The Long, Twisted Shadow Cast by Nazi Medical Experiments

The Fellowship  |  October 27, 2016

Jews being unloaded from a cattle car at Auschwitz-Birkenau, May 1944 during the Holocaust
The Long

During the Holocaust, Jews were not only murdered by the millions, but they were also tortured and experimented on by the Nazis in the name of medical research. The Times of Israel’s Matt Lebovic takes a look at this particular tragedy that occurred as part of the darkest time in the Jewish people’s history:

Probably not for the last time, human remains from inmates used in Holocaust-era “medical experiments” were accidentally discovered in Germany last year.

Employees of the Max Planck Psychiatric Institute in Munich found the brain samples during construction in 2015, but the finding was not announced until the end of last month. The institute regularly received human remains from experiments performed on Nazi camp inmates during World War II.

The man most closely associated with these “medical” activities was Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” who selected inmates for the gas chambers or forced labor on the ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. According to the Max Planck Institute, the remains found last year were collected by Mengele and other physicians for analysis at the lab, which was then called the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

“We are embarrassed by these findings, and the blemish of their discovery in the archives,” said the institute in a statement about the remains, found in jars during building renovations.

Israel’s Yad Vashem expressed concern over how long it took officials to publicize the discover, pointing to other examples of the mishandling of human remains from Nazi-era experiments. Two years ago in Berlin, for instance, victims’ bones were discovered in the trash. Last year, the remains of Jews gassed for research were uncovered at a forensic medical institute in Strasbourg, France, meticulously labeled with the victims’ information.

“Next year, we’re going to organize a convention about this issue,” said Yad Vashem’s Dan Machman in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio following the Planck Institute’s announcement.

“This [discovery] is something new that was previously unknown, and joins other events that are suddenly uncovered after 70 years,” said the director of research at the international Holocaust center. “Whoever thought this chapter was completely finished is mistaken…”