SS-Hauptsturmführer Prof. Dr. August Hirt, chairman of the anatomy
department at the Reich University in Strassbourg, set about assembling
a collection of Jewish skeletons under the auspices of the Ahnenerbe
Foundation. To this end, he received permission from Himmler to select the required number of prisoners at Auschwitz.
The selection of 115 persons (79 Jewish men, 30 Jewish women, 2 Poles,
and 4 "Asians" — probably Soviet POWs) and the preliminary
preparation, consisting of biometrical measurements and the collection
of personal data, were carried out by Hirt's collaborator, SS-Hauptsturmführer
Dr. Bruno Beger, who arrived in Auschwitz in the first half of 1943.
Berger finished his work by June 15, 1943. After going through quarantine,
some of the prisoners whom Berger selected were sent in July and early
August to Natzweiler-Struthof,
where they were killed in the gas
chamber. The victims' corpses were sent to Hirt as material for
his skeleton collection, which was intended for use in anthropological
studies that would demonstrate the superiority of the Nordic race.
Hirt selected thirty-nine women for their racial characteristics:
[They] were given a sham physical examination for reassurance, then
gassed....the corpses were immediately transported to the anatomy pavilion
of the Strasbourg University Hospital. A French imate, who had to assist
the project's director...told how "preservation began immediately,"
with the arrival of bodies that were "still warm, the eyes...wide
open and shining." There were two subsequent shipments of men,
from each of whom the left testicle had been removed and sent to hirt's
A part of Hirt's skull collection is said to have been moved to the
Mittersill castle in the fall of 1944. Hirt was captured at Strasbourg
by French troops, who found "many wholly unprocessed corpses,"many
"partly processed corpses", and a few that had been "defleshed...late
in 1944," and their heads burned to avoid any possibility of identification.
Hirt killed himself in Schonenbach, in Neustadt district, on June 2,