Josef Mengele- The Angel of Death


Pregnant women did not escape his loathsome scrutiny. They were like chattel, and once they had served their purpose, they were sent to the gas chambers.

In his laboratory at Auschwitz, Dr. Josef Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death by the inmates, conducted the most inhuman experiments. He was given carte blanche, and the Nazi doctor had no scruples in exercising that right. Everything he did was dedicated to the pursuit of the ultimate Aryan race.

Mengele was born on March 16, 1911, in the town of Günzburg in Germany. He was the oldest of three boys and came from an affluent background. He was a good student with a keen interest in classical music from a young age.

The young Mengele floated through life, achieving milestone after milestone with seemingly very little effort.

By the year 1935, Josef Mengele had earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Munich. However, it was in Frankfurt working for Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, a German geneticist, that he developed his passion for the study of twins.

Three years later, the soon-to-be Nazi doctor of death earned a cum laude doctorate from the University of Frankfurt. After the war, both universities revoked his degrees.

Josef Mengele

Shortly after joining the Nazi Party in 1937, Josef Mengele married Irene Schönbein with whom he had one son, Rolf, who was born in 1944.

It was at this juncture, when the Nazi Party was almost at its zenith in power and popularity, that Mengele began to fully appreciate the base doctrines espoused at the party rallies.

Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler had started to speak more vocally about racial hygiene, anti-Semitism, and eugenics. The Nazi leaders wanted to create the ultimate Aryan race that would rule the world from Berlin, or Germania, as they wanted the capital to be known.

In 1941, Mengele, like so many young Germans, followed Hitler’s outstretched arm as it pointed toward the east and Russia. It was in the Ukraine where Mengele, as a medical officer, gained some fame for his bravery in the face of enemy fire.

Richard Baer, Josef Mengele and Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz, 1944.

He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for saving two comrades from a burning tank. In addition, he received the Wound Badge in Black and was sent home because of his severe injuries.

No longer fit for frontline duties, Josef Mengele applied for a transfer to the Auschwitz concentration camp. In early 1943, his application was accepted.

Within a few weeks of his arrival at Auschwitz, the doctor got to work. He cleaned out the sick of the hospital barracks and promptly sent the prisoners to the gas chambers. He didn’t give a second’s thought for their well being or make any attempt to cure them like his doctor’s oath required.

He was soon promoted to First Physician of the Birkenau sub-camp for clearing out an epidemic of typhus among female prisoners. He did not heal a single person. Instead, 600 Jewish women were sent to the gas chambers.

Jewish twins kept alive in Auschwitz for use in Mengele’s medical experiments. The Red Army liberated these children in January 1945.

Auschwitz survivors remember Mengele standing on the ramp selecting prisoners for his experiments. He would often whistle opera tunes as he nonchalantly picked men, women, and children. The Angel of Death ultimately decided who went to forced labor and who died.

He sent tens of thousands to the gas chambers. The human geneticist then conducted callous experiments on the remaining concentration camp prisoners, including amputations without anesthesia, sterilizations, and injections of chemical substances into the heart. He frequently killed his victims only to dissect their bodies later.

Twins were often the subjects of his tests. Most of the time, Mengele injected poison, bacteria, or other pathogens into a twin. He and his assistants would then document the course of the disease precisely. The experimental patient often survived only a few days.

As soon as the first subject died, Mengele and his helpers then gave the other twin the same injection into the heart to enable them to perform a comparative autopsy on both bodies.

About 1,400 pairs of twins are said to have been killed in these barbaric medical attempts. The Auschwitz survivor Marta Wise, then a young girl, described one of her encounters with Mengele:

Auschwitz:  Bundesarchiv B 285 Bild-04413,

“We got injections, sometimes from the nurses, sometimes from Mengele in person. My sister got sick, then they told us we were leaving for Germany the next day, so I did not want to leave my sister in the infirmary. So I went to her. That was when Mengele caught me. He smiled at me and gave me two slaps. He was always cruel when he smiled, but he quickly let me go because he knew we were going on a death march very soon.”

Pavilion 10 where Josef Mengele experimented.

The girl from former Czechoslovakia, now in her eighties, continued to explain, “When he smiled you knew it meant danger because when he was smiling that was when he was at his most sadistic.”

However, Mengele was fastidious and sometimes even compassionate when he worked. In fact, a former Auschwitz inmate 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.”

His research became an obsession without any care for human suffering or life. He had a mission to create the perfect Aryan. He even resorted to injecting the eyeballs of living people with dye.

“Selection” of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Birkenau, May June 1944

Pregnant women did not escape his loathsome scrutiny. They were like chattel, and once they had served their purpose, they were sent to the gas chambers.

So it continued until he was forced west by the advancing Soviet army.

After the war, Mengele was interned by the Americans but was able to pass himself off as a simple prisoner of war. He used fake names like Fritz Ullman and, to his great good fortune, he did not bear the standard SS tattoo.

He managed to spend years wandering Europe unrecognized, even returning to Soviet-occupied territory to recover some Auschwitz documents. He worked for months as a farmhand in Upper Bavaria.

Even when his name was mentioned in the several Nazi lawsuits that took place at the time, the Allies never thought to look for him because they considered him dead.

An old woman with children on the way to the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau (May 1944) – Recording from the “Auschwitz Album”

Mengele finally realized that he had to leave Europe because he knew that if he were ever captured that he would end up on the gallows like many of his Nazi comrades. So, in May 1949, he used the pseudonym Helmut Gregor to leave via the “rat lines” to Italy and travel, ultimately, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Once he got there, Mengele lived as a businessman. The German embassy in Argentina did nothing about it. When he divorced his first wife, they even issued the necessary certificate under his real name.

For ten years, the man, who was responsible for the agonizing death of hundreds of people, even managed to travel back to Europe using his real name to visit his son.

When he returned, his sister-in-law and her son soon followed. He was married for the second time and enjoyed the bliss of family life, something that was denied to so many of his patients.

Italian Passport used by Mengele to flee justice and escape to Argentina in 1949.Photo: Jackdawson1970 CC BY-SA 3.0

But his blissful idyll was coming to an end. A German warrant for his arrest was issued in 1959. Then, a year later, Adolf Eichmann was arrested in Argentina. Eichmann’s capture scared Mengele who realized that he would no longer be safe in Argentina.

Around the year 1963, he allegedly decamped to Paraguay where there was a large German community. It was there that the next stage in his medical career would commence.

“Nazi angel of death Josef Mengele created twin town in Brazil” was the headline in the British newspaper The Telegraph in January 2009.

Doctors and scientists were in a state of complete bafflement for years because of the enormous number of twins born in the Brazilian town of Candido Godoi. Furthermore, most of the twins had blond hair and blue eyes.

Josef Mengele (1911-1979), German SS officer. Photo taken by a police photographer in 1956 in Buenos Aires for Mengele’s Argentine identification document Anonymous photographer, not identified anywhere

The mystery gradually started to make sense. The residents of Candido Godoi spoke of a German man who came to the village regularly during the 1960s. At first, he pretended to be a veterinarian, but later the urbane German went on to treat the women for all manner of ailments.

“There is testimony that he attended women, followed their pregnancies, treated them with new types of drugs and preparations, that he talked of artificial insemination in human beings, and that he continued working with animals, proclaiming that he was capable of getting cows to produce male twins,” claims Jorge Camarasa, author of the book Mengele: The Angel of Death in South America.

If statistics are anything to go by, one in 80 pregnancies result in twins. However, in Candido Godoi, one in 50 births resulted in twins after the arrival of the Angel of Death. These numbers suggest that Josef Mengele must have had some success with his sordid medical dream of creating a master Aryan race.

Could it really be that the 1970s thriller The Boys from Brazil has some truth? Did the German doctor achieve his lifelong dream?

Werner Goldberg, who was part Jewish but blond and blue-eyed, was used in Nazi recruitment posters as “The Ideal German Soldier.”

We can never be sure. But Jorge Camarasa is pretty convinced that the Nazi doctor turned Candido Godoi into his own personal laboratory.

In the end, the sea got Mengele, a man whom neither the Allied soldiers nor the Israeli secret service or German prosecutors could capture.

Josef Mengele, the camp doctor who whistled opera arias at the ramp of Auschwitz, died in a regular swimming accident off the coast of Brazil. He had been hiding successfully in South America for half his life.

Meanwhile, sightings of Josef Mengele continued. To the world, he was still alive for many years after his death. Furthermore, interest in his whereabouts hit epic proportions after mock trials were held in Jerusalem in 1985 where many of his victims gave testimonies about his barbarism.

Block 10 – Medical experimentation block in Auschwitz I.Photo: VbCrLf CC BY-SA 4.0

Read another story from us: Nazi Myths: What Some Still Believe About Hitler & the Third Reich

In 1985, Wolfram Bossert, the friend Mengele had visited when he died in the ocean, was discovered. He showed the authorities the whereabouts of his grave. The remains were exhumed, and it was concluded that the body in all likelihood belonged to Josef Mengele.

However, it was not until 1995, after DNA testing, that the world would truly knew that the Angel of Death had indeed found his demise in the Atlantic Ocean.

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