This article has two aims: to examine the effects of victim proximity to crematoria ashes and ash pits both consciously and unconsciously in a subset of Holocaust survivors, those who were incarcerated at the dedicated death camps of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau; and to contrast these effects, the subject positions they produce, with their suppression as the basis both for a strategy of survival during incarceration and for a reimagined identity after the war. Within a cohort of four survivors from Rudolf Reder (Belzec), Esther Raab (Sobibor), Jacob Wiernik (Treblinka) and Shlomo Venezia (Auschwitz), I trace the ways in which discrete memories and senses became constitutive in the formation of the subject prior to and after escape – the experience of liberation – so that essentially two kinds of subjects became visible, the subject in liberation and the subject of ashes. In conjunction with these two kinds of subjects, I introduce the compensatory notion of a third path suggested both by H. G. Adler and Anna Orenstein, also Holocaust survivors, that holds both positions together in one space, the space of literature, preventing the two positions from being stranded in dialectical opposition to each other.
Thousands of people died in Rotterdam during the Second World War in more than 300 German and Allied bombardments. Civil defence measures had been taken before the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940 and these efforts were intensified during the country’s occupation as Allied bombers attacked Rotterdam’s port, factories, dry docks and oil terminals. Residential neighbourhoods were also hit through imprecise targeting and by misfired flak grenades. Inadequate air raid shelters and people’s reluctance to enter them caused many casualties. The condition of the corpses and their post-mortem treatment was thus co-constituted by the relationship between the victims and their material circumstances. This article concludes that an understanding of the treatment of the dead after war, genocide and mass violence must pay systematic attention to the materiality of death because the condition, collection and handling of human remains is affected by the material means that impacted on the victims.
On 25 September 1911 the battleship Liberté exploded in Toulon harbour. This tragedy is just one of the many disasters that the French fleet suffered at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries and also represents the peak of these calamities, since it is undoubtedly the most deadly suffered by a French Navy ship in peacetime. The aim of this article is to study how the navy managed this disaster and the resulting deaths of service personnel, which were all the more traumatic because the incident happened in France’s main military port and in circumstances that do not match the traditional forms of death at sea.
The construction of an underground car park beneath the main square of Turin, Italy in 2004 led to the unearthing of the skeletonised remains of twenty-two individuals attributable to the early eighteenth century. At this time the city was besieged during the War of the Spanish Succession in a hard-fought battle that resulted in unexpected triumph for the Piedmontese, a victory that marked a fundamental turning point in Italian history. The current study assesses the strength of evidence linking the excavated individuals to the siege and assesses their possible role in the battle through consideration of their biological profiles, patterns of pathology and the presence of traumatic injuries. This article presents the first analysis of evidence for the siege of Turin from an anthropological point of view, providing new and unbiased information from the most direct source of evidence available: the remains of those who actually took part.
Based on a study of intersecting French archives (those of the Val de Grâce Hospital, the Service Historique de la Défense and the Archives Diplomatiques), and with the support of numerous printed sources, this article focuses on the handling of the bodies of French soldiers who died of cholera during the Crimean War (1854–56). As a continuation of studies done by historians Luc Capdevila and Danièle Voldman, the aim here is to consider how the diseased corpses of these soldiers reveal both the causes and circumstances of their deaths. Beyond the epidemiological context, these dead bodies shed light on the sanitary conditions and suffering resulting from years of military campaigns. To conclude, the article analyses the material traces left by these dead and the way that the Second Empire used them politically, giving the remains of leaders who died on the front lines of the cholera epidemic a triumphant return to the country and a state funeral.
Mercenaries are fighters who operate under special conditions. Their presence, as shadow combatants, often tends to exacerbate the violence of their enemies. That’s why the analysis focuses on the singularity of the relationship to death and ‘procedures’ concerning the corpses of their fallen comrades. As a fighter identified and engaged in landlocked areas, the mercenary’s corpse is treated according to material constraints pertaining in the 1960s. After violence on their body, and evolution towards the secret war, mercenaries favour the repatriation of the body or its disappearance. These new, painful conditions for comrades and families give birth to a collective memory fostered by commemorations.
This article aims to shed light on the post-mortem practices for Palestinian dead bodies when there is suspicion of human rights violations by Israeli military forces. By focusing on the case of Omran Abu Hamdieh from Al-Khalil (Hebron), the article explores the interactions between Palestinian social-institutional agents, Israeli military forces and international medico-legal agents. Drawing on ethnographic and archival data, the article explores how the intersectionality between the various controlling powers is inscribed over the Palestinian dead bodies and structures their death rites. The article claims that inviting foreign medico-legal experts in the Palestinian context could reveal the true death story and the human rights violations, but also reaffirms the sovereignty of the Israeli military forces over the Palestinian dead and lived bodies.
The appearance of corpses in rubbish tips is not a recent phenomenon. In Argentina, tips have served not only as sites for the disposal of bodies but also as murder scenes. Many of these other bodies found in such places belong to individuals who have suffered violent deaths, which go on to become public issues, or else are ‘politicised deaths’. Focusing on two cases that have received differing degrees of social, political and media attention – Diego Duarte, a 15-year-old boy from a poor background who went waste-picking on an open dump and never came back, and Ángeles Rawson, a girl of 16 murdered in the middle-class neighbourhood of Colegiales, whose body was found in the same tip – this article deals with the social meanings of bodies that appear in landfills. In each case, there followed a series of events that placed a certain construction on the death – and, more importantly, the life – of the victim. Corpses, once recognised, become people, and through this process they are given new life. It is my contention that bodies in rubbish tips express – and configure – not only the limits of the social but also, in some cases, the limits of the human itself.