(JTA) – The University of Strasbourg in France may be holding the remains of Holocaust victims in its collection of anatomical specimens, an international team of researchers said.
The team of historians and specialists, including from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, made the assertion at a news conference earlier this month at the French institution. It was the conclusion of two years of research following the discovery and burial of remains of murdered Jews that had been brought to Strasbourg when it was under Nazi occupation.
Strasbourg University for decades had denied having the remains of dozens of Holocaust victims, which had been regarded as a rumour. But in 2015, a book written by historian Michel Cymes proved their existence, leading to the location of the remains of 86 Jews.
Their remains were brought to burial that year, but the experts panel said this month that additional human remains belonging to Holocaust victims may be present in the university’s vaults, requiring meticulous examination. The team has discovered 20 boxes with bones they suspect belonged to Jews because the boxes were tied to August Hirt, according to a report earlier this month published by the news site France Bleu.
Hirt was an SS captain who served as chairman of the Reich University in Strasbourg, the institution’s name under Nazi occupation. He committed suicide in 1945 after commissioning the preservation and transportation of the remains of dozens of Holocaust victims murdered by the Nazis in Eastern Europe.
The vice-president of the university, Mathieu Schneider, told France Bleu he intended to implement the recommendations of the research team, which found that under Hirt there was “an intensification” of work designed to support Nazi race theories in 1943-44.
“We need to find all the pieces of this puzzle and from there on present a coherent overview, which would allow us also to teach our students an important lessons about medical ethics,” he added.