Gunther von Hagens: Nazi-descended innovative anatomist, rogue public dissector, black market corpse trafficker, and Body Worlds mastermind
Turns out Gunter von Hagens, the inventor of plastination and the mastermind behind the Body Worlds series of international blockbuster exhibitions, has quite the checkered past, including Nazi heritage, a record of being mixed up with some unsavory black market corpse traffickers, and a major 16th century-style penchant for public anatomy performances (plus, I just don’t trust anyone who dresses like a Stasi officer and “wears his trademark black fedora, even while performing public dissections”). Here’s some highlights from his wikipedia page:
"At the age of five days his parents took him on a six-month trek west to escape the imminent Soviet occupation. His father Gerhard Liebchen had been a Nazi official who served in the German SS…
"In 2002 von Hagens performed the first public autopsy in the UK for 170 years, to a sell-out audience of 500 people in a London theatre. Prior to performing the autopsy, von Hagens had received a letter from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Anatomy, the British government official responsible for regulating the educational use of cadavers. The letter warned von Hagens that performing a public autopsy would be a criminal act under section 9 of the 1984 Anatomy Act. The show was attended by officers from the Metropolitan Police, but they did not intervene and the dissection was performed in full. The autopsy was shown in November 2002 on the UK’s Channel 4 television channel; it resulted in over 130 complaints, but the Independent Television Commission ruled that the program had not been sensationalist and had not broken broadcasting rules. A planned public dissection in Munich was cancelled…
"In October 2003, a parliamentary committee in Kyrgyzstan investigated accusations that von Hagens had illegally received and plastinated several hundred corpses from prisons, psychiatric institutions and hospitals in Kyrgyzstan, some without prior notification of the families. Von Hagens himself testified at the meeting; he said he had received nine corpses from Kyrgyzstan hospitals, none had been used for the Body Worlds exhibition, and that he was not involved with nor responsible for the notification of families.
In January 2004, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that von Hagens had acquired some corpses from executed prisoners in China; he countered that he did not know the origin of the bodies and went on to cremate several of the disputed cadavers. German prosecutors declined to press charges, and Von Hagens was granted an interim injunction against Der Spiegel in March 2005, preventing the magazine from claiming that Body Worlds contain the bodies of executed prisoners…”
“It strikes me as ironic that a new technology (digital music) may have accidentally forced record labels to abandon the status quo (releasing albums) and return to the past (selling singles). I sometimes think that the biggest mistake the record industry ever made was abandoning the pop single in the first place. Customers were forced to buy albums to get the one or two songs they loved; how many albums can you say that you truly love, or love even 50% of the songs — 10? 20?”—Whats the Future of the Music Industry? A Freakonomics Quorum - New York Times Blog
“THE impact on this city of 354,000 was dramatic. Charmless business hotels and musty pensions were supplanted by trendy hotels like the Domine Bilbao and a Sheraton designed by the Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. The rusty shipyards near the Guggenheim were razed for a manicured greenbelt of playgrounds, bicycle paths and riverside cafes. A lime-green tram was strung along the river, linking the Guggenheim to Casco Viejo and beyond.”—Bilbao, 10 Years Later - New York Times