This page displays press releases in connection with remembrance activities at the Charité.

2011.09.30 - News from the centers

Universitätsmedizin Berlin honors the victims

Charité returns twenty human skulls to Namibia

In a solemn ceremony on Friday, September 30th CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin officially returned twenty Namibian skulls to the Heritage Council of Namibia. The sculls originated from Herero and Nama people who came from the former German Southwest Africa. They had been killed during their uprising against German colonial rule between 1904 and 1908. Their remains had been stored in different scientific collections in Berlin since the beginning of the 20th century and some of them did not get to Charité until after 1990.

 „With this step we face up to an inglorious chapter of German history”, Prof. Karl Max Einhäupl, CEO of Charité explained. He brought back into mind the sufferings the Herero and Nama peoples had to bear during the terrible war led by the German colonial forces. It was the first example of racial colonialism that later became apparent again in National Socialism. “As a medical doctor and scientist myself, it is especially painful for me to realize that even physicians worked in the service of this early form of racism”, Prof. Einhäupl added.

He is convinced that, being a scientific institution, Charité has to meet the challenge to critically analyze the history of the human remains, Prof. Einhäupl continued. The management board of Charité accepts its historic responsibility to the Herero and Nama. “With this return of the human remains Charité wants to express respect and contribute to the honorable remembrance of the victims. We deeply deplore the crimes of those days that were committed in the name of a perverted concept of scientific progress, and it is our sincere desire to apologize.”

Charité is the first institution in Germany to hand back human remains. The skulls that had been stored in Charité mainly belonged to adults between 20 and 40 years of age. Among them were four women, 15 men and one little boy aged three or four. Eleven of them were Nama people; nine belonged to the Herero. It was not possible to determine the cause of death in any of the cases. The results were obtained in a scientific study supported by the German Research Foundation ('DFG'). At the request of the indigenous Namibian communities the researchers had compiled a documentation, which along with the skulls was now handed over to the Namibian side.  


Claudia Peter
GB Unternehmenskommunikation
CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin
t.+49 30 450 570 503

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2013.04.26 - News from the centers

Charité returns ancestral remains to indigenous communities in Australia

In an official ceremony, the Charité today returned ancestral remains to representatives of indigenous peoples in Australia. In November 2008 the Charité was the first scientific institution in Germany to sign an agreement with Australia which agreed that remains were to be returned for the purpose of “a dignified burial”. At the ceremony today Prof. Karl Max Einhäupl, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Charité, reaffirmed this agreement and declared: “We respect and support the wishes of the indigenous communities of Australia to bury ancestral remains in accordance with their religious beliefs and within the vicinity of their ancestral territory.”

The Traditional Owners will accompany the remains to their homeland where they will be given a dignified resting place. The Australian Government also supports the indigenous peoples in this request.

In total the collection comprises of skulls and skeletal parts of 33 individuals. Most of the remains arrived in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and were preserved in numerous Berlin collections. Some of them arrived at the Charité only after 1990. The origins of these ancestral remains and the circumstances by which they were brought to Germany, could not be clarified in all cases. It is believed that German explorers received some skulls from local collectors, however the reliability of these sources is uncertain. In some cases trade with indigenous people and grave robbery took place. In general, the remains were acquired and transported to Germany for the purpose of anthropological studies and investigations.

Since 2010, the Charité has worked in the DFG-funded Human Remains Project under the directorship of Privatdozent Dr. Andreas Winkelmann, teaching coordinator Anatomy, and Prof. Thomas Schnalke, Director of the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité. The main aim of the project has been to determine the history of the skulls and the skeletal remains.


Privatdozent Dr. Andreas Winkelmann
Lehrkoordinator der Anatomie
CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin
t: +49 30 450 570 400

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2014.03.05 - News from the centers

Charité Hands Over Human Remains Dating from the Colonial Period

Once again, the CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin has handed over the human remains of members of various ethnic groups originating from the former German South-West African region to the National Heritage Council of Namibia. The Charité's Board Chairman, Prof. Karl Max Einhäupl and Council Chairperson Esther Mwoombola-/Goagoses signed the hand-over document in the presence of Jerry Ekandjo, Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture at an official ceremony today which was also attended by numerous high-ranking representatives of both governments and Namibia's indigenous communities.

Addressing today’s audience, Prof. Einhäupl stressed that "first and foremost this repatriation process must serve to honor the victims themselves. Simultaneously however, we must never forget that at the time in question, the core principles of human dignity were frequently violated in the name of science. These human remains were used to legitimize a racist colonial ideology that permeated all spheres and levels of society in the early twentieth century." Prof. Einhäupl went on to emphasize that such wrongdoings must serve as an acute reminder to today's researchers that they must aspire to be the guardians of historically informed, responsible scientific investigation.

The 21 victims were members of the Herero, Nama, San, Damara and Ovambo ethnic communities. Over the past three years a research project coordinated by Charité scientists has attempted to identify the origins of the human remains and determine how they found their way into anthropological collections in Berlin. It could thus be revealed, that the remains that were handed over today belong to twelve women, seven men and two children and were brought to Berlin between 1898 and 1913. The origins of only five persons could be clearly traced to the period of the colonial wars in Namibia (1904 to 1908). The majority of these persons appear to have died of natural causes, while others were clearly victims of lethal violence. Their remains will now be transported to Namibia and finally returned to their homelands, more than 100 years after their deaths.

This is the fourth time that the Charité has been instrumental in returning human remains from its anthropological collections to their countries of origin. In addition to Namibia, remains have also been returned to indigenous communities in Paraguay (2012) and Australia (2013).


Öffnet externen Link im aktuellen FensterCharité Human Remains Project


Uwe Dolderer
Leiter des Geschäftsbereichs Unternehmenskommunikation
CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin
t: +49 30 450 570 400

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