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Friday, 13. February 2015

Max Planck Directors respond to reports on the Institute's history during the Third Reich

In an open letter, Erin Schuman, Gilles Laurent, Moritz Helmstaedter (Directors of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research) and Wolf Singer (Director emeritus) respond to a journalist’s coverage of a lecture by Götz Aly. The directors state that they consider it essential to shed all the light on the Institute's grim history and state again their commitment to never allowing it to be forgotten.

Memorial stone erected by the Max Planck Society in honor of the Nazis' victims whose brains had been studied in the KWI for Brain Research.

During the Third Reich, some investigators at the Institute's predecessor, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research (KWIBR, then in Berlin-Buch), instigated and supported the murder of mentally handicapped people, including children, for the purpose of investigating their brains. On January 26, 2015 in Berlin-Dahlem, Dr. Götz Aly presented his findings, soon to appear in a book, concerning not only this horrific history but also his own decades-long battle to get to the truth. 

In their open letter, the directors respond to claims by Arno Widmann, journalist at the Frankfurt Rundschau (FR) and Berliner Zeitung, that the current Institute's Directors have failed to respond to the Institute's history. This allegation could not be further from the truth. The atrocities by KWIBR scientists are chronicled in the ongoing exhibition "100 years of MPI: minds in motion" and an accompanying anniversary book (ISBN 978-3-00-045977-1), as well as in the history section of the institute’s website. 

In their letter to the editor, the directors (who are American, French and German citizens) express again their profound sadness about this shameful history, and their dismay upon learning of the resistance Aly experienced with the Max Planck Society during his investigations. Finally, the institute’s directors respond to Widmann’s insinuations by indicating that they did not attend Götz Aly’s conference in Berlin because they had been neither informed about it, nor invited to it. 

Their letter was published in FR on February 12 and in Berliner Zeitung on February 14.  

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Dr. Arjan Vink
T: +49 69 850033-2900
M: +49 175 2647988
pr(at)brain.mpg.de