Jewish skeleton collection was an attempt by the Nazis to create an anthropological display to the alleged racial inferiority of the ” Jewish race” and to emphasize the Jews’ status as Untermenschen (“sub-humans”), in contrast to the German race , which the Nazis considered to be Aryan Übermenschen . The collection was housed at the Anatomy Institute at the Reich University of Strasbourg in the annexed region of Alsace , where the initial preparation of the bodies was performed.

The collection was sanctioned by Reichsführer of the SS Heinrich Himmler , and designed by and under the direction of August Hirt with Rudolf Brandt and Wolfram Sievers , general manager of the Ahnenerbe , being responsible for procuring and preparing the corpses.

Work by Hans-Joachim Lang published in 2004 revealed the identities and family history of the victims of this project, based on the discovery of the prisoner numbers found at Natzweiler-Struthof in the records of those vaccinated against typhus at Auschwitz. The list of names has been placed on a memorial at the cemetery where they were buried, at the facility used to murder, and at the Anatomical Institute where the bodies were found in 1944.


The project was designed by August Hirt, who directed the phases that were performed before the end of the war. Originally the “specimens” to be used in the collection were Jewish commuters in the Red Army captured on the Eastern front by the Wehrmacht . The 86 members were chosen for the collection of 115 Jewish inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp in Occupied Poland . They were chosen for their perceived stereotypical racial characteristics. The initial selections and preparations were carried out by SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Bruno Begerand Dr. Hans Fleischhacker , who arrived in Auschwitz in the first half of 1943 and finished the preliminary work by June 15, 1943.

Due to a typhus epidemic at Auschwitz, the candidates chosen for the skeleton collection were quarantined in order to prevent them from becoming ill and ruining their anatomical value. In that time, the physical measurements were taken from the selected group of people. An excerpt from a Sievers in June 1943 report on the preparation and typhus epidemic: “Altogether 115 individuals were worked on, 79 were Jews, 15 were Jewish, 2 were Poles, and 4 were Asiatics. are segregated by sex and are under quarantineIn February 1942, Sievers submitted to Himmler, through Rudolf Brandt, a report from which is following the Nuremberg Doctors Trial by General Telford Taylor , Chief Counsel for the Prosecution at Nuremberg:

We have a complete collection of skulls of all races and peoples at our disposal. Only very few specimens of skulls of the Jewish race, however, are available with the result that it is impossible to arrive at accurate conclusions from examining them. The war in the East now presents us with the opportunity to overcome this deficiency. By procuring the skulls of the Jewish- Bolshevik Commissars , who represent the prototype of the repulsive, but characteristic subhuman, we have the chance to obtain a palpable, scientific document.

The best, practical method for collecting and collecting material from the United States of America. Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars to the Field Police. They are in the process of being appointed to a particular position and they are in the process of receiving special attention and special attention. This special delegate, who will be in charge of securing the “material”, has established, other personal data of the prisoner. Following the subsequently induced death of the Jew, Whose head shoulds not be damaged, the delegate will separate the head from the body and will forward it to the point of destination proper icts in a hermetically sealed tin can be produced for this purpose.

Having arrived at the laboratory, the comparison tests and anatomical research on the skull, the formation of pathological features of the skull form, the form and size of the brain, etc., can proceed. The basis of these studies will be the photos, measurements, and other data provided on the head, and finally the tests of the skull itself.


Ultimately, 87 of the inmates were shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof . These people have been kept in mind for a long time in the future, and they have been able to improve their appearance for the desired casts of their bodies. Next, 86 were gassed in the small facility outside the camp proper, an existing building jury-rigged for gassing people. The deaths of 86 of these inmates were, in the words of Hirt, “induced” in an improvised gassing facilityat Natzweiler-Struthof and their bodies were sent to Strasbourg – 57 men and 29 women. The gassing occurred on August 11, 13, 17, and 19th, conducted by Commander Josef Kramer, who is the victim of the disease, the poison in the ventilation, and watched the people fall to their deaths. One victim was shot for fighting to avoid being gassed and thus not part of the collection. [1] Josef Kramer, acting commander of Natzweiler-Struthof (who became commander at Auschwitz and the last commander of Bergen Belsen ). It is believed that three men died in transport from Auschwitz to Natzweiler-Struthof. [2]

The next part of the process for this “collection” was to make anatomical casts of the bodies prior to reducing them to skeletons. With the approach of the Allies in 1944, there was concern over the possibility that the body could be discovered, as they had not been defleshed . In September 1944, Sievers telegrammed Brandt: “The collection can be defleshed and rendered unrecognizable.” This, however, would have been done for nothing-at least in this particular collection. since it would be impossible to make plaster casts afterwards. ”

Some work had been done at the Anatomical Institute, but the project was never completed. The body casts were not made, and the bodies were not defleshed as skeletons. When the Allies arrived, they found the bodies, some complete and some beheaded, preserved by formalin. [3]


Brandt and Sievers were indicted, tried, and convicted in the Doctors’ Trial in Nuremberg , and both were hanged in Landsberg Prison on June 2, 1948. Hirt committed suicide near the town of Schluchsee , in the Black Forest , on June 2, 1945 with a gunshot to the head. Josef Kramer was convicted of war crimes and hanged in Hamelin prison by British executioner Albert Pierrepointon December 13, 1945. In 1974, Bruno Beger was convicted by a West German court as an accessory to 86 murders for his role in procuring the victims of the Jewish skeleton collection. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment, the minimum sentence, but did not serve any time in prison. According to his family, Beger died in Königstein im Taunus on October 12, 2009. [4] [5] [6] [7] August Hirt, who conceived the project, was sentenced to death in absentia at the Military War Crimes Trial at Metz on December 23, 1953. [8] It was unknown at the time that Hirt had shot himself in the head on June 2, 1945 while in hiding in the Black Forest. [8]

For many years, only a single victim was positively identified by Serge and Beate Klarsfeld : Menachem Taffel (prisoner No. 107969), a Polish born Jew who had been living in Berlin . In 2003, Dr. Hans-Joachim Lang , a German professor at the University of Tübingen , succeeded in identifying all the victims by the list of inmate numbers of the 86 corpses at the Reichs University in Strasbourg, surreptitiously recorded by Hirt’s French assistant Henri Henrypierre, with a list of numbers of vaccinated inmates at Auschwitz. The names and biographical information of the victims were published in the book Die Namen der Nummern ( The Names of the Numbers). [9] Rachel Gordon and Joachim Zepelin translated the Introduction to the book in English, including the biographies of the 86 people. [10] Lang recounts in detail the story of how he identified the victims of the 86 victims gassed for Dr. August Hirt’s project of the Jewish skeleton collection. Forty-six of these individuals were originally from Thessaloniki , Greece. The 86 were from eight countries in German-occupied Europe: Austria, Netherlands, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Belgium, and Poland. [8] [11] [12]

In 1951, the remains of the 86 victims were reinterred in one location in the Cronenbourg-Strasbourg Jewish Cemetery. On December 11, 2005, memorial stones with the names of the 86 victims were placed at the cemetery. One is at the site of the mass grave, the other along the wall of the cemetery. Another plaque honoring the victims was placed outside the Anatomy Institute at Strasbourg’s University Hospital. On July 9, 2015, French doctor Raphael Toledano [13] discovered [14] at the Forensic Institute ‘s Museum of Strasbourg several tissues hidden away, presumed to be from Menachem Taffel. These last remains were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Cronenbourg on September 6, 2015. [15] [16]As journalist and researcher Lang stated, “The perpetrators should not be allowed to have the final word.” [3]

See also

  • Ahnenerbe
  • Bullenhuser Damm
  • Hans-Joachim Lang
  • Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics
  • Nazi human experimentation
  • Research Materials: Max Planck Society Archive


  1. Jump up^ Bernas, Anne (October 24, 2014). “A documentary about a misunderstood Nazi crime awarded at Waterloo” [In documentary about a misunderstood Nazi crime award at Waterloo] (in French). RFI the voices of the world . Retrieved March 8, 2016 .
  2. Jump up^ Lang, Hans-Joachim. “Scientific Murders, Anthroplogists at Auschwitz” . The Names of the Numbers, In Memoriam 86 Jewish People Who Fell Victim to the Nazi Scientists . Retrieved March 11, 2016 .
  3. ^ Jump up to:b Bazelon, Emily (6 November 2013). “The Nazi Anatomists: How the bodies of Hitler’s victims are still haunting modern science” . . Retrieved April 4, 2016 .
  4. Jump up^ “NS-Verbrechen – Die Spur der Skelette” [Nazi Crimes – The Trail of the Skeletons] (in German). Spiegel Online. January 6, 2010 . Retrieved October 9, 2012 .
  5. Jump up^ Lang, Hans-Joachim. “The Perpetrators – Bruno Beger” . Die-namen-der-nummern . Retrieved March 10, 2010 .
  6. Jump up^ Spitz, Vivien (May 25, 2005). Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans . Sentient Publications. pp. 232-234. ISBN  1-59181-032-9 .
  7. Jump up^ McDonald, Gabrielle Kirk (March 1, 2000). Substantive and Procedural Aspects of International Criminal Law: The Experience of International and National Courts: Materials (1st ed.). Springer. ISBN  90-411-1134-4 .
  8. ^ Jump up to:c Lang, Hans-Joachim (19 August 2004). ” Skeleton for Straßburg Eines der grausigsten Wissenschaftsverbrechen” Dritten Reiches “ist endlich aufgeklärt” [Skeletons for Strasbourg: One of the most gruesome crimes of science in the Third Reich is finally cleared]. Die Zeit (in German) . Retrieved April 3, 2016 .
  9. Jump up^ Hans-Joachim Lang (August 31, 2004). Die Namen der Nummern: Wie es gelang, die 86 Opfer eines NS-Verbrechens zu identifizieren [ The names of the numbers: How it was possible to identify the 86 victims of a Nazi crime ] (in German) (hardback ed.). Hoffmann + Campe Vlg GmbH. ISBN  3-455-09464-3 .
  10. Jump up^ Rachel Gordon, translator; Joachim Zepelin, translator (2007). “Die Namen Der Nummern” . Berlin. Archived from the original on February 8, 2015 . Retrieved 8 February 2015 .
  11. Jump up^ Lang, Hans-Joachim. “[Victims of medical research at Natzweiler, from” Die Namen der Nummern: Eine Initiative zur Erinnerung an 86 Jüdische Opfer eines Verbrechens von NS-Wissenschaftlern “] (ID: 20733)” . US Holocaust Memorial Museum . Retrieved April 3, 2016 .
  12. Jump up^ Lang, Hans-Joachim. “The Names of the Numbers: In Memoriam of 86 Jewish People Who Fell Victim to the Nazi Scientists” . Tübingen, Germany . Retrieved April 4, 2016 .
  13. Jump up^ Toledano, Raphael (2016). “Anatomy in the Third Reich – The Anatomical Institute of the Reichsuniversität Strassburg and the deliveries of dead bodies” . Annals of Anatomy . 205 : 128-144 – via Elsevier Science Direct.
  14. Jump up^ “Remains of Holocaust forensic institute” . Washington Post . Retrieved 2017-02-08 .
  15. Jump up^ Lang, Hans-Joachim. “Chronicle – News, July 9 and September 6, 2015”. The Names of the Numbers . Tübingen, Germany . Retrieved April 4, 2016 .
  16. Jump up^ Leeson, Rosanne; Landé, Peter. “Natzweiler Medical Experiments Natzweiler-Strutthof Camp A Small List with a Big Lesson” . JewishGen . Retrieved 23 March 2016 .

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