Body Worlds Corpse Factory

Plastic People

On January 29, 2005, I wrote about Body Worlds being one of the most popular exhibits ever to have been presented at The California Science Center in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park. Body Worlds is hailed as art by some, and was conceived by Gunther von Hagens. His “artwork” consists of actual human bodies that have been injected with molten plastic – preserving the corpses so that they can be displayed in various poses. In my aforementioned article concerning the ongoing exhibit, I thought the allegations that von Hagens used executed Chinese prisoners as fodder for his plastination technique would be hard to top, but it seems I was wrong.
Now Gunther von Hagens is embroiled in a new outrage – and one has to wonder just how much people will take before finally turning their backs on his so-called art. Von Hagens has publicized plans to construct a factory in Poland to mass-produce plasticized bodies. He has obtained land in the Polish town of Sieniawa Zarska near the German border, and the factory building there will employ up to 300 people. Von Hagens’s father, Gerhard Liebchen, has been working in the town as the spokesperson for his son’s business, The Institute of Plastination, trying to convince the community of the economic advantages of such an operation.
The indignation around von Hagen’s plans boiled over when Polish and German press reports surfaced that his 88 year-old father is suspected of having committed crimes against Poles in World War II as a member of the Nazi SS. The German magazine Der Spiegel published in its March issue that Von Hagens’ father “appeared to have been actively involved” in the SS while deployed in Poland, and helped to transport 60 Poles to their doom. The magazine even published a list of the unfortunate victims. A Polish state institute has been established to investigate his participation in genocide.
On March 1st, following the accusations, von Hagens stated that “I have only learned of these accusations, including the suggestion that my father was in the SS, in the last few days.” But he also announced his father would no longer be representing the Institute of Plastination, or have anything to do with the setting up a “body preparation” center in Poland. “It is essential for me that my company be free from any suspicion,” von Hagens said in a public statement. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people continue to purchase tickets to see the Body Worlds exhibit in Los Angeles.

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