Other Examples of the General Disinterest in the Inglorious Past

When I was writing and publishing my book (1) in 1983-1984, I was most interested to read the letters Fischer, and others, had written while at the Dahlem Institute. Clearly von Verschuer had not taken everything with him when he fled Berlin, and Nachtsheim may not have destroyed all the rest. So I talked to various people. Where could I find these letters? The Berlin bio-physicist Prof. Dr Ernst-Randolf Lochmann told me that Nachtsheim formerly had worked in the building where he (Lochmann) was now working. When Nachtsheim retired, the bacterial geneticist Prof. Dr Fritz Kaudewitz became his successor as director of the MPI, now called the MPI of Molecular Genetics. A very few years later, when Kaudewitz moved to Munich, his successors Thomas Trautner, Heinz Schuster and

Heinz-Günther Wittmann moved to a new building of the MPI of Molecular Genetics in the Ihnestraße, not too far from von Verschuer's old institute. Then the order was given - it is unclear by whom - that the attic of the Nachtsheim Institute, which was full of letter-boxes, was to be cleaned. All the letterboxes were thrown in the garbage. A student, Bernd Küpper, had kept just one box out of curiosity. Lhochmann kindly gave me Küpper's address. So I contacted Küpper who had become a biology teacher. Küpper sent me the box. It contained the letters which had been exchanged between Fischer and members of the international eugenics community. I made copies and sent the originals back to Küpper. I then asked Trautner and Schuster about the KWI for Anthropology in Ihnestraße 24, the predecessor of their own institute. They had never heard of it, and did not know about Fischer's letters either.

When my book appeared in 1984 it was greeted by silence in Germany. It was not reviewed in the Max-Planck-Spiegel, the official journal of the MPG. The historians of the MPG did not comment on it, yet it contained the first quotation of the DFGreport of von Verschuer on his collaboration with Mengele. In 1986 the Freie Universität of Berlin planned to put a memorial tablet on the building of the former KWI for Anthropology, which they had bought from the MPG. The secretary general of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Dietrich Ranft, was informed. On July 1, 1986, Ranft wrote a letter to the secretary general of Berlin University, Detleff Borrmann (59). There he stated that there was no evidence that there had been murders for the research of the Kaiser Wilhelm-Institute. 'The role which Dr Mengele played during the time when Professor v. Verschuer was the head of the institute is not clear at all. The Max-PlanckGesellschaft would appreciate if the history of this rather problematic institute would be worked out fully and free of emotions until such a history exists, we ask you to understand that the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft is unable to take the responsibility for the proposed or any other text...' (39). What a statement: the MPG will not care until the history is worked out

'fully and free of emotions'. The history will never be worked out fully, too many of the relevant documents have been destroyed. And what a demand: to tell this mass-murder story without emotions, to claim that it is not acceptable when emotions are not completely silenced!

In 1990 Helmut Albrecht and Armin Hermann (60) mentioned Mengele and quoted the DFG documents for the first time a voluminous official history of the KWG. They call Mengele a collaborator (Mitarbeiter) of von Verschuer. In contrast, in a short, official article published for the general public in 1993 (61), it is stated that Mengele was not part (Angehöriger) of the KWI of Anthropology although he sent blood and organs from Auschwitz to the institute. The numerous articles of von Verschuer and others supporting the anti-Semitic measures of the Nazis are not mentioned. The words Jewish or Jew are never used. Anti-Semitism is not used either. All the unmentioned is summarised in the word 'Verstrickung (entanglement, mess). A similar view can be found in a recent article by Dr Doris Kaufmann, now heading up the project 'History of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society during National Socialism' of the Max Planck Society. According to her, von Verschuer's institute produced top science (Spitzenforschung). Anti-Semitism is not mentioned. The Mengele-von Verschuer story is told in one sentence: 'The last director of the Institute (for Anthropology), Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, who via his former post-doc Josef Mengele was entangled (verstrickt) in the human experiments in Auschwitz, received in 1951 the first full professorship for Human Genetics in Münster'. (62). Verstrickung is passive, You do not do anything. The others entangle you. I would just like to document this by a paradigmatic quote: 'He (Martin Heidegger, BMH) has never denied his Verstrickung in the movement (Bewegung) of that time', so writes. Hermann Heidegger, the son of Martin Heidegger, the master of the German language (63).

And now to my last example: in Autumn 1998 I heard from Hans-Peter Kroner that the race paternity expert opinions still existed in the Institute of Human Genetics in Münster. I wrote to its present director, Jürgen Horst, and asked to see the material. Horst informed me that this was not possible (64). My visit would endanger the rights of the patients of von Verschüer. Only after all patients had been anonymised coüld the material be shown to me. And at the moment this was technically impossible. It is truly bizarre. The Jewish victims are now called patients. Now they have rights: Büt their rights prohibit that now, more than half a centüry after the war, the writings of their henchmen can be analysed.

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