A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
In 1970, the great poet's remains were taken secretly from his crypt in Weimar, East Germany, cleaned, treated with chemicals, then returned, according to a recent report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The cloak-and-dagger operation began when workers repairing the crypt's lock noticed the remains were badly decayed (hardly surprising since Goethe was buried in 1832). Hoping to display him, Lenin-like, in a glass coffin, local university and museum officials carted the skeleton to the National Goethe Museum, where the bones were stripped of remaining shreds of flesh and treated with preservatives. Ultimately the plan to display him was abandoned and the skeleton was returned to the tomb. Papers and photographs documenting the forgotten exploit were only recently rediscovered, on the eve of the poet's 250th birthday.