Forensic Anthropology in the Recovery and Analysis of War Casualties: The WWII battlefield in Klessin, Germany

Indra, Lara Isabelle (3 September 2021). Forensic Anthropology in the Recovery and Analysis of War Casualties: The WWII battlefield in Klessin, Germany (Unpublished). In: Sommertagung 2021 der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Rechtsmedizin (SGRM). Arlesheim, Schweiz. 03.09.2021.

Physical anthropological techniques are applied in a number of contexts, for instance in forensic casework, archaeology, humanitarian aspects and mass disasters. Therefore, anthropologists are frequently involved in the search, recovery and analysis of casualties from contemporary and historic war events.
In Germany, the VBGO (Verein zur Bergung Gefallener in Osteuropa e.V.) regularly conducts excavations regarding WWII dead and their contexts, following historical investigations. Our aim is to aid with identification, to verify/falsify and complete the historical records, to bring peace to the families of the casualties and give them a decent burial.
After we excavate and document the remains in situ following standard protocols, we inventory, examine and document the bones. This includes assessing the biological profile, pathologic conditions, and traumatic lesions, which are inevitably present in battlefield contexts. We further note anatomical characteristics as well as the dental status. A project is currently being established with the aim of identification by a molecular genetic comparison with living relatives.
Until now, we examined 31 individuals by anthropological means. All of them were males and almost all skeletons showed perimortem trauma sustained to cranial as well as postcranial elements, resulting from blunt force and blast impacts. The investigation of the WWII fatalities provides a unique opportunity to generate data related to armed conflicts, with an emphasis on violent impacts to the skeletal system. This may help assessing human remains from similar contexts worldwide, especially from regions where former conflicts still have to be processed. In addition, this study shows the potential of physical anthropology in human rights aims.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine > Anthropology

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Indra, Lara Isabelle


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
500 Science




Lara Isabelle Indra

Date Deposited:

29 Apr 2022 16:18

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:19


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