Microscopic tissue samples, kept by controversial anatomist, were found in 2016
The microscopic remains of political prisoners executed by the Nazis and dissected by a controversial anatomist are to be buried in Berlin on Monday, more than seven decades after the end of the second world war.
About 300 tissue samples, each one no more than a hundredth of a millimetre thin and one square centimetre in size, were discovered in 2016 by descendants of Hermann Stieve, a former director of the Berlin Institute of Anatomy who specialised in research into the female reproductive system.
Though Stieve was not a member of the Nazi party, he developed a relationship with the regime whereby he was allowed to do research on recently executed political prisoners in return for helping to obliterate any traces of their remains.
Stieve was particularly interested in obtaining the bodies of abruptly deceased women.
The nearby Pltzensee prison, where more than 2,800 people were put to the guillotine or hanged between 1933 and 1945, was able to meet Stieves demand for what he described in a 1938 letter to the Nazi health minister as raw material of the kind possessed by no other institute in the world.
The bodies were picked up by car and sometimes ended up on Stieves operating table as soon as 15 minutes after death. Apart from the tissue samples, the bodies were immediately cremated and buried in anonymous graves.
Stieves own autopsy records list 184 names, 172 of them women.
Between 1942 and 1943, the Nazis murdered 42 resistance fighters from the Red Orchestra, an anti-Nazi group formed around the Luftwaffe officer Harro Schulze-Boysen, the writer Adam Kuckhoff and the economist Arvid Harnack. Stieve dissected the bodies of 13 of the 18 female members of the group executed in this period, among them the leaders wife, Libertas Schulze-Boysen.
Hermann Stieve was never prosecuted and continued his career as a scientist in the Soviet-administered East Germany until he died of a stroke in 1952.
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