Josef Mengele was born on March 16, 1911, the eldest of three sons of
Karl and Walburga Mengele. Josef was refined, intelligent and popular in
his town. He studied philosophy at Munich and medicine at Frankfurt
University. In 1935 his dissertation dealt with racial differences in
the structure of the lower jaw.
In 1937 he joined the Nazi party, then in 1938 he went to the SS. In
1942 he was wounded at the Russian front and was pronounced unfit for
duty. After that he volunteered to go to the death camp, Auschwitz. Dr. Josef Mengele, nicknamed
"the Angel of Death", became the surviving symbol of Adolf
was always immaculately prepared for the long-drawn-out rituals of
death, the hellish selections which the young SS doctor so regularly
attended during his twenty-one months at Auschwitz.
In one case in which a mother did not want to be separated from her
thirteen-year-old daughter, and bit and scratched the face of the SS man
who tried to force her to her assigned line, Mengele drew his gun and
shot both the woman and the child. As a blanket punishment, he then sent
to the gas chamber all people from that transport who had previously been
selected for work, with the comment: "Away with this shit!"
(Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors.)
were moments when his death mask gave way to a more animated expression,
when Mengele came alive. There was excitement in his eyes, a tender touch
in his hands. This was the moment when Josef Mengele, the geneticist,
found a pair of twins.
was almost fanatical about drawing blood from twins, mostly identical
twins. He is reported to have bled some to death this way.
Mengele's assistant rounded up 14 pairs of Gypsy twins during the night.
Mengele placed them on his polished marble dissection table and put them
to sleep. He then proceeded to inject chloroform into their hearts,
killing them instantaneously. He then began dissecting and
meticulously noting each and every piece of the twins' bodies.
a strict veil of secrecy over the experiments enabled Mengele to do his
work more effectively. The full extent of his gruesome work will never be
known because the records he sent to Dr. Von Verschuer at the Kaiser
Wilhelm Institute were shipped out in two truckloads and destroyed by
the latter. Any
remaining notes Mengele carried with him on his escape to South America
and were never found.
Some forty years after the war, only a few
of the twins could be found. Strangely enough, many of them recall Mengele as a gentle,
affable man who befriended them as children and gave them chocolates.
Since many had immediately been separated from their families upon
entering the camp, Mengele became a sort of father figure. Still a
tension existed, that at any time they could be killed if they did not
keep a low profile. Older twins recognized his kindness as a deception
twin recalls the death of his brother:
Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am not sure why -
perhaps because he was the older twin. Mengele made several operations
on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could
not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth
operation, I did not see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. It
is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my
father, my mother, my two older brothers - and now, my twin .."
Mengele left Auschwitz disguised as a member of the regular German
infantry. He turned up at the Gross-Rosen work camp and left well before
it was liberated on February 11, 1945. He was then seen at Matthausen
and shortly after he was captured as a POW and held near Munich. He was
released by the allies, who had no idea that he was in their midst.
the fall of 1948, Mengele had made up his mind to leave Germany and
build a life elsewhere. Argentina was the preferred choice of sanctuary.
There was a groundswell of Nazi sympathy in Argentina. And his father,
Karl Sr., who owned a firm that manufactured agricultural equipment,
thought that though his company had no branches in Argentina, he had
made several business connections there that Josef might develop.
Many Nazi war criminals escaped to Argentina using false
identities supplied by the Red Cross. The International Committee of the Red
Cross has said it unwittingly provided travel papers to at least 10
top Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann, Klaus Barbie,
Erich Priebke and Josef Mengele ... A statement
issued by the ICRC, from its Geneva headquarters, said they were
among thousands of people found in refugee camps who were given Red
Cross travel documents.
Mengele fled to
South America, but moved from country to country afraid of being caught
There were many warrants, rewards, and bounties offered, but he was
He divorced Irene Mengele and in 1958, Mengele married his brother Karl's widow,
Martha. Later she and her son moved to Argentina to join him. His life
had now established itself into the comfortable and secure routine of a
family man in a 9-to-5 job with good prospects.
international efforts to track him down, he was never apprehended and
lived for 35 years hiding under various aliases. He lived in Paraguay
and Brazil until his death in 1979. One afternoon, living in Brazil, he
went for a swim. While in the ocean he suffered a massive stroke and
began to drown. By the time he was dragged to shore, he was dead.
didn't find out about Mengele's death until the mid 1980's when Nazi
hunters, using newly discovered information, uncovered his grave marked
"Wolfgang Gerhard" at Embu. It was then that his family
admitted they had shielded him all those years and they turned over his
diaries and letters to investigators.
the possibility of a hoax kept the case open for several years. It was
not until 1992, after coaxing DNA from a bone, and matching it to DNA in
blood samples taken from Mengele's son and wife that the official
conclusion was announced: "The remains are those of Josef
mystery of Josef Mengele, the evil symbol of the Nazi's, was solved.