Caroline Sturdy Colls
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‘Earth conceal not my blood’
Forensic and archaeological approaches to locating the remains of Holocaust victims
in Human remains in society

It is estimated that around 11 million people were killed during the Holocaust. However, compared to the overall number of missing persons, very few searches for the corpses of victims have been carried out. In fact, thousands of burials and deposition sites remain unlocated and unmarked and few of the burials found have been examined by specialists. Certainly, very few have been examined using techniques now commonly used in forensic investigation and archaeology in relation to other periods of history.

This paper will address this paradox between the ever-present and physically illusive corpse in relation to the Holocaust. It will consider the circumstances and sensitivities that have impacted upon searches for the remains of Holocaust victims in the past, given the sites’ symbolic and scientific resources for victims and their descendants as well as archaeologists, and as such create sites of conflict between different religious and political authorities within a necro-economy. Ultimately it will argue that, providing the sensitivities surrounding the investigation of this period are accounted for, forensic and archaeological techniques can be utilised in the future to locate previously unmarked sites, characterise burial environments, analyse corpses and shed new light on practices of killing and body disposal.

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Human remains in society

Curation and exhibition in the aftermath of genocide and mass-violence


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