28 April 1898|
|Died||2 June 1945
August Hirt (April 28, 1898 – June 2, 1945) was an anatomist with Swiss and German nationality who served as a chairman at the Reich University in Strasbourg during World War II. He performed experiments with mustard gas on inmates at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp and played a role in the murders of 86 people at Auschwitz. The skeletons of his victims became specimens at the l'Institut anatomique de Strasbourg. He was an SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain)
Hirt was the son of a Swiss business man. In 1914, he volunteered, while still a high school student, to fight in World War I on the German side. In October 1916, he was wounded in the upper jaw by a bullet. He received the Iron Cross and returned to Mannheim in 1917. He went on to study medicine at the University of Heidelberg. In 1921, he took German citizenship. In 1922, Hirt obtained his doctorate in Literature with "Der Grenzstrang des Sympathicus bei einigen Sauriern". He then worked at the Anatomical Institute in Heidelberg and in 1925 he was authorized to teach thanks to a thesis on nerve cells.
in September 1932 Hirt joined the Militant League for German Culture. On 1 April 1933 he joined the SS (SS-Nr. 100 414), and was promoted to Hauptsturmführer (captain) on 1 July 1937, but he was only a member of the Nazi Party from 1 May 1937, when he enrolled in the universities of the Reich (Mitgliedsnr. 4012784). From 1 March 1942, he was a member of the personal staff of the RuSHA, the organisation in charge of "racial and ideological purity" of the members of the SS. He attained the rank of Sturmbannführer (commandant) in 1944.
From 1 April 1936 Hirt was associate director fo the Institut d'anatomie de University of Greifswald. On 1 Octobre 1938, he obtained the same post at Goethe University. At the beginning of the Second World War he was an SS medical chief (from August 1939 to April 1941). During which time it took part in the Battle of France. He then became director of the new Institut d'anatomie de la Reichsuniversität Straßburg.
August Hirt was married and had a son and a daughter.
World War 2
Working with the Ahnenerbe division, Wolfram Sievers, Bruno Beger and Hirt together collected human corpses from among the Dachau inmates in order to create an anatomical specimen collection specifically of Jews. In 1943, Hirt had 79 Jewish men, 30 Jewish women, 2 Poles, and 4 "Asians" selected among the inmates at Auschwitz. These people were sent to Natzweiler-Struthof on July 30, 1943. Here they were gassed, by Josef Kramer, on August 17 and August 19, 1943. Their bodies were returned to Hirt at the anatomical laboratory of the Reich University in Strasbourg for preparation as an anthropological display, where they were re-discovered after the liberation.
Hirt committed suicide before he could be tried for war crimes. Some of his records prepared for the trial are in possession of the US National Archives, including "Photocopies of certificates of proof of ancestry, in connection with research on prisoners in the Konzentrationslager Natzweiler, ...Feb. 9-Nov. 3, 1942. Partial copies of slips for the admittance of prisoners into the Konzentrationslager Natzweiler, medical examinations on prisoners, and a death certificate, Dec. 9, 1942-Aug. 9, 1944. Feb. 9, 1942-Aug. 9, 1944".
The Jewish skeleton collection
The Ahnenerbe under the Third Reich was a society that organised "medical experiments" on prisoners, including a number of Jews at the Natzwiller-Struthof concentrations camp in Alsace, which August Hirt officiated. He also performed experiments on cadavers and collected human skulls.
Hirt wanted to create a collection of skulls for the Institute of Anatomy (of which he was the director since 1941) with skulls of "Judeo-Bolcheviks", as part of his research on race. According to him, the Jewish race was on the point of extinction and he wished to gather a collection of them while there was still time. Hirt sent his project to Heinrich Himmler. Hirt wrote of this project: "There are important collections of skulls of nearly all the races and peoples. Except for the Jews, of which science has so few skulls, so it is not possible to draw any meaningful inferences. The war in the East gives us the opportunity to fill the gap. We have the opportunity to acquire a tangible scientific document by procuring the skulls of Jewish-Bolsheviks who embody the disgusting but characteristic subhuman."
As part of its racial studies, Professor Hirt conceived the project of a collection of Jewish skeletons and so presented his research plan to Himmler. He approved the project so that Hirt could begin his "medical experiments." It is at this stage that men and women were selected in August 1943 at the Auschwitz camp by his assistant, the anthropologist Bruno Beger SS, before being sent to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in Alsace. Divided into four groups, they were successively gassed a few days later and their bodies put at his disposal.
In September 1944, the rapid approach of the Allies led to the project being abandoned and Himmler ordered the destruction of all traces of this compromising collection. It failed. The remains of eighty-six bodies were later found and buried 23 October 1945 in the municipal cemetery of Strasbourg-Robertsau before being transferred in 1951 in the Jewish cemetery of Strasbourg-Cronenbourg.
August Hirt fled Strasbourg in September 1944, hiding in Tübingen in southern Germany. He committed suicide June 2, 1945 at Schönenbach, the Black Forest.
In the book, Die Namen der Nummern (2004, ISBN 978-3455094640.The Names of the Numbers), Hans-Joachim Lang describes this mass murder. He also recounts in detail the story of how he was able to determine the identities of 86 victims, 60 years after they were murdered. In 2015, a researcher, Raphael Toledano, identified tissue samples of victims in test tubes and a jar in the Strasbourg Medical Institute's closed collection. This followed his discovery of a 1952 letter from the then-director of the Institute, Camille Simonin, about the experiments directed by Hirt. The Strasbourg mayor's office said it hoped to return the remains to Strasbourg's Jewish community for eventual burial in the city.
- "Remains of victims of Nazi experiments found in France". NZ Herald (Paris). Associated Press. July 21, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- Courand, Raymond (2005). Un camp de la mort en France: Struthof Natzweiler (in French). Strasbourg: Ed. Hirlé. ISBN 2-914729-27-8.
- Lang, Hans-Joachim (2004). Die Namen der Nummern; Wie Es Gelang, Die 86 Opfer eines NS-Verbrechens zu identifizieren (in German). Hoffmann und Campe. ISBN 3-455-09464-3.
- Pressac, Jean-Claude (1985). The Struthof album : study of the gassing at Natzweiler-Struthof of 86 Jews whose bodies were to constitute a collection of skeletons. Serge Klarsfeld.
- Emmanuel Heyd, Raphael Toledano (2014). The names of the 86 (Le nom des 86) (in French, English, and German). France: Dora Films, 2014.