JOSEF MENGELE (German: ( listen ); 16 March 1911 – 7 February
1979) was a German
Schutzstaffel (SS) officer and physician in
Auschwitz concentration camp during
World War II
Mengele received doctorates in anthropology and medicine from Munich University and began a career as a researcher. He joined the Nazi Party in 1937 and the SS in 1938. Initially assigned as a battalion medical officer at the start of World War II, he transferred to the concentration camp service in early 1943 and was assigned to Auschwitz. There he saw the opportunity to conduct genetic research on human subjects. His subsequent experiments, focusing primarily on twins, had no regard for the health or safety of the victims.
Assisted by a network of former SS members, Mengele sailed to
Argentina in July 1949. He initially lived in and around Buenos Aires
, then fled to
* 1 Early life and education * 2 Military service
* 3 Auschwitz
* 3.1 Human experimentation
* 4 After Auschwitz
* 5 In
* 5.1 Efforts by Mossad * 5.2 Later life and death
* 6 Exhumation * 7 Legacy * 8 Summary of SS career * 9 Journal articles * 10 See also * 11 Notes * 12 References * 13 Sources * 14 Further reading * 15 External links
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Mengele was born the eldest of three children on 16 March 1911 to
Karl and Walburga (Hupfauer) Mengele in
In 1935, Mengele earned a PhD in anthropology from the University of
Munich. In January 1937, at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and
Racial Hygiene in
On 28 July 1939, Mengele married Irene Schönbein, whom he had met
while working as a medical resident in
The ideology of
Mengele joined the
In June 1941, Mengele was posted to
In early 1943, encouraged by von Verschuer, Mengele applied to
transfer to the concentration camp service, where he foresaw the
opportunity to undertake genetic research on human subjects. His
application was accepted, and he was posted to Auschwitz concentration
camp . He was appointed by SS-Standortarzt
By late 1941, Hitler decided that the Jews of Europe were to be exterminated, so Birkenau, originally intended to house slave laborers, was re-purposed as a combination labor camp / extermination camp . Prisoners were transported there by rail from all over German-occupied Europe, arriving in daily convoys. By July 1942, the SS were conducting "selections". Incoming Jews were segregated; those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labor were immediately killed in the gas chambers. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with small children, pregnant women, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Mengele, a member of the team of doctors assigned to do selections, undertook this work even when he was not assigned to do so in the hope of finding subjects for his experiments. He was particularly interested in locating sets of twins. In contrast to most of the doctors, who viewed undertaking selections as one of their most stressful and horrible duties, Mengele undertook the task with a flamboyant air, often smiling or whistling a tune.
Mengele and other SS doctors did not treat inmates, but supervised
the activities of inmate doctors forced to work in the camp medical
service. Mengele made weekly visits to the hospital barracks and sent
to the gas chambers any prisoners who had not recovered after two
weeks in bed. He was also a member of the team of doctors responsible
for supervising the administration of
When an outbreak of noma (a gangrenous bacterial disease of the mouth
and face) struck the Romani camp in 1943, Mengele initiated a study to
determine the cause of the disease and develop a treatment. He
enlisted the aid of prisoner Dr.
Berthold Epstein , a Jewish
pediatrician and professor at
Prague University . Mengele isolated the
patients in a separate barrack and had several afflicted children
killed so that their preserved heads and organs could be sent to the
SS Medical Academy in
In response to a typhus epidemic in the women's camp, Mengele cleared one block of 600 Jewish women and sent them to the gas chamber. The building was then cleaned and disinfected, and the occupants of a neighboring block were bathed, de-loused, and given new clothing before being moved into the clean block. The process was repeated until all the barracks were disinfected. Similar disinfections were used for later epidemics of scarlet fever and other diseases, but with all the sick prisoners being sent to the gas chambers. For his efforts, Mengele was awarded the War Merit Cross (Second Class with Swords) and was promoted in 1944 to First Physician of the Birkenau subcamp.
Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his anthropological studies and research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation . The experiments had no regard for the health, safety, or physical and emotional suffering of the victims. He was particularly interested in identical twins , people with heterochromia iridum (eyes of two different colours), dwarfs , and people with physical abnormalities. A grant was provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft , applied for by von Verschuer, who received regular reports and shipments of specimens from Mengele. The grant was used to build a pathology laboratory attached to Crematorium II at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Dr. Miklós Nyiszli , a Hungarian Jewish pathologist who arrived in Auschwitz on 29 May 1944, performed dissections and prepared specimens for shipment in this laboratory. Mengele's twin research was in part intended to prove the supremacy of heredity over environment and thus bolster the Nazi premise of the superiority of the Aryan race. Nyiszli and others report that the twins studies may also have been motivated by a desire to improve the reproduction rate of the German race by improving the chances of racially desirable people having twins.
Mengele's research subjects were better fed and housed than other prisoners and temporarily safe from the gas chambers. He established a kindergarten for children that were the subjects of experiments, along with all Romani children under the age of six. The facility provided better food and living conditions than other areas of the camp, and even included a playground. When visiting his child subjects, he introduced himself as "Uncle Mengele" and offered them sweets. But he was also personally responsible for the deaths of an unknown number of victims that he killed via lethal injection, shootings, beatings, and through selections and deadly experiments. Lifton describes Mengele as sadistic, lacking empathy, and extremely antisemitic, believing the Jews should be eliminated entirely as an inferior and dangerous race. Mengele's son Rolf said his father later showed no remorse for his wartime activities.
A former Auschwitz prisoner doctor said:
He was capable of being so kind to the children, to have them become
fond of him, to bring them sugar, to think of small details in their
daily lives, and to do things we would genuinely admire ... And then,
next to that, ... the crematoria smoke, and these children, tomorrow
or in a half-hour, he is going to send them there. Well, that is where
the anomaly lay. Jewish twins kept alive to be used in
Mengele's medical experiments. These children were liberated from
Auschwitz by the
Twins were subjected to weekly examinations and measurements of their physical attributes by Mengele or one of his assistants. Experiments performed by Mengele on twins included unnecessary amputation of limbs, intentionally infecting one twin with typhus or other diseases, and transfusing the blood of one twin into the other. Many of the victims died while undergoing these procedures. After an experiment was over, the twins were sometimes killed and their bodies dissected. Nyiszli recalled one occasion where Mengele personally killed fourteen twins in one night via a chloroform injection to the heart. If one twin died of disease, Mengele killed the other so that comparative post-mortem reports could be prepared.
Mengele's experiments with eyes included attempts to change eye color by injecting chemicals into the eyes of living subjects and killing people with heterochromatic eyes so that the eyes could be removed and sent to Berlin for study. His experiments on dwarfs and people with physical abnormalities included taking physical measurements, drawing blood, extracting healthy teeth, and treatment with unnecessary drugs and X-rays. Many of the victims were sent to the gas chambers after about two weeks, and their skeletons were sent to Berlin for further study. Mengele sought out pregnant women, on whom he would perform experiments before sending them to the gas chambers. Witness Vera Alexander described how he sewed two Romani twins together back to back in an attempt to create conjoined twins . The children died of gangrene after several days of suffering.
Photo from Mengele's Argentine identification document (1956)
Along with several other Auschwitz doctors, Mengele transferred to
Gross-Rosen concentration camp in
Lower Silesia on 17 January 1945. He
brought along two boxes of specimens and records of his experiments.
Most of the camp medical records had already been destroyed by the SS.
After several months on the run, including a trip to the
Soviet-occupied area to recover his Auschwitz records, Mengele found
IN SOUTH AMERICA
After obtaining a copy of his birth certificate through the West
German embassy in 1956, Mengele was issued an Argentine foreign
residence permit under his real name. He used this document to obtain
a West German passport, also under his real name, and embarked for a
visit to Europe. He met up in Switzerland for a ski holiday with his
son Rolf (who was told Mengele was his "Uncle Fritz" ) and his widowed
sister-in-law Martha, and spent a week in his home town of Günzburg.
Upon his return to Argentina in September, Mengele began living under
his real name. Martha and her son Karl Heinz followed about a month
later, and the three took up residence together. The couple married
while on holiday in Uruguay in 1958 and bought a house in Buenos
Aires. Business interests now included part ownership of Fadro Farm,
a pharmaceutical company. Along with several other doctors, Mengele
was questioned and released in 1958 under suspicion of practicing
medicine without a license after a teenage girl died following an
abortion. Worried that the publicity would lead to his Nazi background
and wartime activities being discovered, he took an extended business
Mengele's name was mentioned several times during the Nuremberg trials , but Allied forces were convinced that he was dead. Irene and the family in Günzburg also said that he was dead. Working in West Germany, Nazi hunters Simon Wiesenthal and Hermann Langbein collected information from witnesses as to Mengele's wartime activities. In a search of the public records, Langbein found Mengele's divorce papers listing an address in Buenos Aires. He and Wiesenthal pressured West German authorities into drawing up an arrest warrant on 5 June 1959, and starting extradition proceedings. Initially Argentina turned down the request, because the fugitive was no longer living at the address given on the documents. By the time extradition was approved on 30 June 1960, Mengele had already fled to Paraguay, where he was living on a farm near the Argentine border.
EFFORTS BY MOSSAD
In May 1960, Isser Harel , director of Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency ), personally led the successful effort to capture Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires. He hoped to track down Mengele as well so he too could be brought to trial in Israel. Under interrogation, Eichmann provided the address of a boarding house that had been used as a safe house for Nazi fugitives. Surveillance of the house did not reveal Mengele or any members of his family, and the neighborhood postman said that although Mengele had recently been receiving letters there under his real name, he had since relocated, leaving no forwarding address. Harel's inquiries at a machine shop where Mengele had been part owner did not turn up any leads either, so he had to give up.
In spite of having provided Mengele with legal documents in his real
name in 1956, thus enabling him to regularize his residency in
West Germany offered a reward for his capture. Ongoing
newspaper coverage of his wartime activities (accompanied by
photographs of the fugitive) led Mengele to relocate again in 1960.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel put him in touch with the Nazi
supporter Wolfgang Gerhard, who helped Mengele get across the border
into Brazil. He stayed with Gerhard on his farm near São Paulo
until more permanent accommodation was found with Hungarian
expatriates Geza and Gitta Stammer. Helped by an investment from
Mengele, the couple bought a farm in
Nova Europa , and Mengele was
given the job of manager. In 1962 the three bought a coffee and cattle
Serra Negra , with Mengele owning a half interest. Initially,
Gerhard told the couple that Mengele's name was "Peter Hochbichler",
but they discovered his true identity in 1963. Gerhard convinced them
not to report Mengele's location to the authorities, saying they could
themselves get in trouble for harboring the fugitive. West Germany,
tipped off to the possibility that Mengele had relocated there,
widened its extradition request to include
Zvi Aharoni , one of the
Mossad agents who had been
involved in the Eichmann capture, was placed in charge of a team of
agents tasked with locating Mengele and bringing him to trial in
Israel. Inquiries in
LATER LIFE AND DEATH
Mengele and the Stammers bought a house on a farm in Caieiras in 1969, with Mengele as half owner. When Wolfgang Gerhard returned to Germany in 1971 to seek medical treatment for his seriously ill wife and son, he gave his identity card to Mengele. The Stammers had a falling out with Mengele in late 1974 and bought a house in São Paulo; Mengele was not invited. The Stammers bought a bungalow in the Eldorado neighbourhood of São Paulo, which they rented out to Mengele. Rolf, who had not seen his father since the ski holiday in 1956, visited him there in 1977 and found an unrepentant Nazi who claimed he had never personally harmed anyone and had only done his duty.
Mengele's health had been steadily deteriorating since 1972, and he
had a stroke in 1976. He had high blood pressure and an ear infection
that affected his balance. While visiting his friends Wolfram and
Liselotte Bossert in the coastal resort of
Other pseudonyms used by Mengele included Dr. Fausto Rindón and S. Josi Alvers Aspiazu.
Meanwhile, Mengele sightings were reported all over the world.
Wiesenthal claimed to have information that placed Mengele on the
Greek island of
On 31 May 1985, acting on a tip received by the West German
prosecutor's office, police raided the house of Hans Sedlmeier, a
lifelong friend of Mengele and sales manager of the family firm in
Günzburg. They found a coded address book and copies of letters to
and from Mengele. Among the papers was a letter from Bossert notifying
Sedlmeier of Mengele's death. German authorities notified the police
in São Paulo, who contacted the Bosserts. Under interrogation, they
revealed the location of the grave. The remains were exhumed on 6
June 1985, and extensive forensic examination confirmed with a high
degree of probability that the body was Mengele's. Rolf Mengele
issued a statement on 10 June admitting that the body was his
father's. He said that the news of his father's death had been kept
quiet to protect the people who had sheltered him for many years. In
1992, DNA testing confirmed Mengele's identity. Family members
refused repeated requests by Brazilian officials to repatriate the
skeletal remains to Germany. The bones remain in storage at the São
Paulo Institute for
Mengele's life was the inspiration for a novel and film titled The
In February 2010, a 180-page volume of Mengele's diary was sold by Alexander Autographs at auction for an undisclosed sum to the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. The unidentified previous owner, who acquired the journals in Brazil, was reported to be close to the Mengele family. A Holocaust survivors' organization described the sale as "a cynical act of exploitation aimed at profiting from the writings of one of the most heinous Nazi criminals." Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was glad to see the diary fall into Jewish hands. "At a time when Ahmadinejad's Iran regularly denies the Holocaust and anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews is back in vogue, this acquisition is especially significant," he said. In 2011, a further 31 volumes of Mengele's diaries were sold—again amidst protests—by the same auction house to an undisclosed collector of World War II memorabilia for $245,000.
SUMMARY OF SS CAREER
* SS number: 317,885
* Waffen-SS Service:
* Medical Staff Officer, Waffen-SS Medical Inspectorate (1940) * Medical Officer, Pioneer Battalion No. 5, 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking (1941–1943) * Medical Officer, Battalion "Ost", 3rd SS Division Totenkopf (1943)
DATES OF RANK
May 1938 SS- Schütze
1939 SS- Hauptscharführer der Reserve (d.R.)
1 August 1940 SS- Untersturmführer d.R.
30 January 1942 SS- Obersturmführer d.R.
20 April 1943 SS- Hauptsturmführer d.R.
* Racial-Morphological Examinations of the Anterior Portion of the
Lower Jaw in Four Racial Groups. This dissertation, completed in 1935
and first published in 1937, earned him a PhD in anthropology from
Munich University. In this work Mengele sought to demonstrate that
there were structural differences in the lower jaws of individuals
from different ethnic groups, and that racial distinctions could be
made based on these differences.
* Genealogical Studies in the Cases of Cleft Lip-Jaw-Palate (1938),
his medical dissertation, earned him a doctorate in medicine from
* ^ Of the Hungarians who arrived in mid-1944, 85 percent were
* ^ Based on entries in Mengele's journals and interviews with his
friends, historians such as
Gerald Posner and Gerald Astor believe he
had a sexual relationship with Gitta Stammer.
* ^ Mengele's enlisted service is mentioned on only a single
document of his official SS file. His entry date into the SS is stated
to have occurred in early 1938, and by the date of his commissioning
in 1940, Mengele was serving as an SS-First Sergeant in the Waffen-SS
* ^ Mengele's SS service record indicates this decoration, even
though he was not a
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 242.
* ^ A B C D E Kubica 1998 , p. 320.
* ^ A B C Astor 1985 , p. 102.
* ^ Astor 1985 , p. 12.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 4–5.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 6–7.
* ^ A B C D E F Kubica 1998 , p. 318.
* ^ Kershaw 2008 , p. 81.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 8, 10.
* ^ Weindling 2002 , p. 53.
* ^ Allison 2011 , p. 52.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 234 (footnote).
* ^ A B C Lifton 1986 , p. 340.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 11.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 54.
* ^ Evans 2008 , p. 7.
* ^ Longerich 2010 , p. 132.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 16.
* ^ Kubica 1998 , pp. 318–319.
* ^ A B C Kubica 1998 , p. 319.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 16–18.
* ^ Astor 1985 , p. 27.
* ^ A B Allison 2011 , p. 53.
* ^ Steinbacher 2005 , p. 94.
* ^ Longerich 2010 , pp. 282–283.
* ^ Steinbacher 2005 , pp. 104–105.
* ^ Rees 2005 , p. 100.
* ^ Steinbacher 2005 , p. 109.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 235–237.
* ^ Astor 1985 , p. 80.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 248–249.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 29.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 27.
* ^ A B C Lifton 1985 .
* ^ Astor 1985 , p. 78.
* ^ Piper 1998 , pp. 170, 172.
* ^ Kubica 1998 , pp. 328–329.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 33.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 33–34.
* ^ Steinbacher 2005 , p. 114.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , pp. 358–359.
* ^ Nyiszli 2011 , p. 57.
* ^ Kubica 1998 , pp. 320–321.
* ^ Lagnado & Dekel 1991 , p. 9.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , p. 341.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , pp. 376–377.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 48.
* ^ Lifton 1985 , p. 337.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , p. 350.
* ^ A B Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 37.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , p. 351.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , pp. 347, 353.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , p. 362.
* ^ Lifton 1986 , p. 360.
* ^ Brozan 1982 .
* ^ Mozes-Kor 1992 , p. 57.
* ^ A B Levy 2006 , p. 255.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 57.
* ^ Steinbacher 2005 , p. 128.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 63.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 63, 68.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 68, 88.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 87.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 263.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 264–265.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 88,108.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 95.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 104–105.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 107–108.
* ^ Nash 1992 .
* ^ A B Levy 2006 , p. 267.
* ^ Astor 1985 , p. 166.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 2.
* ^ A B Astor 1985 , p. 167.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 111.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 112.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 269–270.
* ^ A B Levy 2006 , p. 273.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 76, 82.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 261.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 271.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 121.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 269–270, 272.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 139.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 142–143.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 162.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 279–281.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 280, 282.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 168.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 166–167.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 184–186.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 184, 187–188.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 223.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 289.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 178–179.
* ^ Astor 1985 , p. 224.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 242–243.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 2, 279.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 289, 291.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 294–295.
* ^ Blumenthal 1985 , p. 1.
* ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991 , p. 586.
* ^ Segev 2010 , p. 167.
* ^ Walters 2009 , p. 317.
* ^ Walters 2009 , p. 370.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 296.
* ^ Levy 2006 , pp. 297, 301.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 306–308.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 89, 313.
* ^ Levy 2006 , p. 302.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 315, 317.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , pp. 319–321.
* ^ Posner & Ware 1986 , p. 322.
* ^ Saad 2005 .
* ^ Simons 1988 .
* ^ "Nazi doctor Josef Mengele\'s bones used in
* Aderet, Ofer (22 July 2011). "Ultra-Orthodox man buys diaries of Nazi doctor Mengele for $245,000". Haaretz. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
* Allison, Kirk C. (2011). "Eugenics, race hygiene, and the Holocaust: Antecedents and consolidations". In Friedman, Jonathan C. Routledge History of the Holocaust. Milton Park; New York: Taylor & Francis. pp. 45–58. ISBN 978-0-415-77956-2 . * Astor, Gerald (1985). Last Nazi: Life and Times of Dr Joseph Mengele. New York: Donald I. Fine. ISBN 0-917657-46-2 . * Blumenthal, Ralph (22 July 1985). "Scientists Decide