Josef Mengele – Nazi’s Angel of Death

Josef Mengele  got his nickname the ‘angel of death’ because of his disturbing fascination with human experiments, which he conducted on a mass scale at the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, during World War Two.

Mengele began his career as a medical researcher after gaining a PhD in anthropology at Munich University in 1935. Two years later he joined the Nazi party and served for the SS. After a stint in the Wehrmacht he took several roles with the SS and, after being injured on duty, requested a position at the concentration camps, where he saw the opportunity to continue his medical research into genetics.

At Auschwitz Mengele was allowed to conduct his research on live humans. He particularly was interested in twins and went on to torture children, injecting them with diseases and conducting operations and amputations that were unnecessary.

All of his experimentation was unscientific, he had no interest in the health and safety of the people he experimented on.

One survivor remembers how Mengele injected 14 twins with chloroform in one night, killing them all. Mengele had access to as many as 1,500 sets of twins, and of those only around 200 sets outlived Auschwitz.

Mengele played a lead role at Auschwitz. He led a team of around 30 doctors and was part of the selection process for incoming Jews as they arrived at the camp. The new arrivals would file past the doctors who assessed them just by looking at them. If the doctors thought they could work they were sent into the camp to work. If they did not look healthy enough or were too old they would be sent straight to the gas chambers, the Mail Online reports.

Shortly before the end of the war, Mengele left Auschwitz and joined a regular Wehrmacht troop whose members were taken prisoner of war by the Allies. He evaded a long term interment and a trial because his name wasn’t on the Allies’ most wanted list. He was released and later fled to South America.

Once Mengele’s name had been linked to the atrocities at Auschwitz, Mossad (Israel’s intelligence service) and West Germany tried to locate him. However he was never captured and died of a stroke while swimming in 1979.

He was buried in a Sao Paolo under his pseudonym, and his body was later exhumed for positive identification.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE