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Bones of ‘victims in the name of science,’ including Jews, buried in Berlin

The remains found at the Free University are believed to come from the anthropology institute where Josef Mengele studied.

Jewish twins were kept alive to be used in Josef Mengele's "medical" experiments. These children from Auschwitz were liberated by the Red Army in January 1945. Credit: USHMM/Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography.
Jewish twins were kept alive to be used in Josef Mengele's "medical" experiments. These children from Auschwitz were liberated by the Red Army in January 1945. Credit: USHMM/Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography.

After nearly 80 years, a group of now-nameless victims of the Nazi regime has finally been laid to rest.

On Thursday, 16,000 bone fragments collected in five wooden boxes were buried in a small service attended by representatives of victims of both the Nazis and German colonialists.

The tombstone reads: “Victims in the name of science.”

During construction at the Free University in 2014, workers found human bone fragments believed to come from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics. From 1927 to 1945, the institute was based at the university, which believes that the bones come from “criminal contexts”  that can be traced to the Nazi era and earlier.

The archaeologist leading the research, as well as organizations representing groups that may have been among those victimized, agreed to halt further efforts due to the nature of the eugenics-based, racist context of the work.

In 1937, Josef Mengele, who would later conduct horrific experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz, joined the institute, where he became assistant to the director, Dr. Otmar von Verschuer, known for his studies on twins.

Von Verschuer supervised Mengele’s second doctorate in 1938. At Auschwitz, Mengele’s many pseudoscientific atrocities included torturing and murdering twins.

At the burial on March 23, Daniel Botmann, a representative of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said: “Today we are taking numerous lives whose voices and biographies were extinguished to their last resting place.”

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