Strasbourg Reich University

I saw a documentary on Deutsche Welle German TV that described the Strasbourg Reich University that the Nazis established after they captured the Alsace region in 1940. Although the population of Alsace spoke German and the region had changed hands four times in wars in a century, the population’s preference was to remain part of France.  However, since they spoke German they were annexed to the German Reich, and considered a special area for German culture.

It was for this reason that the Nazis established a specifically German university there, with the very intention of influencing the “west” to accept German Nazi culture.  The documentary was narrated by a daughter of Prof. Stein, who was appointed Chair of the Medical Faculty of the University.  She remembered having a happy childhood in Strasbourg living in the home of a French Professor, who had been deported by the Nazis.

Stein and others recruited top scientists and physicians from around Germany, and funding was provided from Berlin for the development of this University, the only one specifically founded by the Nazis, even while the war was raging.  All of the professors had to be members of the SS and to wear their German army uniforms.  Prof. Stein wore his uniform at all times, including while teaching.  One of those recruited was a Prof. Hirt, who was appointed director of the Institute of Anatomy, and he was charged with providing scientific evidence for the Nazi theories of racial superiority of the Aryan race.

In order to do this he established a program to collect skeletons and skulls of different races.  There was a concentration camp nearby at Natzweiler-Struthof.  There he collected prisoners, who were transferred to a facility with a primitive gas chamber, where he and others conducted experiments on the prisoners using various toxic gases.  It is important to note that there were no Jews in this camp and the prisoners were mostly Germans who disagreed with the Nazi ideology (one was 17 yrs old) and some Gypsies (Roma).  These prisoners were treated like animals and most did not survive.

Because he did not have enough Jewish skeletons he sent an official to Auschwitz to bring back suitable candidates.  A total of 86 Jews were transported to the University Medical campus in Strasbourg and were murdered there in various ways, by injection, by starvation and beating.  By this time it was already 1944 and most faculty and students at the university were drafted to fight in the German Army.  It should be noted that there was a small resistance movement in Strasbourg that opposed recruitment of Asatians into the the German Army.  Six of these youths were captured and executed by firing squad.

When the invasion of D-Day took place in June, 1944, it became clear to most that the war was lost.  Hirt tried to hide his crime by having the 86 Jewish cadavers dismembered and hidden.  But, a French assistant copied the numbers on the arms of the Jews and after the war gave them to the US authorities.  Sixty years later they were individually identified by a German journalist Hans-Joachim Lang. who wrote a book about this massacre entitled “The Names of the Numbers.”  There is a memorial in the Jewish cemetery at Cronenbourg in Strasbourg with their names listed in their memory.

The Allies bombed Strasbourg and most of the German academics fled back to Germany.  A bomb hit Hirt’s house and his wife and daughter were killed.  He fled to Germany and tried to hide in the Black Forest, but committed suicide before he was captured. Stein and his family fled to Germany and survived the war.  He later was chief physician at a hospital there.  His daughters always believed him to be a fellow traveler with the Nazis, they knew him as a cultured and pleasant man.  But the fact was that he was a member of the SS and they were shocked when subsequently documents were uncovered that implicated him in knowing and approving of Hirt’s experimentation on human beings.  Such was the depravity of the Germans.

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