Dispatches, May 2009

• German police investigators confirmed in February that Aribert Heim, the Mauthausen concentration camp doctor whose name has been at the top of the list of most wanted Nazi war criminals for years, died in Cairo of rectal cancer in 1992. Heim’s son, Rüdiger, who says he was with his father when he died, told reporters that Heim had converted to Islam and changed his name to Tarek Hussein Farid. Heim was buried in an anonymous grave; his body has not yet been recovered.

• This sort of thing shouldn’t be left just lying around: a glass jar buried in a waste pit at the site of a Manhattan Project nuclear weapons facility near Hanford, Washington, has been found to contain some of the first weapons-grade plutonium ever created. The jar, which was found in 2004 in an old safe, was tested this winter by researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The Hanford facility, which produced the plutonium used in 1945 in the first successful test of an atomic weapon, is littered with chemical and radioactive waste left behind by contractors who ran the site.

• Workers building a hotel in the Polish city of Malbork recently discovered a mass grave from World War II holding the remains of more than 1,800 people believed to be German civilians. Historians believe the bodies—some of which were found with bullet holes in their skulls when they were exhumed this winter—may be the missing townspeople of Marienberg, a German town that changed its name to Malbork when it became part of Poland after the war. Nearly 2,000 people from Marienberg disappeared after they defied evacuation orders and were caught in the heavy fighting between the Red Army and the retreating Wehrmacht in 1945.

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