BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Nazi victims' organs 'still stored'
concentration camp
University records were destroyed
Researchers have found more than 100 body parts from the victims of Nazi atrocities stored at the University of Vienna.

And they fear that the poor quality of remaining records mean that there could be more.

An expert on the history of medical research says that other institutions in Austria may hold similar body parts.

Records show that 1,377 bodies of executed Austrians were signed over to the university - most had been guillotined but some had been shot by the Gestapo.

However the investigators said it was unlikely that bodies of victims from concentration camps were used by the university.

Records destroyed

Thousands were executed during World War II in Austria - many for the "crime" of resistance. Even listening to enemy broadcasts could carry the death penalty.

However, investigators said that they could not rule out forced abortions of women as a source of some foetuses and stillborn infants for experimentation.

An air raid destroyed many of the records in the Institute of Anatomy at the university.

The team were able to confirm that more than 100 specimens still stored at the laboratory originated either from executions, or from children murdered under a Nazi "euthanasia" programme.

'Lack of sensitivity'

These have now been removed from the collections and will be buried in a "grave of honour" provided by the City of Vienna.

However, the team reported: "The origins of 97 specimens remain unknown and thus, a National Socialist provenance cannot be ruled out."

Their report, published in the Lancet, added: "There was a lack of ethnic sensitivity on the part of the faculty in this regard that need to be pointed out to the public and corrected.

"By the same token, the lack of interest of the medical establishment in the use of bodily remains of human beings needs to be be put up for discussion."

Anatomy book

They reported that anatomical illustrations in the world-renowned medical textbook Topographical Human Anatomy, written by Nazi party member Eduard Pernkopf, may also have been produced using victims of Nazi executions - but this could not be confirmed.

There is a belief that Jewish concentration camp victims were the models for some drawings in which the model had a shaven head.

Medical historian Michael Hubenstorf said the investigation had only concentrated on one institute, when in fact there were collections which might include Nazi victims in "half a dozen" Viennese institutions.

He said that the report "minimised the complicity" of anatomy experts in Vienna before and during the war.

"The narrow focus of the article seems to be an attempt to lay it (the issue) to rest."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories