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Clin Anat. 2014 May;27(4):514-36. doi: 10.1002/ca.22305. Epub 2013 Sep 2.

Current status of identification of victims of the National Socialist regime whose bodies were used for anatomical purposes.

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Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.


Research on the history of anatomy in the Third Reich has often focused on anatomists who collaborated with the National Socialist (NS) regime. Only recently has attention shifted to investigations of the victims, of which there are two groups: anatomists whose careers were disrupted by NS policies, and victims of the NS regime whose bodies were used for anatomical purposes. No systematic approach has yet been undertaken toward the identification of all the different groups of victims and the individuals' fates. This overview of currently available data on NS victims whose bodies were used for anatomical purposes reveals that an estimated total number of all bodies delivered to departments of anatomy lies at more than 40,000, and the so far documented number of executed persons among them at a minimum of 3,749. The traditional sources of body procurement and their significant changes in character during the NS period can be traced. Postwar attempts on finding the fate and identity of bodies of NS victims in anatomy can be divided into three phases. Most investigations focused on the removal of remaining "material" from NS victims from the anatomical collections, while identification and remembrance of individual victims was not a priority. So far, about 500 NS victims' names and biographies have been at least partially identified. Existing memorials rarely name individuals. New approaches to the identification of victims and the potential of a databank for these victims' biographies as an appropriate manner of remembrance are examined in this study.


anatomical dissection; anatomical research; anatomy in the Third Reich; ethics in anatomy; remembrance of victims; victims of National Socialism

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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