In 1942, 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 anatomy lab.
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, 1945.
Sources: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum; Gutman, Israel. ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Vols. 1-4. NY: Macmillan, 1995; Lifton, Robert J. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killings and the Psychology of Genocide. NY: Basic Books, 1986.