Children liked him. He brought them sweets and drove to their death sites. Joseph (sometimes Josef) Mengele, the Auschwitz physician and ultimate Angel of Death, was perhaps one of the most inhuman monsters to not only ever have lived, but to also have evaded capture.
A leader in the Nazi medical field, Mengele thrived on experiments regarding genetic deformities. Since his crimes came to light, Mengele has come to embody the essence of evil, perhaps because he so willingly violated all professional courtesy in favor of acting out his fantasies of power and control.
Mengele arrived in Auschwitz on May 30, 1943. He was 32 at the time, from a Catholic family, and had been a Nazi supporter since his early years. Mengele was already well-established in the field of medicine, genetic research and surgery, and had specifically requested he be sent to Auschwitz because of opportunities such a place could provide for his research.
As a student Mengele attended the lectures of Dr. Ernst Rudin, who proposed the idea that not only were some lives not worth living, but that doctors had a responsibility to end such life and remove it from existence. Rudin’s outspoken ideologies attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler himself, and Rudin was invited to assist in composing the Law for the Protection of Heredity Health, which passed in 1933, the same year that the Nazis took complete control of the German government.
In 1937, the two great passions in Mengele’s life came to overlap. First, that he craved notoriety as a prestigious scientist. And secondly, that he help towards the genetic purification of an all-Aryan race.
In May of 1938, Mengele applied for membership with and was accepted into the Schutzstaffel, or SS. By the age of 28, Mengele had climbed to a place of authority within the Nazi regime and was fated to wield great power and influence over the ensuing years.
The site of Auschwitz was a plague of misery and despair. The conditions were appalling. Diseases were rife across the site, with such outbreaks of lice, fleas, vermin and typhus being commonplace. Yet, Auschwitz was where Joseph Mengele reigned.
Mengele's mission at Auschwitz was to perform research on human genetics. His work was funded through a grant that Professor von Verschuer had secured through the German Research Council in August of 1943. His goal was to uncover the secrets of genetic engineering, and to invent methods for eradicating inferior gene strands from the human population.
However, despite this scientific premise, Mengele's did nothing to further the advances of science. Instead, his actions only served to inflict unnecessary cruelty upon innocent children.
Mengele very quickly demonstrated an excessive lust for impulsive murder during a typhus epidemic that broke out in one of the camps shortly after he arrived. Mengele demanded almost one thousand Gypsy men and women who were suffering from the disease directly to the gas chambers.
His lack of hesitation to execute a thousand innocent people without a second thought suggest a cold detachment from his fellow man. Additionally, this is the actions of a man with a dangerous desensitization to cruelty and death. It is quite clear that Mengele suffered from sociopathic tendencies long before being granted a high ranking position within the Nazi regime.
Whatever it was that inspired Mengele to commit this first act of genocide, it continued to fuel his desire to be Auschwitz's premier authority over all matters relating to life and death. Mengele was quickly placed in charge of the "selection" process; the decision as to whether innocent victims lived or died. The process was held after trains carrying Jewish deportees had arrived at the camp, and Mengele’s choices were based on personal biases and looks, not any kind of health check or medical exam. Mengele presided over these selection processes with great enthusiasm; often showing up in his best outfits and clearly enjoying himself deciding other people’s fates.
Mengele enjoyed his high ranking position and was entirely comfortable with his responsibilities. On the surface, it appeared as though Mengele’s motivation for such a task was the racial purification of the human race. He clearly relished the power to yield life and death over such a large amount of people.
If anyone disputed a choice made by an SS officer, Mengele might impulsively beat or shoot them. Mengele appeared to be an inhuman, emotionless monster through the entire process. He showed no conscience and no hesitation, and sent anyone with an imperfection directly to the gas chamber.
Mengele’s sociopathic tendencies became clear to anyone who had spent time with Mengele during the selection process. In his efforts to improve the efficiency of the other officers regarding the process, Mengele taught his fellow doctors how to give phenol injections to a long line of prisoners, quickly ending their lives. Mengele also regularly shot people, beat them, humiliated them, and by many reports, even threw live babies into furnaces.
Mengele performed this task with delight, even appearing at selections which he need not officially be present. Despite his obvious pathological need to be detached as well as cruel, Mengele also emitted a grandiose, charming side, which he used to manipulate both colleagues and victims.
He acted in a caring, concerned manner when confronted with exhausted women and their children on the ramp, only to send them to the gas chambers a moment later.
Additionally, Mengele occupied his time with other numerous acts of inhuman barbarism, including the dissection of live children, the removal of children’s genitals without the use of anesthetic, and the administering of electric shocks to women under the guise of testing their levels of endurance.
Mengele would eventually introduce sexual degradation to the already horrific selection process he presided over. Prisoners from the various women's barracks were brought before him and made to strip naked. Mengele would then force each woman to answer questions regarding the intimate details of their sex lives.
Mengele would introduce various substances into the bloodstreams of live children to see what reaction would take place. In most cases, such actions would seriously affect them or kill them. Such occurrences didn’t seem to concern Mengele, however, as he believed his supply of victims was endless.
In incredible contrast, even as Mengele singled out these children for experimentation or death, he would play with them and show them, what appeared like genuine affection. Then, once their death or mutilation had been administered, Mengele would remove their limbs, eyes or organs and attach them to his wall as a trophy.
The most terrifying part, throughout all this, was that Mengele was able to keep a calm, detached demeanor and viewed his actions as beneficial to the progress of science.
Mengele also had one particular obsession: twins. He kept every single set of twins he came across without question. He took great care with them, in stark contrast to how he treated all other children during his selection process. His twins were weighed, measured, and compared to each other in every way. Blood was constantly taken from them and they were questioned extensively about their family histories.
While twins were initially spared from the gas chamber, they were arguably subjected to a crueler fate.
Mengele reserved a special residence for his “children” which he termed the Zoo. These included twins, dwarfs, cripples, anyone with genetic deformities and what he termed “exotic specimens”.
As twins were Mengele’s favorite subject, they were thusly ‘rewarded’ with special benefits such as receiving more food than other prisoners and being able to keep their own clothing. Mengele had instructed his colleagues to take extra care if they discovered any sets of twins, as Mengele was reported to suffer outbursts of anger should any of his future specimens come to harm.
Furthermore, Mengele's children were also spared beatings and manual labor in order to preserve their health. However, this was not Mengele’s humanity coming into play, it was his desire to keep his specimens healthy for when they came to experimentation. Ironically, it would be the intensity and chaotic nature of Mengele’s experiments that caused the children to suffer a death more agonizing than one they would have suffered in the gas chamber.
Young children were restrained in cages, and subjected to a variety of chemicals to determine how they might react. Several twins were castrated or sterilized. Many twins had limbs and organs removed in macabre surgical procedures that Mengele performed without using an anesthetic. Other twins were injected with infectious agents to see how long it would take for them to succumb to various diseases. Mengele even performed some sex-change operations; something was unheard of at the time.
If one twin passed away during his experiments, the other twin was no longer needed. Mengele would then simply send it to the gas chamber.
Mengele had a further obsession with eye color, and was determined to change the eye color of his victims to blue. He would attempt to achieve this by injecting various chemicals such as dye, however he failed greatly in his efforts. All of his attempts to change eye color were met with disease, blindness or death.
Mengele was greatly concerned with the idea of genetic creation of a superior race, however, his personal desires were not lost on his peers. It appeared as though Mengele enjoyed playing God and would continue to do so throughout his entire Nazi career.
The overwhelming evidence against Mengele’s guilt is staggering. It is very difficult to categorize Mengele as any type of particular personality disorder due to the combination of circumstances that allowed him free reign to act out his murderous impulses.
Mengele’s behavior evades description. There are multiple theories regarding his motivations, however it is likely that a combination of motivations, fantasies, circumstances, curiosity, eagerness and ambition were the catalyst to such inhuman acts.
First of all, Mengele relished his role as an SS doctor, scientist and researcher. He adhered strictly to his regimented role and abided by the Nazi codes of discipline without question.
We know that Mengele had a need to please his superiors; something which goes entirely against the notion of an experimental sociopath. He continued to keep his mentors updated on his research, whether they were his medical peers or higher-ups in the Nazi regime.
Mengele was reported to have shown cold detachment from his actions, whether they were injecting chemicals into one victim’s bloodstream or ordering the deaths of a thousand Jews in the gas chamber. Neither one meant anything to him. Despite this, reports also say that Mengele didn’t show pleasure as such, just detachment.
Despite Mengele being an accomplished doctor and scientist, the work he did on the subject of human experimentation discovered no scientific findings whatsoever. Nothing was discovered, and his actions only served to introduce the Nuremberg Code upon the ending of World War II; a series of ethics that must be followed when carrying out experiments.
We can conclude that Mengele's experimentation had absolutely nothing to do with true scientific research; a very strange fact considering Mengele’s enthusiasm for scientific discovery. It was simply the result of one man's overly-ambitious adherence to his vision of German supremacy.
Mengele fled from Auschwitz on January 17, 1945. He initially remained in hiding for a number of years, assuming a new identity and working odd jobs as a manual laborer. He kept in touch with German confidantes throughout, who kept him in the know regarding advancements of the Allies and Soviets.
For a while, Mengele attempted to continue his career as a scientist, but he soon realized he would be found out given his obvious occupation, and would be subsequently sentenced to death should he be discovered.
Mengele finally decided that Europe wasn’t safe for hiding, and so fled to Argentina via ocean liner in 1949. Fortunately for Mengele, at the time Argentina was ruled by dictator Juan Peron, a noted Nazi supporter and enthusiast. Because of this, Mengele was able to mix in with such a setting quite easily and soon established a new identity thanks to his involvement with multiple Nazi supporters.
Mengele spent the rest of his life evading capture. Neo-Nazi groups protected him in South America, and he was unknowingly assisted by the lack of co-operation by the German government to locate him.
Mengele’s freedom was seemingly overshadowed by the pursuit by authorities to locate Adolf Eichmann, a higher ranking Nazi official who was also rumored to be living in Argentina. Mengele was close to being captured numerous times by the Israeli government but was able to slip by their cross-hairs every time.
Sightings of Mengele continued through the 1960s and 1970s, with reports of him being located in Spain, Brazil, Paraguay and Greece. Although very soon, Mengele seemed to drop off the radar of all international governments. It wasn’t until 1985 when interest in Mengele’s whereabouts suddenly reinvigorated.
A group of Auschwitz survivors returned to the death camp in order to pay tribute to those who had died there. The following week, the same survivors gathered in Jerusalem to try Mengele in absentia. The event received extensive media exposure, and for four nights, TV and radio stations were filled with Auschwitz survivors describing their agonizing ordeals at the hands of the Angel of Death.
One month later, the United States Justice Department and the Israeli government announced that the case of Joseph Mengele was officially reopened. They were finally going to bring him to justice.
Simon Wiesenthal, a renowned Nazi hunter, stated that he has had the opportunity to capture or kill Joseph Mengele on multiple occasions, but has refrained from doing so. Wiesenthal states his reasons that “Mengele’s life is no longer important to us.” He claims that killing a man response for 300,000 deaths is futile as it won’t bring any about real justice.
On 31st May 1985, German police raided the home of a man named Hans Sedlmeier who was a friend and confidante of Mengele’s. The police had been tipped off regarding Mengele and Sedlmeier’s acquaintance. Letters between Mengele and Sedlmeier were discovered at the home, and very soon the police were able to track the houses of where Mengele had lived in Brazil.
After thorough investigation, the police discovered that Mengele had reportedly died in a drowning accident in 1979. His death was kept quiet in order to protect those who had sheltered Mengele after his escape from Germany.
The police then discovered the grave where Mengele had been buried in, which possessed the name Wolfgang Gerhard – Mengele’s fake name since 1971. The body in the grave was exhumed, and forensic tests confirmed that the skeleton buried inside did indeed belong to Dr Joseph Mengele.
In life, Mengele was the author of life and death. He played god for a number of years and did so without legal or moral repercussions. Mengele was directly responsible for the deaths of around 300,000 individuals, all of whom were killed in a vile, unnecessary, degrading manner. His involvement in such a catastrophic amount of deaths makes him one of the most sought-after criminals ever to have lived, but unfortunately, he will never receive any kind of justice.
Just how Mengele managed to evade capture for over thirty years is unexplainable, particularly as his identity was known to many. It is a tragic state of affairs that he escaped, but Joseph Mengele sought the ability to control life and death, and it turns out he managed to do just that...