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Dr. Joeseph Mengele
Josef Rudolf Mengele (March 16, 1911 – February 7, 1979), also known as the Angel of Death was a German SS (Schutzstaffel) officer and a physician in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. He earned doctorates in anthropology from Munich University and in medicine from Frankfurt University. He initially gained notoriety for being one of the SS physicians who supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who was to be killed and who was to become a forced laborer, but is far more infamous for performing human experiments on camp inmates, including children, for which Mengele was called the "Angel of Death". Mengele wrote, "I personally have not killed, injured or caused bodily harm to anyone."
In 1940, he was placed in the reserve medical corps, after which he served with the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking in the Eastern Front. In 1942, he was wounded at the Soviet front and was pronounced medically unfit for combat, and was then promoted to the rank of SS-Captain for saving the lives of three German soldiers. He survived the war, and after a period living incognito in Germany he fled to South America, where he evaded capture for the rest of his life despite being hunted as a Nazi war criminal.
Early Life and Family
Josef Mengele was born the eldest of three children on March the 16th, 1911 to Karl and Walburga Mengele in Günzburg. Bavaria, Germany. His younger brothers were Karl Junior and Alois Mengele. Mengele's father was a founder of the Karl Mengele & Sons company, a company that produced farm machinery for milling, sawing, and baling.
On July 28, 1939, Mengele married Irene Schönbein, whom he had met while studying in Leipzig. Their only son, Rolf, was born March 11, 1941. Five years after Mengele emigrated to Buenos Aires in 1949, his wife Irene divorced him. She continued to live in Germany with their son. On July 25, 1958 (when Mengele was 47), in Nueva Helvecia, Uruguay, Mengele was remarried to Martha Mengele, the widow of his deceased younger brother Karl. Martha Mengele had arrived in Buenos Aires in 1956 with Karl-Heinz, her son from her first marriage. Josef and Martha had no further children.
In 1937 Mengele joined the Nazi Party. In 1938, he received his medical degree and joined the SS. Mengele was conscripted into the army in 1940, and later volunteered to the medical service of the
, the combat arm of the SS, where he distinguished himself as a soldier. Hitler declared war against the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Later that month, Mengele was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for his heroism at the Ukrainian Front. In January 1942, while serving with the SS Wiking Division behind Soviet lines, he pulled two German soldiers from a burning tank, and was awarded the Iron Cross First Class, as well as the Wound Badge in Black and the Medal for the Care of the German People. Mengele was wounded during this campaign; since he was medically unfit for combat, Mengele was posted to the Race and Resettlement Office in Berlin. Mengele resumed an association with his mentor, von Verschuer, who was at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics in Berlin. Just before he was transferred to Auschwitz, Mengele was promoted to the rank of SS Captain in April 1943.
, (translated to
with stylized "Armanen"
runes) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II (1939–1945). After 1945, the SS was banned in Germany, along with the Nazi Party, as a criminal organization.
In May 1943, Mengele replaced another doctor who had fallen ill at the Nazi extermination camp Birkenau. On May 24, 1943, he became medical officer of Auschwitz-Birkenau's "Gypsy (Roma) camp". In August 1944, this camp was liquidated and all its inmates gassed. Subsequently Mengele became Chief Medical Officer of the main
infirmary camp at Birkenau. He was not the Chief Medical Officer of Auschwitz, though: his superior was garrison physician Eduard Wirths.
During his 21-month stay at Auschwitz Mengele was referred to as the White Angel by camp inmates because when he stood on the platform inspecting and selecting new arrivals his white coat and white arms outstretched evoked the image of a white angel. Mengele took turns with the other SS physicians at Auschwitz in meeting incoming prisoners at the camp, where it was determined who would be retained for work and who would be sent to the gas chambers immediately. He also appeared there frequently in search of twins, for his experimentation; he would wade through the incoming prisoners shouting
Zwillinge heraus! (Twins out!),
Zwillinge heraustreten! (Twins step forward!)
with, according to an assistant he recruited, "such a face that I would think he's mad". Because he "brought such flamboyance and posturing to the selection", he was the individual best remembered for the process. He drew a line on the wall of the children's block 150 centimetres (about 5 feet) from the floor, and children whose heads could not reach the line were sent to the gas chambers.
Stories of Mengele's cruelty abound. On one occasion, it is said that a blockhouse housing 750 women became infested with lice. Mengele ordered that all of the women in the hut should be gassed and then the blockhouse should be deloused. Another story states that he condemned a whole train load of Jews to be instantly gassed when a mother refused to be separated from her daughter and attacked a SS guard who tried to separate them.
Block 10 – Medical experimentation block in Auschwitz
Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation. He was particularly interested in identical twins; they would be selected and placed in special barracks. He recruited Berthold Epstein, a Jewish pediatrician, and Miklós Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jewish pathologist, to assist with his experiments.
As a doctor, Epstein proposed to Mengele a study into treatments of the disease called noma that was noted for particularly affecting children from the camp. While the exact cause of noma remains uncertain, it is now known that it has a higher occurrence in children suffering from malnutrition and a lower immune system response. Many develop the disease shortly after contracting another illness such as measles or tuberculosis.
Mengele took an interest in physical abnormalities discovered among the arrivals at the concentration camp. These included dwarfs, notably the Ovitz family – the children of a Romanian artist, seven of whom were dwarfs. Prior to their deportation, they toured in Eastern Europe as the Lilliput Troupe.
Mengele's experiments also included attempts to change eye colour by injecting chemicals into children's eyes, various amputations of limbs, and other surgeries. Rena Gelissen's account of her time in Auschwitz details certain experiments performed on female prisoners around October 1943. Mengele would experiment on the chosen girls, performing sterilization and shock treatments. Most of the victims died, because of either the experiments or later infections.
"Once Mengele's assistant rounded up 14 pairs of Roma twins during the night. Mengele placed them on his polished marble dissection table and put them to sleep. He then injected chloroform into their hearts, killing them instantly. Mengele then began dissecting and meticulously noting each piece of the twins' bodies."
At Auschwitz, Mengele did a number of studies on twins. After an experiment was over, the twins were usually killed and their bodies dissected. He supervised an operation by which two Roma children were sewn together to create conjoined twins; the hands of the children became badly infected where the veins had been resected; this also caused gangrene.
The subjects of Mengele's research were better fed and housed than ordinary prisoners and were, for the time being, safe from the gas chambers, although many experiments resulted in more painful deaths. When visiting his child subjects, he introduced himself as "Uncle Mengele" and offered them sweets. Some survivors remember that despite his grim acts, he was also called "Mengele the Protector".
Mengele also sought out pregnant women, on whom he would perform vivisections before sending them to the gas chambers.
Auschwitz prisoner Alex Dekel has said: "I have never accepted the fact that Mengele himself believed he was doing serious work – not from the slipshod way he went about it. He was only exercising his power. Mengele ran a butcher shop – major surgeries were performed without anaesthesia. Once, I witnessed a stomach operation – Mengele was removing pieces from the stomach, but without any anaesthetic. Another time, it was a heart that was removed, again without anaesthesia. It was horrifying. Mengele was a doctor who became mad because of the power he was given. Nobody ever questioned him – why did this one die? Why did that one perish? The patients did not count. He professed to do what he did in the name of science, but it was a madness on his part."
An Auschwitz prisoner doctor has 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." The book
Children of the Flames
, by Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Shiela Cohn Dekel, chronicles Mengele's medical experimental activities on approximately 1,500 pairs of twins who passed through the Auschwitz death camp during World War II until its liberation at the end of the war. By the 1980s only 100 sets of these twins could be found. Many recalled his friendly manner towards them, and his gifts of chocolates. The older ones "recognized his kindness as a deception—yet another of his perverse experiments to test (our) mental endurance." He would also kill them without hesitation, sometimes administering injections to the children or shooting them himself, and would dissect them immediately afterwards. On one evening alone he killed 14 twins.
In 1960 Hans Sedlmeier returned from Asuncion, Paraguay with a statement from Mengele that said, "I personally have not killed, injured or caused bodily harm to anyone." Mengele repeatedly insisted that he had not committed any crime, and that instead he had become a victim of a great injustice.
Dr. Mengele- What he did
The infamous Dr. Josef Mengele experimented on twins in an effort to learn the secrets of multiple births and to find a way to quickly multiply the German race. Mengele’s experiments were performed on prisoners at Auschwitz. He experimented on 1,000 pairs of twins. Roughly 200 survived those experiments. When twins were of no more use to Mengele, he’d dispatch subjects with an injection of chloroform straight to the heart.
The SS abandoned the Auschwitz camp on January 27, 1945, and Mengele transferred to Gross Rosen camp in Lower Silesia, again working as camp physician. Gross Rosen was dissolved at the end of February when the Red Army was close to taking it. Mengele worked in other camps for a short time and, on May 2, joined a
medical unit led by Hans Otto Kahler, his former colleague at the Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Bohemia. The unit hurried west to avoid being captured by the Soviets and were taken as prisoners of war by the Americans. Mengele, initially registered under his own name, was released in June 1945 with papers giving his name as "Fritz Hollmann". From July 1945 until May 1949, he worked as a farmhand in a small village near Rosenheim, Bavaria, staying in contact with his wife and his old friend Hans Sedlmeier, who arranged Mengele's escape to Argentina via Innsbruck, Sterzing, Meran, and Genoa. Mengele may have been assisted by the ODESSA network.
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