Tuesday July 23, 2019

Human Bones Found near Former Nazi Research Site in Berlin where dead camp victim’s body parts were sent by SS doctor Josef Mengele

The site is about 100 meters (yards) away from what was the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Human Heredity and Eugenics in the Nazi era

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FILE - Federal police agent holds two photos and the identity card June 7, 1985 found in the house in which the man believed to be Nazi War Criminal Josef Mengele lived. Photo on left shows Mengele eating. Image source: VOA

Archaeologists in Berlin have unearthed a large number of human bones from a site close to where Nazi scientists carried out research on body parts of death camp victims sent to them by sadistic SS doctor Josef Mengele, officials said Thursday.

Experts have been examining the site in Berlin’s upscale Dahlem neighborhood since a small number of bones were found there in 2014 during road work on a property belonging to Berlin’s Free University.

In the dig they uncovered “numerous fractured skulls, teeth, vertebrae” and other bones, including those of children, Susan Pollock, a professor of archaeology at the university who was one of the leaders of the team, said in a statement.

The bones found in 2014 were never identified, and the new discovery provides researchers “a new possibility to illuminate the unusual find and the circumstances under which they were buried,” said Joerg Haspel, the leader of Berlin’s office that oversees memorial sites.

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Several of the vertebrae found had traces of glue on them, indicating they may have been parts of skeletons on display.

German police shooting women and children from the Mizocz Ghetto, 14 October 1942. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
German police shooting women and children from the Mizocz Ghetto, 14 October 1942. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The site is about 100 meters (yards) away from what was the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Human Heredity and Eugenics in the Nazi era.

The world-famous Kaiser Wilhelm Society predated the Nazi era and once counted famous scientists like Albert Einstein among its directors.

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During the Nazi dictatorship, however, the Dahlem institute was closely associated with pseudoscientific race research, and notorious Auschwitz physician Mengele as well as others are known to have sent many body parts there for study. It was also known to have a collection of bones from Germany’s colonial era, among others.

Experts now plan to use osteological identification methods to try to learn more about the newly discovered bones, and should at least be able to determine the general age of the person, their sex and how many different people’s bones were found, Pollock said. Results are expected at the earliest at the end of the year.

A working group of the university, the city, and the Max Planck Society, which the Kaiser Wilhelm Society was renamed after the war, has been keeping in close contact with Germany’s Central Council of Jews and Central Council of Sinti and Roma on the archaeological work.

Earlier this year, the Max Planck Society ordered a complete review of its specimens collection after discovering human brain sections in its archive that were from victims of Nazi Germany’s so-called euthanasia program in which psychiatric patients and people with mental deficiencies were killed.

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“The Max Planck Society has accepted a difficult legacy of its predecessor organization, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society,” said society president Martin Stratmann of his organization’s participation in the ongoing archaeological investigation. “We are well aware of the special responsibility that it entails.” (VOA)

Next Story

“We’re Only about 43 Percent Human”, Estimates Research

Less than half of the cells in the body are human. The rest belong to microorganisms that affect the health, mood and whether certain people respond better to certain medications

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Less than half of human body is human. VOA

New discoveries about what is inside the body are making scientists rethink what makes a person human and what makes people sick or healthy.

Less than half of the cells in the body are human. The rest belong to microorganisms that affect the health, mood and whether certain people respond better to certain medications.

“So to our 30 trillion human cells, we have on average about 39 trillion microbial cells. So by that measure, we’re only about 43% human,” said Rob Knight, director of the University of California San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation and professor of pediatrics and computer science and engineering.

Microbes affecting health

It is common knowledge that bacteria, or even viruses and fungi, exist in areas of our body, including the mouth, skin and gut. However, it is only in recent years that scientists have discovered that each person’s gut bacteria is unique, and the collection of microbes can greatly impact a person’s health — such as their weight and whether they will develop ailments such as heart disease.

Microbes in the gut can even affect mood. Researchers are studying whether conditions such as autism, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease are linked to microbes.

“They changed the way we think about biology, and changed the way we think about what it means to be human,” Knight said.

The collection of microbes in each person is different, starting from when babies are born. How they enter the world, whether vaginally or through cesarean section (C-section), whether they drink breast milk or not, the animals they are exposed to and the medications they take, can all impact their development.

“The biggest problem with antibiotics is early in childhood, and especially the combination of C-section and antibiotics and bottle feeding is especially bad for kids. We’ll see impacts on that even at age 8 to 12, in terms of their weight, even in terms of the cognitive performance,” Knight said.

The cancer puzzle

Karen Sfanos, associate professor of pathology, oncology and urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said researchers think at least 70% of a human body’s immunity and immune cells exist in the gut. She is studying the link between microbes and cancer.

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There are more microbial cells in a person’s body than human cells. The microbes in the human body include bacteria, viruses and fungi, like this fungal spore bacteria in water. VOA

“There’s still many cancers out there where we have no idea what even causes the cancer. We’ve been trying to solve this puzzle, and up until this point, half the pieces were missing because we didn’t even know half the pieces existed. There’s just a tremendous amount of knowledge that’s to be gained and to be researched to understand the profound influence that these microbes might have on both cancer initiation but also therapeutic response to certain cancer therapies,” she said.

What affects microbes in an adult body most is diet and how many different types of plants a person eats.

“By eating a high-fat diet or an unhealthy diet, (it) can lead to pro-inflammatory microbes. It can cause inflammation in the gut, in your GI tract, and, unfortunately, in that scenario, the inflammation that happens in your gut can have a really long-distance effect on many other organ systems in your body,” Sfanos said.

One company, DayTwo, is using the findings of gut microbe research to fight diabetes. “The diversity and abundance of the bacteria in the gut are a very useful predictor in how people process food,” said Josh Stevens, president of DayTwo.

Since each person’s gut bacteria is different, how a body reacts to sugar is also different for each person. “So by profiling the gut, we can actually help people get to a personalized prescription for food that works for them,” Stevens said.

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The microbes in the human body include bacteria, viruses and fungi, like E. Coli shown here. Each person’s microbes are unique to that person. VOA

Distinguishing the good from the bad

Microbes in the body are changing every day. A growing number of scientists are researching these microbes to learn which ones are good and bad. They are seeing promising results in treating a hospital-acquired infection called C. diff.

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“You can treat C. diff by taking a stool from a healthy person and giving it to a sick person. And they typically recover in two or three days. And it has about (a) 90% cure rate, as opposed to 30% for antibiotics,” Knight said. This process is done by mixing a fecal sample from a healthy person into a liquid preparation and introducing it to a sick person via a feeding tube or colonoscopy.

Researchers are working toward a future where there is a more precise approach to weeding out the bad bacteria and introducing more good microbes into the body to improve health. (VOA)