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Remains of Holocaust victims kept in test tubes finally buried

Published 06/09/2015

Members of the Jewish community of Strasbourg lower a coffin bearing the remains of a Jewish victim of Nazi anatomist August Hirt, during a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery of Cronenbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)
Members of the Jewish community of Strasbourg lower a coffin bearing the remains of a Jewish victim of Nazi anatomist August Hirt, during a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery of Cronenbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)
Members of the Jewish community of Strasbourg lower a coffin bearing the remains of a Jewish victim of Nazi anatomist August Hirt, during a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery of Cronenbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)
Members of the Jewish community of Strasbourg lower a coffin bearing the remains of a Jewish victim of Nazi anatomist August Hirt, during a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery of Cronenbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)

After seven decades stored in jars and test tubes in a French medical school, the remains of several Holocaust victims were finally buried.

Several hundred people gathered for a sombre ceremony near the eastern French city of Strasbourg to pay respect to the victims, throwing earth on a single coffin holding the collective remains.

Led by Strasbourg chief rabbi Rene Gutman and attended by Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries, the event at the Cronenbourg cemetery was aimed at closing a troubling chapter in the region's history.

The remains, such as skin samples, belonged to a few people. Only one has been definitively identified: Menachem Taffem, a Polish Jew deported to Auschwitz and gassed.

They were among 86 people whose corpses were sent to the anatomy institute at the University of Strasbourg during the Second World War for the experiments of August Hirt, a notorious Nazi anatomy researcher.

Some remains were buried after the war, but a few were saved and even put on display, kept for legal and scientific purposes, according to French media reports.

Then they were apparently forgotten - until researcher Raphael Toledano, who has studied Strasbourg's Nazi past, discovered a 1952 letter mentioning samples taken from the bodies of Holocaust victims and detailing how they were stored.

In July, he and the institute's director found a remaining jar and test tubes behind a glass cupboard in a locked room.

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