Hundreds of microscopic tissue samples belonging to resistance fighters who were executed by the Third Reich and used for harrowing experiments will eventually be laid to rest on Monday at a ceremony in the German capital. The 300 remains – belonging mostly to female resistance fighters – were taken for experiments following executions at the city’s Ploetzensee prison. More than 2,800 were killed at the prison by beheading or hanging, with the majority of victims’ bodies dissected at a Berlin university’s anatomical institute.
In 2016, the tissue samples were discovered by the descendents of the anatomist Hermann Stieve, who worked on bodies of Third Reich opponents, before being handed over to a memorial group.
The samples were found in microscopic slides at a property that belonged to Stieve, who died in 1952.
The tissue pieces were stored in small black boxes, with some labelled by victims’ names.
After the samples were found, they were sent to Berlin’s Charité university hospital, who tasked staff at the German Resistance Memorial Center to research their origins.
Historians believe Stieve systematically collaborated with the Nazis to receive the bodies of 184 people.
Research showed that sometimes, just minutes after they were killed at the prison, their bodies were picked up by a driver and taken to Stieve.
He sent the bodies to Wilmersdorf for cremation and later sent the victims’ ashes to Parkfriedhof Marzahn, a Berlin cemetery.
The memorial’s director, Professor Johannes Tuchel, said that Stieve “did not deal with concentration camp victims.
He added the anatomist “did not work with Nazi doctors”.
The ceremony will be held at 1pm GM (3pm local time) at Berlin’s Dorotheenstadt Cemetery.
The site of the cemetery is close to an existing grave for Nazi victims.