Remains of Jewish victims killed in Nazi gas chambers and kept for experiments have been discovered in test tubes and a jar in France.
The autopsy samples, believed to have been skin kept in a jar and two tubes containing the contents of an intestine and stomach, were found in a closed section of the Strasbourg Forensic Medical Institute after being tracked down by researcher Raphael Toledano. He had learnt of them after unearthing a letter mentioning their existence from 1952.
The letter, from Camille Simonin, the director of the forensic science school at the University of Strasbourg, detailed the storage of tissue samples taken from some of the 86 Jews gassed for the experiments of August Hirt, a notorious Nazi anatomy researcher.
The experiments were an attempt by the Nazis to smear the Jews by 'proving' they were inferior to other races.
The Americans liberated the German-run facility in 1945 and according to French newspaper, Le Monde, the remains of most of the victims were buried in a Jewish cemetery.
The Associated Press however, reported that some of the samples were kept as evidence intended to be used to prosecute Hirt, who later killed himself. Simonin's letter had been written to a judge.
The remaining samples ended up in the highly specialised forensic science museum at the university, which has since become one of France's most prestigious medical schools.
They remained there until July 9 when Toledano and the institute's director, Professor Jean-Sebastien Raul, cracked open the door. Just as the letter had detailed, the samples were meticulously labeled.
Toledano said: "It was a shock to discover that these jars were still there, that we put in a museum display a part of these Jews who were murdered by the Nazis."
Le Monde reported that the researcher also believes that numbers on a label on one of the jars correspond to a known victim - former Auschwitz prisoner Menachem Taffel.
The Strasbourg mayor's office said it hopes to return the remains to Strasbourg's Jewish community for eventual burial in the city, which sits on the border of France and Germany.
Hirt was tried in absentia in 1952 in France and sentenced to death for his experiments. At the time French authorities did not realise that he had committed suicide at the end of the Second World War and presumed that he was hiding in Germany.Suggest a correction