I don’t know what I find more disturbing,the evil acts he committed or the fact he got away with it, and who knows how many more experiments he conducted in Germany and South America after the war.
It was on this day 73 years ago this evil man became the medical officer in Auschwitz.
First do no harm or Primum nil nocere is an ethical term Physicians generally sign up to. Although it is officially not a part of the Hippocratic Oath it still indicates how physicians should conduct them selves. The Oath itself had been in use for centuries.
Below is the 1964 translation of the oath but it roughly would have been the same in 1938 when Mengele earned his Doctorate in Medicines.
“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:…
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help”
In Germany during the Third Reich, medical students did not take the Hippocratic Oath, although they knew the ethic of “nil nocere” – do no harm.
I have stopped analysing why Mengele did the things he did. I came to the conclusion that it is a fact some people are just born evil, as I think was the case in Dr. Mengele.
Born on March 16, 1911, in Günzburg, near Ulm, he was the eldest son of Karl Mengele, a prosperous manufacturer of farming implements. In 1935, Mengele earned a Ph.D. in physical anthropology from the University of Munich. In January 1937, at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt, he became the assistant of Dr. Otmar von Verschuer, a leading scientific figure widely known for his research with twins.
In 1937 Mengele joined the Nazi Party. The following year, the same year in which he received his medical degree, he joined the SS. In June 1940, Mengele was drafted into the army, and thereafter volunteered into the medical service of the Waffen-SS (Armed SS). Although documentation is scant and often contradictory regarding Mengele’s activities between this time and early 1943, it is clear that he first functioned as a medical expert for the Race and Settlement Main Office [Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt, or RuSHA] in summer 1940 at the Central Immigration Office [Einwandererstelle] North-East in Posen (today Poznan) and thereafter served as a medical officer with the SS Division “Wiking” (SS Pioneer Battalion V), with which he saw action on the Eastern Front.
Wounded while on campaign, Mengele returned to Germany in January 1943, and began work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics, directed by his former mentor von Verschuer. In April of 1943, he received a promotion to the rank of SS captain; this advancement shortly preceded Mengele’s transfer to Auschwitz, on May 30, 1943.
During his infamous tenure at the concentration camp, Josef Mengele was not the only physician at Auschwitz, nor was he, as common wisdom often maintains, the highest-ranking physician at the camp; this “distinction” belonged to SS captain Dr. Eduard Wirths, whose position as garrison physician made him responsible in all medical matters for the entire camp complex.
Mengele began his career at Auschwitz in the spring of 1943 as the medical officer responsible for Birkenau’s “Gypsy camp”; several weeks after its liquidation, Mengele undertook a new position as Chief Camp Physician of Auschwitz II (i.e., Birkenau), in November 1943, still under Wirths’ jurisdiction.
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 Zyklon B, the cyanide-based pesticide that was used to kill people in the gas chambers at Birkenau. He served in this capacity at the gas chambers located in crematoria IV and V.
When an outbreak of noma (a gangrenous bacterial disease of the mouth and face) broke out in 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 Graz and other facilities for study. The research was still ongoing when the Romani camp was liquidated and its remaining occupants killed in 1944.
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 had become interested in utilizing twins for medical research through Verschuer, famous for experimenting with identical and fraternal twins in order to trace the genetic origins of various diseases. During the 1930s, twin research was seen as an ideal tool in weighing the variant factors of human heredity and environment. Mengele, with his mentor, had performed a number of legitimate research protocols using twins as test subjects throughout the 1930s. Now, at Auschwitz, with full license to maim or kill his subjects, Mengele performed a broad range of agonizing and often lethal experiments with Jewish and Roma (“Gypsy”) twins, most of them children.
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 or safety 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.
Mengele firmly endorsed the doctrine of National Socialist racial theory and engaged in a wide spectrum of experiments which aimed to illustrate the lack of resistance among Jews or Roma to various diseases. He also attempted to demonstrate the “degeneration” of Jewish and “Gypsy” blood through the documentation of physical oddities and the collection and harvesting of tissue samples and body parts. Many of his “test subjects” died as a result of the experimentation or were murdered in order to facilitate post-mortem examination.
Like most “scientists” at work in the concentration camp environment, Mengele enlisted the aid of trained medical professionals among the prisoner population to perform the more grisly, or mundane, tasks and to carry out autopsies upon his dead victims. We owe much of our early knowledge of Mengele’s activities at Auschwitz to Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner-physician who assisted Mengele under duress, and then published his experiences, initially in his native Hungarian, in 1946. (His Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account appeared in English in 1960.)
Josef Mengele had hoped to use the “research” he had garnered in Auschwitz in order to produce his Habilitation, a second, post-doctoral, dissertation required for admission to a university faculty as a professor in German-speaking lands. He never accomplished this objective. Instead, in January 1945, as the Soviet Army advanced through western Poland, Mengele fled Auschwitz. He spent the next few weeks at the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, until its evacuation, and then made his way west, to evade capture by Soviet forces.
In the immediate postwar, Mengele found himself in US custody. Unaware that Mengele’s name already stood on a list of wanted war criminals, however, US officials quickly released him. From the summer of 1945 until spring 1949, the physician, under false papers, worked as a farmhand near Rosenheim, Bavaria. At that time, his prosperous family aided his emigration to South America. Mengele settled in Argentina.
As his crimes had been well documented before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and other postwar courts, West German authorities issued a warrant for Mengele’s arrest in 1959, and a request for extradition in 1960. Alarmed by the capture of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in that same year, Mengele moved to Paraguay and then to Brazil, spending the last years of his life near Sao Pãolo. In declining health, Mengele suffered a stroke while swimming at a vacation resort near Bertioga, Brazil, on February 7, 1979, and drowned. He was buried in a suburb of Sao Pãolo under the fictive name “Wolfgang Gerhard.”
In 1985, German police, working on evidence they had recently confiscated from a Mengele family friend in Günzburg, located Mengele’s grave and exhumed his corpse. Brazilian forensic experts thereafter positively identified the remains as Josef Mengele. In 1992, DNA evidence confirmed this conclusion. Mengele had eluded his captors for 34 years.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mengele worked as a carpenter while residing in a boarding house in the suburb of Vicente Lopez.After a few weeks he moved to the house of a Nazi sympathiser in the more affluent neighborhood of Florida, Buenos Aires. He next worked as a salesman for his family’s farm equipment company, and beginning in 1951 he made frequent trips to Paraguay as sales representative for that region.An apartment in the center of Buenos Aires became his residence in 1953, the same year he used family funds to buy a part interest in a carpentry concern. In 1954 he rented a house in the suburb of Olivos.Files released by the Argentine government in 1992 indicate that Mengele may have practiced medicine without a license, including performing abortions, while living in Buenos Aires.
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 trip to Paraguay and was granted citizenship under the name José Mengele in 1959.He returned to Buenos Aires several times to wrap up his business affairs and visit his family. Martha and Karl Heinz lived in a boarding house in the city until December 1960, when they returned to Germany.
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.
I am not someone who tends to entertain conspiracy theories but in this case it strikes me as very odd that Mengele could not be found, giving the fact he hid in plain sight, using his own name.
Then there is Candido Godoi in Brazil. a small town with an unusual high number of twins being born there. a lot of them being blonde and blue eyed.. The people of the town claim that Mengele visited to town a lot in the 1960’s and they didn’t really know what he did there. It appears he must have continued with his experiments in Brazil, and who knows where else.
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.
The consequences of his experiments are still being felt to date.
It is not often that someone deserved the nick name given to day, but in the case of Dr Mengele the name ‘Angel of Death’ is an appropriate one.