b. March 16, 1911, Günzburg, Ger.
d. Feb. 7, 1979, Enseada da Bertioga, near São Paulo, Brazil
ANGEL OF DEATH,
TODESENGEL, Nazi doctor at Auschwitz extermination camp
(1943-45), who directed the operation of the gas chambers and conducted medical
experiments on inmates in pseudoscientific racial studies.
The Drs. Mengele of the War on Drugs are Alan Leshner, head of the National
Institute on Drug Abuse, Gabriel
Nahas, Erik Voth, and a Miss Lappe.
Mengele's father was
founder of a farm machinery factory, Firma Karl Mengele & Söhne, in
the village of Günzburg in Bavaria. Mengele studied philosophy in Munich
in the 1920s, coming under the influence of the racial ideology of Alfred
Rosenberg, and then took a medical degree at the University of Frankfurt am
Main. He enlisted in the SA (German Sturmabteilung, "Assault
Division") in 1933. Becoming an ardent Nazi, he joined (1934) the research
staff of a newly founded Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene.
During World War II, he served as a medical officer with the Waffen SS in France
and Russia and in 1943 was appointed by Heinrich Himmler to be chief doctor at
Birkenau, a supplementary extermination camp near Auschwitz, where he and his
staff selected incoming Jews for labour or extermination and where he supervised
medical experiments on inmates to discover means of increasing fertility (to
increase the German race). His chief interest, however, was research on twins.
After the war Mengele escaped internment and went underground,
serving four years as a farm stableman near Rosenheim in Bavaria. Then he
reportedly escaped, via Genoa, to South America in 1949. He married (for a
second time) under his own name in Uruguay in 1958 and, as "José Mengele,"
received citizenship in Paraguay in 1959. In 1961 he apparently moved to Brazil,
reportedly becoming friends with an old-time Nazi, Wolfgang Gerhard, and over
the years living in a succession of houses owned by a Hungarian couple. In 1985
a multinational team of Brazilian, West German, and American forensic experts
determined that Mengele took Gerhard's identity, died in 1979 of a stroke
while swimming, and was buried under Gerhard's name. Dental records later
confirmed the forensic conclusion.