In January, 1937, a twenty-five-year-old doctor, Josef Mengele, with doctorates in anthropology and medicine from Munich University, began a research assistantship at the University of Frankfurt’s prestigious Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene. Soon thereafter he joined the Nazi Party and SS, and six years later, in May of 1943, his career in service of Nazi Germany’s racial purity ideology reached its zenith when he was assigned to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
During his twenty months there, Dr. Mengele conducted unscientific, horrific, medical experiments on inmates, young and old alike, without regard for their health or safety. In these experiments, among other things, victims were placed into pressure chambers, tested with toxic drugs, castrated, frozen to death, and injected with lethal germs. They were forced to undergo sex change operations; organs and limbs were removed — often without anesthesia. Children were exposed to experimental surgeries performed without anesthesia; as well as to transfusions of blood from one child to another, isolation endurance and reaction to various stimuli. In one experiment, Dr. Mengele injected chemicals into the eyes of children in an attempt to change their eye color. He carried out twin-to-twin transfusions, stitched twins together, and castrated or sterilized them. Many twins had limbs and organs removed in macabre surgical procedures. When it was reported that one block within the death camp was infected with lice, he solved the problem by gassing all 750 women assigned to it.
Twins who survived tell how children were visited by a smiling “Uncle Mengele” who brought them candy and clothes. Then he had them delivered to his medical laboratory either in trucks painted with the Red Cross emblem or in his personal car to undergo experiments. One twin recalls the death of his brother:
“One day, my twin brother, Tibi, was taken away for some special experiments. Dr. 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 was also a member of the team of doctors assigned to do “selections” of new arrivals to the death camp, those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labor were immediately killed in the gas chambers. He left Auschwitz-Birkenau in January 1945, shortly before the arrival of liberating Red Army troops. He was one of a number of Nazi war criminals who, after the war, fled to safety in a Vatican-sanctioned ratline. Assisted by a network of former SS members, Mengele sailed to Argentina in July 1949. He initially lived in and around Buenos Aires, but fled to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil in 1960, while being sought for trial as a war criminal by West Germany, Israel, and the Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal. In spite of extradition requests by the West German government and clandestine operations by the Mosad (Israeli intelligence agency), Mengele eluded capture. He drowned while swimming off the Brazilian coast in 1979 and was buried under a false name. His remains were disinterred and positively identified by forensic examination in 1985.
Self-identified as Roman Catholic, for his diabolical activity Dr. Mengele earned the nickname, “Angel of Death.” but he was never ex-communicated.