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Natalia Aleksiun

Senior Fellow (03/2014 – 08/2014)

"Christian corpses for the Christians": The Cadaver Affair, Anti-Semitism and the Training of Jewish Physicians in Europe between the Two World Wars.


ALEKSIUNI explore the conflict surrounding the so called cadaver affair at medical departments of Eastern and Central European universities between the two world wars. As early as 1921, Christian student associations in Poland demanded a contribution of cadavers from local Jewish communities proportionate to the number of Jewish medical students. They threatened to block their Jewish colleagues from participating in anatomy lectures and laboratory classes if no such contribution were made. The right-wing student activists argued that in the face of a persistent shortage of corpses—the Jewish community had unjustly avoided sharing in the responsibility for providing specimens. The conflict in and around the dissecting room brought together an amalgamation of arguments about science and progress, fair division of rights and responsibilities, and an alleged Jewish sense of religious and racial superiority. Ultimately, the deeper, underlying meaning of the cadaver affair can be found in the desire to segregate Jews from non-Jews. It also provides a window onto the political strategies embraced by various sections of Jewish communities when facing hardship or persecution.



Natalia Aleksiun, Associate Professor of Modern Jewish History at Touro College, Graduate School of Jewish Studies, New York and Assistant Professor of Modern History at the Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences. She published Where to? The Zionist Movement in Poland, 1944-1950 (in Polish) and co-edited Polin vol. 20, devoted to the memory of the Holocaust. Her articles appeared in Yad Vashem Studies, Polish Review, Dapim, East European Jewish Affairs, Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Polin, Gal Ed, East European Societies and Politics and German History.


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