This chapter illustrates the possibilities for the development of a history of social and political practices related to corpses en masse. It discusses the work of the French search mission in Germany, a body that was active from 1946 to 1958 and that was under the charge of the Ministry of War Veterans, Deportees and War Victims. Towards the end of 1947, the civil servants working for the search mission in Germany lost their military status. To illustrate the potential of research into the role of the body in and after situations of mass violence and genocide, the chapter addresses two specific aspects. First, the diplomatic dimension of the negotiations that led to the French search mission being given authorization to work on German soil. Second, the use of physical anthropology and forensics in identifying the bodies of French deportees buried in individual and mass graves.
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This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows the undeniable contribution and the limits of the biopower theory in the understanding of dead bodies en masse. It talks about the fact that criminology has for so long ignored mass crime, even though the link between the corpse and the criminal is one of the fundamentals of the discipline. The book addresses the issue of the practical and symbolic treatment of corpses by societies affected by mass violence. It shows how working ideologies along with historical legacy and geographical landscapes determined the disposal of the bodies. The book examines the simultaneously diplomatic and medicolegal nature of the activities of the French Search Commission for Corpses of Deportees in Germany. It also draws on German archives to describe the various modalities of treatment of corpses in Croatia.