Posted on September 2nd, 2016 by:

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Researchers became interested when a small number of human bones were found during road work in 2014.

The bones were discovered in Berlin’s upscale Dahlem neighborhood on property belonging to Berlin’s Free University. Since then, a new archaeological dig has exhumed more bones including numerous fractured skulls, teeth and vertebrae. The site is not an ordinary burial place, it is situated about 100 meters away from what was the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Human Heredity and Eugenics. Among other things, the institute’s Nazi scientists carried out research on human body parts sent to them by the SS Doctor Josef Mengele of Auschwitz-Birkenau infamy.


Picture Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in the Nazi era courtesy of the Max Planck Society.

The bones found in 2014 were never identified, but according to Joerg Haspel, the leader of Berlin’s office that oversees memorial sites, the new bones provide “a new possibility to illuminate the unusual find and the circumstances under which they were buried”. Some of the vertebrae carry traces of glue which means they may have been on display at one time.

Before the Nazi era, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society once had celebrated scientists like Albert Einstein among its directors. Under Nazi rule, the institute became a place for Nazi race research. Joseph Mengele and other Nazi doctors were known to have sent many body parts to add to the collection of bones from Germany’s colonial and other eras.

Experts will use osteological identification methods to determine the age, sex and how many different people’s bones were found near the institute. Berlin’s Free university, the city of Berlin, and the Max Planck Society, which the Kaiser Wilhelm Society was renamed after the war, are keeping in close contact with Germany’s Central Council of Jews and Central Council of Sinti and Roma during the archaeological work.

This year, the Max Planck Society authorized a complete review of its specimens collection after discovering human brain sections in its archive from victims of Nazi Germany’s euthanasia program.

The Max Planck Society president Martin Stratmann said this of his organization’s participation in the ongoing archaeological investigation: “The Max Planck Society has accepted a difficult legacy of its predecessor organization, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. We are well aware of the special responsibility that it entails.”

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