University of Strasbourg sheds light on war crimes under Nazi administration

The University of Strasbourg released a 500-page report that examines the links between its medical school and the war crimes committed in Nazi-occupied Alsace.

The cellars of the Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Reichsuniversität, the name of the University of Strasbourg during the annexation of Alsace by Germany, were the scene of Nazi medical crimes during the war.

This was confirmed by the historical commission of the Faculty of Medicine of Strasbourg.

According to report conducted by 12 international scientists and researchers over a period of six years, there are, however, no other human remains related to Nazi crimes on the premises of the University, collected from Jewish victims by the Nazi doctor August Hirt in the period 1941-1944.

The research was initiated by the discovery in 2015 of three anatomical plates in the establishment, containing the human remains of a victim of August Hirt.

This Nazi doctor had gassed 86 Jews at the Struthof-Natzweiler camp in order to create a collection of skeletons. These corpses or what we have been able to reconstitute of the bodies were indeed buried, confirms Dr Philippe Clavert, the current head of the Institute of Anatomy: “The corpses were not preserved, they were all buried, as has been pointed out”.

The report also gives an identity to many victims of  human experimentation at the Reichsuniversität.

One hundred and thirty were forced to undergo experiments in dermatology. One hundred patients from the institution’s psychiatric clinic were also transferred to Germany, where they were euthanised.

Léa Münch, from the Institut für Geschichte und Ethik der Medizin de la Charité, uncovered this practice which took place in 1944 at the psychiatric clinic in Hoerdt, 20 km north of Strasbourg.

In this clinic, some doctors “were Alsatians, chosen by the German administration,” explains Léa Münch. But there were also directors who refused to collaborate and were deported to central France.

The Struthof-Natzweiler concentration camp, meanwhile, was used to supply three Nazi professors at Strasbourg University with human beings. Dr Eugen Haagen, for example, conducted experiments on 196 typhus victims.

Following the presentation of its report, the Historical Commission of the Faculty of Medicine recommends the creation of a central memorial site, open to the public, dedicated to the 86 Jewish victims of August Hirt.

An exhibition at the European Centre of Deported Resistance Members is also planned from 6 May to 19 March 2023 at the Struthof camp, on the theme of the medical faculty of the Reichsuniversität in Strasbourg.

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