WORKSHOP ‘Universities face up to their past. The example of the University of Strasbourg’

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By Claude Truong-Ngoc, CC BY-SA 3.0,

To attend this event, please register here.
The event will be followed by a small reception.

Convened by Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes University)

Like other academic or cultural institutions, universities, however ancient and prestigious they may be, can have to face up to their past. During World War II, the French University of Strasbourg was relocated to Clermont-Ferrand. Alsace being annexed to the Third Reich, the Reichsuniversität Straßburg (RUS) took up residence within its walls until 1944. The University of Strasbourg had to come to terms with the legacy of the RUS, particularly its Faculty of Medicine where criminal human experimentations took place in association with Natzweiler and Auschwitz concentration camps. In 2016, the University commissioned an international and independent Historical Commission to shed light on the history of the RUS between 1941 and 1944. The results of its investigation were made public on 3 May 2022. This workshop aims to look at how the University of Strasbourg has dealt with this 'past that will not go away' by setting up the Commission to review all collections of human specimens in the medical faculty¸ assessing the impact of Germanisation policies and reconstructing links of the medical faculty, civic hospital and the concentration/detention camps of Schirmeck and Natzweiler, helping the Commission's work and applying the measures it suggested. Its approach could serve as an example for other institutions confronted with their more or less distant past. The workshop will also be an opportunity to take a look at the scientific research which has been carried out in parallel with this “travail de mémoire”.


Presentation of « Rapport de la Commission historique pour l’histoire  de la Reichsuniversität Straßburg (RUS) »
by Christian Bonah (Professor for History of Science, Strasbourg University)
Comments : Robert Gildea (Professor of Modern History, Worcester College, University of Oxford)

Aisling Shalvey (Leopoldina) book’s presentation,
Paediatrics in the Reichsuniversität Straßburg. Children's Medicine at a Bastion of Nazi Ideology, Exeter, Exeter University Press, 2023.
Comments : Ruth Harris (Professor of Modern European History, All Souls College, University of Oxford)

Lea Münch (Institut für Geschichte der Medizin und Ethik in der Medizin, Charité Berlin, and University of Magdeburg)  thesis and book presentation on patient life histories between Strasbourg and the killing institution of Hadamar:
« Patient: Innenbiografien und Alltagsgeschichte der NS-Psychiatrie im annektierten Elsass (1941-1944) » (Université de Strasbourg/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Comments : Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes and the Max Planck Society Commission on Brain Specimens from the Nazi Era

4.30pm : Small wine reception