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Journal Article


Blessing T, Wegener A, Koepsell H, Stolberg M. Ann. Anat. 2012; 194(3): 281-285.


Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Oberer Neubergweg 10a, 97074 Würzburg, Germany.


(Copyright © 2012, Anatomische Gesellschaft, Publisher G. Fischer)






The Würzburg Anatomical Institute was one of the largest institutions of its kind in early 20th-century Germany. Little is known so far, however, about its history in the Third Reich. This paper presents the first results of current research on the Institute's directors Hans Petersen (1925-1940) and Curt Elze (1940-1945) and the sources from which it received its corpses during that period. For both directors there is little evidence for a marked affinity to National-Socialist ideology but a substantial degree of opportunism emerges from the surviving sources, at least in the case of Elze. Elze not only joined the NSDAP, by his own admission, without strict necessity. He also did not protest when Werner Heyde, principal medical actor in the Nazi "euthanasia" program, supplied him with 80 corpses of men and women who clearly had been murdered with carbon monoxide. The Institute's supply of corpses is analyzed based on the registers of received corpses and other, supplementary sources. Before 1933, the Würzburg Institute received most of its corpses from hospitals, old age homes. Between 1933 and 1945 some marked changes occurred. In particular, the number of corpses not only from psychiatric hospitals but also from other places of institutional care declined, presumably due, at least to a substantial degree, to "euthanasia". On the other hand, the number of corpses delivered from execution sites, prisons and Gestapo rose dramatically, reflecting the massive increase of the number of death sentences as well as, by all appearances, that of deaths from physical violence and torture in the prisons.

Language: en


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