Dr. Josef Mengele, The Angel of Death, is one of the most well known of all the Nazi doctors from the Holocaust. Mengele is well known for the unspeakable crimes he committed against Jewish men, women and especially children. The following essay discusses the experiments of Dr. Mengele, the deception he used in carrying out his gruesome crimes and the pain he left behind for the few victims who survived. “The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it”. – Joseph Mengele. Born in 1911, Dr, Josef Mengele was considered a popular, intelligent child.
His career in science began when he entered as a philosophy student in Munich and then as a science student at Frankfurt University (Bulow). Mengele’s first study was conducted on the racial differences that can be seen in the lower jaw of humans (Bulow). Dr. Mengele had a number of interests, twin phenomenon, physiology and the “pathology of dwarfism”; he was also interested in the varying colors of irises among humans and the study of “noma” or “‘water cancer’ of the cheek” (“Experiments”). After joining the Nazi party in 1937 and being wounded in 1942 at the Russian front, Mengele then volunteered to work at the Auschwitz death camp.
Mengele’s dream to become a “renowned scientist and genetic purifier” became a reality at Auschwitz (Lynott, par. 1). Historians have considered Mengele the “surviving symbol of Adolf Hitler’s ‘final solution’” (par. 2). In almost two years spent in Auschwitz, Mengele killed thousands of Jews. He was most obsessed with experiments involving twins; especially identical twins (Bulow). After prisoners arrived, Mengele joined other officers in the selection; his choices primarily depended on what experiments he aimed to conduct; but always included twins and those with physical disabilities or deformities (“Experiments”).
Science and murder were synonymous to Mengele. His first documented act of murder was on one thousand Gypsies who he had sent to the gas chambers after they had contracted typhus (Lynott). This murder fueled “his ambition to be Auschwitz’s premier authority over matters of life and death” (par. 4). Survivors have commented on Dr. Mengele’s obvious enjoyment in the selection process; he would even appear at times when he wasn’t on duty (Lynott). Reports of Mengele’s duties in the selection process were most notorious because Mengele, unlike other SS soldiers and doctors, arrived for his selection duties sober (Lynott).
There are stories of Mengele’s singing after committing grizzly murders, a man who obviously enjoyed his work. Mengele was able to transform from cold blooded murder to a sophisticated, charming gentleman; using his charms to “disarm colleagues and victims alike” (“Deadly Charm”, par. 1). Many survivors remembered a sweet, charming man confronting new prisoners just before they were thrown into the gas chambers. Mengele’s personality became one of his most powerful assets, he had the ability to instill a “deep-seated primal fear into all those with whom he came into contact” (“Deadly Charm”, par.
1). Mengele enjoyed degrading Jewish women, young and old. Many women prisoners were to walk in front of the doctor while telling him their sexually history; where he would then be their judge, calling them demeaning names (Lynott). Some consider this degradation a sign of his hidden desire for the “forbidden” women. Dr. Mengele’s mentor from his college days, Professor von Verschuer, focused the majority of his research on twins; however, due to pre-Nazi ethics, no physical studies were done by von Verschuer; his work consisted of the observation of twins.
It was Professor von Verschuer who found Auschwitz to be the perfect testing grounds for twin studies. Mengele was eager to please his mentor and did so in Auschwitz (Lynott). Both Verschuer and Mengele believed that “if sets of twins without hereditary defects were carefully analyzed a researcher could synthesize a complete and reliable determination of heredity and the relation ‘between disease, racial types and miscegenation’” (“Who was Josef Mengele? ” par. 3). Mengele’s experiments were actually approved and funded by his mentor, Professor von Verschuer, and the German Research Council.
The experiments were considered human genetic research (Lynott). Mengele had a mission in conducted some of these experiments; his goal was to “unlock secrets of genetic engineering, and to devise methods for eradicating inferior gene strands from the human population”, thus making the German superior race (par. 1). Mengele’s experiments added nothing to the understanding of human genetics or genetic engineering (Lynott). Mengele claimed his experiments were for the good of science but the majority of them seemed like a drawn out torture, ending in death.
Some of Mengele’s so called experiments consisted of dissecting live babies, castrating “boys and men without the use of anesthetic” and administering “high-voltage electric shock to women inmates” (“Deadly Charm”, par. 3); supposedly this shock experiment was conducted to test women’s endurance. Many of Mengele’s experiments involved children; once the children died their organs and sometimes their heads were preserved in jars and sent to institutions such as the Medical Academy in Graz, Austria. These horrendous, unspeakable crimes were only a few of the hundreds Mengele conducted (“Experiments”).
As one of the highest ranking SS doctors, Mengele was quick to show his authority by ordering and then supervising the deaths of thousands of women, men and children. One such instance was when the doctor rounded up several SS men and proceeded to create horizontal pits of fire; ten dump trucks full of children backed into the fires and dumped the screaming, terrified children into the pits, on Mengele’s orders (Lynott). Typically, the first phase of Mengele’s experiments on twins and those with physical disabilities began with hours of medical examinations which were “painful and exhausting” (“Experiments”).
After experiments, subjects were photographed, molds of their teeth and jaws were made and then “finger prints and toe prints were taken” (“Experiments”). Once Mengele ran out of uses for his subjects, he would have them killed with phenol injections which resulted in one last experiment; autopsy and “comparative analysis of internal organs” (“Experiments”). Injections used on prisoners were “phenol, petrol, Evipal, or chloroform”, other times, Mengele, or an SS worker who was ordered by Mengele, would inject air into the blood stream or the heart of a prisoner (“Deadly Charm”, par. 4).
The doctor quickly became obsessed with twins during his two year stay at Auschwitz. Louis Bulow describes a time when an SS soldier was sent out in the middle of the night to round up fourteen gypsy twins; Mengele placed them on his polished marble dissection table and put them to sleep. He then proceeded to inject chloroform into their hearts, killing them instantaneously. He then began dissecting and meticulously noting each and every piece of the twins’ bodies (par. 7). Mengele kept “exotic specimens” such as twins, cripples and dwarfs separate for the prisoner population (Lynott).
Any newly arriving Jews with noticeable genetic abnormalities were brought into Dr. Mengele’s laboratory and kept with his other “special” prisoners until Mengele decided he had no more use for them and killed them. Twins were treated better than the other prisoners; they were given extra rations, were allowed to keep their own clothes and were not forced to cut off their hair (Lynott). Twin children were protected by the SS soldiers, so the doctor’s specimens would not die. The team of scientists working with Mengele to study twins included “a radiologist, an anthropologist and a pathologist” (“Who was Josef Mengele?
”). Enormous files were kept on twin experimentation, with almost all cases ending in a description of the prisoners’ dissection. Mengele’s cruelty played mind games with many survivors; especially twin children. It was Mengele who sentenced their families to death, yet it was this same man who kept them alive. The doctor made sure that his “specimens” knew that their fate was in his hands. Many referred to Mengele’s young twin prisoners as “Mengele’s Children” because of their “privileges”; they did not have to endure beatings, starvation, random selections or forced labor (Lynott).
Sometimes Mengele allowed them to socialize, and play games like soccer (“Mengele’s Children”). He delivered his “children” to his laboratory in fake Red Cross trucks while he gave them candy and a fake smile (Bulow). As one survivor wrote; Mengele’s presence did not necessarily connote fear in the children. He was often known to appear with pockets full of candy and chocolates, to pat them on the head, to talk with them, and sometimes even play. Many of the children, especially the younger ones, called him “Uncle Mengele” (“Life for the Twins”, par. 2). The doctor was constantly creating new tests and procedures for his patients.
Daily blood samples of the twin prisoners were sent to Berlin, to Mengele’s mentor Professor von Verschuer (Lynott). Twins received blood of other twins, resulting in extreme headaches and fever (Lynott). “Blood was drawn from twins’ fingers and arms, and sometimes both their arms simultaneously. The youngest children, whose arms and hands were very small, suffered the most: Blood was drawn from their necks, a painful and frightening procedure,” researchers have estimated that “approximately ten cubic centimeters of blood was drawn daily” (as cited on “Who was Josef Mengele?
”). Twins were used for a variety of experiments, Mengele used the bodies until the tests became too much and the prisoner died. One type of experiment conducted by Mengele was an attempt to change the color of “specimens” eyes. He began with prisoners having brown eyes; the doctor would then inject methylene blue die into the eyes of his prisoners (“Who was Josef Mengele? ”). Several of these experiments resulted in painful infections; and in one case blindness and a second case led to death (par. 10).
There have been reports that once the prisoners died of other experimental means and were at one point involved in the eye color experimentation, Mengele would take the eyes of the prisoners and pin them to his office wall (Lynott) or send them to his mentor Professor von Verschuer (“Who was Josef Mengele? ”). As disturbing as this is, this is mild in comparison to Mengele’s other experiments and practices. The effects of isolation were researched by Mengele and his associates by leaving children in “isolation chambers” and then studying the long term effects (Lynott).
Many gruesome experiments were conducted by Dr. Mengele. Like a mad scientist, Dr. Mengele removed limbs and organs from twins, attaching them to others, and all surgeries were performed without anesthesia (Lynott). Mengele experimented with infectious diseases, injecting his patients with dangerous “infectious agents to see how long it would take for them to succumb to various diseases” (“Mengele’s Research”, par. 6). Other experiments conducted by Mengele included “twin-to-twin transfusions”, stitching twins together and castration or sterilization of twins (Bulow, par.
2). Comparison autopsies were conducted when one twin died; the other would be killed immediately in order to carry out a side-by-side autopsy (“Corruption”). Dr. Mengele was also interested in “noma”, a “gangrenous condition of the face and mouth due to extreme debilitation” (“Who was Josef Mengele? ” par. 9) Mengele tried to find genetic and racial causes for this disease when the disease was actually a result of Auschwitz’s unsanitary conditions (par. 9). Children were used for a variety of deadly experiments.
One experiment, called the daisy game, was a mind control experiment which Mengele would program a child with the “I love you, I love you not” rhyme while pulling petals off a daisy (“Mind Control”). The programmed child would be naked and locked in cage with low voltage wires attached to the metal sides of the cage (“Mind Control”). The doctor would study the child’s increasing heart rate as “erratic or sporadic continual shocks” continued to pulse through the child, until he or she went into a state of uncontrollable anxiety (“Mind Control”). Dr.
Mengele would then stand in front of the child, who was still being shocked, and slowly and deliberately pull one petal at a time off a daisy while repeating “I love you, I love you not…” The child was fully aware that once the last petal was pulled he would die. While other children watched in their designated cages, the experimental child would be skinned alive and killed (“Mind Control”). Although there are victims of Dr. Mengele who have testified to his atrocious experiments; there are those who believe that the vial acts Mengele has been accused of are false.
Some people have claimed that Dr. Mengele’s personality was not one of a psychotic killer but of a humanitarian (Weber). While these skeptics feel that Mengele did conduct experiments, they were no different then those of the U. S. governments during and after World War II (Weber). Author Mark Weber defends Mengele, comparing him to the American scientists of WWII, he writes; American military physicians infected Negroes with syphilis without their knowledge as part of an investigation of new ways to treat venereal disease.
And during the 1950s the CIA financed psychiatric experiments involving LSD, sleep deprivation, massive shock therapy and attempted brain-washing of hospital patients without their knowledge or consent (par. 11). Weber considers Mengele to have been a sophisticated gentleman, who had worked closely with many Jewish doctors in Auschwitz. Weber and other similar skeptics of Auschwitz history believe that the claims of Mengele’s extreme experiments and cold-hearted killings are simply untrue; that Mengele allowed many Jews who were unable to work to live in the camps and be spared from the gas chambers.
After fleeing Germany at the end of the war to South America, Mengele stayed with a couple on a farm in Brazil for thirteen years (Weber). The wife, Mrs. Stammer told of Mengele’s insistence of innocence from any heinous acts in Auschwitz. Mengele told the couple that he was in fact “a victim of great injustice” (as cited in Weber). A second couple, which Mengele stayed with towards the end of his life, stated that they felt Mengele was a very kind man and they doubted the truthfulness of charges against him (Weber). According to Weber;
A long-time friend of both Dr. Mengele and the Mengele family in Germany, Hans Sedlmeier, told a reporter: “I could tell you what Mengele did, what he did during Auschwitz, what he did after Auschwitz, but you wouldn’t believe me. The newspapers won’t print the truth, because it’s not in the interest of the Jews…. I refuse to talk about the Mengele affair. Journalists have already written so many lies, and what the Jewish press has asserted… ” Apparently exasperated, he did not finish the sentence (as cited in Weber, par. 22).
Weber supports his theory that Mengele’s was innocent of such inhumane acts in Auschwitz by discussing the media frenzy over Mengele’s death; which took six years to confirm. Even after confirmation, “Nazi hunters” and “Holocaust experts” were insisting that Mengele’s was still alive. Reports from the average Joe to “Holocaust expert” claimed to have seen Mengele in various countries were being broadcasted daily. These reports caused Weber to feel that Mengele’s alleged heinous crimes were nothing more than media hype and Jews trying to take revenge.
Mark Weber went as far as to claim the Nazi War Criminal’s Most Wanted is a joke, unfortunately, Weber is not the only cynic. There were very few victims of Dr. Mengele left after the Holocaust, however the accounts that survivors tell are true nightmares. Dr. Mengele’s experiments were documented; unfortunately many were destroyed at the end of the war to avoid the prosecution of the doctor. Historians and victims alike feel that Dr. Mengele reveled in his power that was created by his cruel experiments and the ability to chose who lived and who died.
As Mengele’s power grew, his experiments became more deplorable. While many of his experiments were what he considered to be based on racial and mind control experimentation; there was nothing scientific about what he and his colleagues did to men, women and children. Many of the notes on experiments Mengele conducted in Auschwitz died with him when he drowned in Brazil in 1979. Of the approximate three thousand twins that were taken for experimentation during selection, only two hundred survived (“Mengele’s Children”).
While there are those who are skeptical of Dr. Josef Mengele’s actual participation in Auschwitz during the Holocaust; it is deplorable for those skeptics to question the memories of those few survivors who have been left to tell the true horrors of Auschwitz. To think that the few survivors of Auschwitz’s medical laboratories would fabricate such horrific stories of experimentation is absurd. It is unfathomable that anyone could create such monstrous tales and therefore these victims’ horrors must be true and Dr. Mengele was indeed a monster.
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