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Gray matter.

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About this work


This American-made documentary was made by film-maker Joe Berlinger. In 2002, the preserved brains of handicapped childrens' which were discovered in the basement of an Austrian psychiatric hospital, Spiegelgrund, were given a burial. Many children did not meet natural ends; they were starved, frozen or drugged. The children were in some cases experimented on and then euthanased; this was one of many childrens' wards of this kind during the Nazi occupation. Their brains have been preserved in pickle jars; one truly disturbing specimen is a complete child's head. Unbelievably, Dr Heinrich Gross who was responsible for this clinic, is still alive and living in Vienna. He also continued to practice in the hospital; even studying the childrens' brains and publishing internationally. A group of journalists attending the funeral challenge the attitudes of the medical community in Austria. As many of the specimens were divided into many smaller pieces, it was the job of a laboratory technician to gather them together. There were survivors and they are justifiably angry at Gross remaining unpunished; indeed he operated as an expert court psychiatrist. Even more surprisingly as more details became publicly available, Gross remained free.


US : Third Eye Motion Picture Company, 2004.

Physical description

1 videocassette (DVD) (59 min.) : sound, color, NTSC


Purcased by Wellcome Collection for a screening to accompany the 'Brains' exhibition 2012.

Creator/production credits

Written and directed by Joe Berlinger.

Copyright note

Third Eye Picture Company.



  • English

Where to find it

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