Skip to main content

Josef Rudolf "Angel of Death"

  • Mengele, Josef Rudolf "Angel of Death"
  • SS Hauptsturmführer,and a physician in the Nazi Concentration Camp of Auschwitz.

  • 16-03-1911, G├╝nzberg, Bavaria.
  • Germany.
  • 07-02-1977, age 67, drowned after stroke in Sao Paulo.
  • Cemetery Embu, Sao Paulo. Brazil, under the name Wolfgang Gerhard.. 

  •     

Mengele, Josef Rudolf "Angel of Death"
Josef Mengele born, 16-03-1911, the eldest of three children, to Karl and Walburga, born Hupfauer Mengele in Günzburg, Bavaria, Germany. His younger brothers were Karl Jr and Alois Mengele. Mengele's father was a founder of the Karl Mengele & Sons company, a company that produced farm machinery for milling, sawing, and baling. In 1935, Mengele earned a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Munich. In January 1937, at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt, he became the assistant to Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, who was a leading scientist mostly known for his research in genetics, with a particular interest in twins. Verschuer died age 73, on 08-08-1969, in Münster. In addition, Mengele studied under Theodor Mollison and Eugen Fischer , who had been involved in medical experiments on the Herero tribe in South-West Africa, now Namibia. Fischer died old age 93, on 09-07-1967, in Freiburg. On 28-07-1939, Mengele married Irene Schönbein , whom he had met while studying in Leipzig. Their only son, Rolf, was born in 1944.       Five years after Mengele fled to Buenos Aires in 1949, his wife Irene divorced him. She continued to live in Germany with their son. On 25-07-1958, in Nueva Helvecia, Uruguay, Mengele married Martha Mengele, widow of his deceased brother Karl.  Martha had arrived in Buenos Aires in 1956 with her son, Karl-Heinz Mengele. In 1937, Mengele joined the Nazi Party. In 1938, he received his medical degree and joined the SS. Mengele was conscripted into the army in 1940 and later volunteered to the medical service of the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of the SS, where he distinguished himself as a soldier. Hitler declared war against the Soviet Union on 22-06-1941. Later that same month, Mengele was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for his heroism at the Ukrainian Front. In January 1942, while serving with the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking  behind Soviet lines, he pulled two German soldiers from a burning tank and was awarded the Iron Cross First Class, as well as the Wound Badge in Black and the Medal for the Care of the German People. Mengele was wounded during this campaign; since he was medically unfit for combat, he was posted to the Race and Resettlement Office in Berlin. Mengele resumed an association with his mentor, von Verschuer, who was at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics in Berlin. Just before he was transferred to Auschwitz, Mengele was promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer in April 1943 In May 1943, Mengele replaced another doctor who had fallen ill at the Nazi extermination camp Birkenau. On 24-05-1943, he became medical officer of Auschwitz-Birkenau's Zigeunerfamilienlager ("Gypsy Family Camp"). In August 1944, this camp was liquidated and all its inmates gassed. Subsequently Mengele became Chief Medical Officer of the main infirmary camp at Birkenau. He was not the Chief Medical Officer of Auschwitz, though: his superior was SS-Standortarzt, garrison physician, Eduard Wirths. Wirths was captured by the allies at the end of the war and held in custody by British forces. Later, on 20-09-1945, knowing that he would surely face trial for numerous war crimes, Wirths committed suicide by hanging, age 36, on 20-09-1945. During his 21-month stay at Auschwitz, Mengele was referred to as "der weiße Engel" ("the White Angel") by camp inmates because when he stood on the platform inspecting and selecting new arrivals his white coat and white arms outstretched evoked the image of a white angel. Mengele took turns with the other SS physicians at Auschwitz in meeting incoming prisoners at the camp, where it was determined who would be retained for work and who would be sent to the gas chambers immediately. He also appeared there frequently in search of twins for his experimentation. He would wade through the incoming prisoners, shouting "Zwillinge heraus!" ("Twins out!"), "Zwillinge heraustreten!" ("Twins step forward!") with, according to an assistant he recruited, "such a face that I would think he's mad". Because he "brought such flamboyance and posturing to the selection", he was the individual best remembered for the process. He drew a line on the wall of the children's block 150 centimetres (about 5 feet) from the floor and children whose heads could not reach the line were sent to the gas chambers. "He had a look that said 'I am the power,'" said one survivor. When it was reported that one block was infested with lice, Mengele ordered that the 750 women who lived inside the dormitories be gassed. Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation. He was particularly interested in identical twins; they would be selected and placed in special barracks.
He recruited Berthold Epstein , a Jewish pediatrician, who died age 65, in 1962, and Miklós Nyiszli  , a Hungarian Jewish pathologist, to assist with his experiments and who would die age 54, on 05-05-1956, in Oredea, Romania. The SS abandoned the Auschwitz camp on 27-01-1945, and Mengele transferred to Gross Rosen camp in Lower Silesia, again working as camp physician. Gross Rosen was dissolved at the end of February when the Red Army was close to taking it. Mengele worked in other camps for a short time and, on 2 May, joined a Wehrmacht medical unit led by Hans Otto Kahler, his former colleague at the Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Bohemia.  The unit hurried west to avoid being captured by the Soviets and were taken as prisoners of war by the Americans. Mengele, initially registered under his own name, was released in June 1945 with papers giving his name as "Fritz Hollmann". Mengele showed little regret or remorse for his crimes, and expressed in a letter his astonishment and disgust over the remorseful position taken by Hitler's chief architect and Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer (see Speer). He had a look that said 'I am the power,'" said one survivor. When it was reported that one block was infested with lice, Mengele ordered that the 750 women who lived inside the dormitories be gas  From July 1945 until May 1949, he worked as a farmhand in a small village near Rosenheim, Bavaria, staying in contact with his wife and his old friend Hans Sedlmeier, who arranged Mengele's escape to Argentina via Innsbruck, Sterzing, Meran, and Genoa. Mengele may have been assisted by the ODESSA network, Organization of former SS members. Mengele moved to Nova Europa, about 200 km (120 mi) outside São Paulo, where he lived with Hungarian refugees Geza and Gitta Stammer, working as manager of their farm. In the seclusion of his Brazilian hideaway Mengele was safe. In 1974, when his relationship with the Stammer family was coming to an end, Flyer Ace, Oberst, Hans-Ulrich Rudel (see Rudel) and SS Obersturmbannfùhrer, Adolf Eichmann (see Eichmann) discussed relocating Mengele to Bolivia where he could spend time with Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie    ,    but Mengele rejected this proposal. Instead, he lived in a bungalow in a suburb of São Paulo for the last years of his life. In 1977, his only son Rolf, never having known his father before, visited him there  and found an unrepentant Nazi who claimed that he "had never personally harmed anyone in his whole life". Mengele's health had been deteriorating for years, and he died on 07-02-1977, in Bertioga, Brazil, where he accidentally drowned, or possibly suffered a stroke, while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. 
             .  He was buried in Embu das Artes under the name "Wolfgang Gerhard", whose ID card he had used since 1976. In 1985, the West German police raided Hans Sedlmeier's house in Günzburg and seized address books, letters, and papers hinting at the grave in Embu. The remains of "Wolfgang Gerhard" were exhumed on 06-06-1985 and identified as Mengele's with high probability by forensic experts from UNICAMP.
    Rolf Mengele issued a statement saying that he "had no doubt it was the remains of his father". Everything was kept quiet "to protect those who knew him in South America", Rolf said. In 1992, a DNA test confirmed Mengele's identity. He had evaded capture for 34 years. After the exhumation, the São Paulo Institute for Forensic Medicine stored his remains and attempted to repatriate them to the remaining Mengele family members, but the family rejected them. The bones have been stored at the São Paulo Institute for Forensic Medicine since.