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Anatomy in the Third Reich: An outline, part 2. Bodies for anatomy and related medical disciplines

By S. Hildebrandt


All anatomical departments of German universities used bodies of the executed and other victims of the National Socialist (NS) regime for their work. Many of these victims had been executed in prisons and were members of the German political opposition; others had perished in camps for prisoners of war or forced laborers and concentration camps, and were of various European and other descent. Anatomists generally welcomed the increased influx of “fresh material” for purposes of research and education of the growing numbers of medical students. No anatomist is known to have refused work with the bodies of NS victims. Other medical disciplines also made use of these bodies, among them were racial hygienists and neuropathologists. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the fields of anatomy, physical anthropology, and racial hygiene (eugenics) were closely related in their subject matter. Anatomists were involved in the biological foundation of racial hygiene, most prominently among them Eugen Fischer. The discipline was established as part of the medical curriculum after 1920. Racial hygiene became the scientific justification for NS policies that led to racial discrimination, involuntary sterilization and ultimately mass murder. Anatomists taught racial hygiene throughout the Third Reich and did research in this area. Some were actively involved in NS policies through propaganda and evaluations for the so-called Genetic Health Courts, whereas others became victims of their own science in that they were dismissed for racial reasons. 22:894–905, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc

Publisher: Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1002/ca.20873
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