A psychiatric research institute in Munich has been accidentally archiving body parts once used by Nazi doctors. The human components, mostly brains, were discovered during construction work at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry last year, and the grim tale behind this inadvertent storage was revealed this week on Israeli-run Army Radio, according to 9 News.
Just preceding and during the Second World War, this particular institute was linked with warped Nazi theories of racial eugenics, and as part of this ideology, it requested human body parts to examine. Many of these were sent by the Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele, who was one of the most deranged and disturbed members of the Nazi regime.
Known as the Angel of Death, Mengele – as part of a team of doctors – selected victims to be killed in the concentration camp’s gas chambers, along with performing violent and deadly experiments on prisoners. The brains of many of those who died were shipped off to the Max Planck Institute, and they have unfortunately been using them without realizing.
Officially, the brains were part of the estate of one Julius Hallervorden, a Nazi Party member who served as the institute’s head of neuropathology. He later went on to conduct similarly awful experiments on victims, including children, during the course of the Second World War. These samples only reached the institute in 2015, and at the time, the dark history behind them was not made clear.
“The investigations into the brain sections belonging to the estate of the doctor and brain researcher Julius Hallervorden… have prompted the President of the Max Planck Society to launch a total review of all those Max Planck Institutes that still own collections of human specimens,” the organization announced in a statement.
“The Max Planck Society will also appoint a project with a view to establishing the identities of the victims based on the available files and records,” it adds, advising that “the human specimens discovered as part of the total review should, wherever possible, subsequently buried with names.”
Image in text: Josef Mengele, pictured just before 1945. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain