Josef Mengele

Josef Mengele
Josef Mengele, Auschwitz. Album Höcker (cropped).jpg
Pictured outside Auschwitz in 1944
Nickname(s)Angel of Death (German: Todesengel)[1]
Born(1911-03-16)16 March 1911
Günzburg, Bavaria, Germany
Died7 February 1979(1979-02-07) (aged 67)
Bertioga, São Paulo, Brazil
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Years of service1938–1945
RankSS-Hauptsturmführer (captain)
Service number
Awards
Spouse(s)
  • Irene Schönbein
    (m. 1939; div. 1954)
  • Martha Mengele (widow of his brother Karl) (m. 1958)

Josef Mengele (ə/; German: [ˈmɛŋələ]; 16 March 1911 – 7 February 1979) was a German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer and physician in Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He performed deadly human experiments on prisoners and was a member of the team of doctors who selected victims to be killed in the gas chambers. Arrivals that were judged able to work were admitted into the camp, while those deemed unsuitable for labor were sent to the gas chambers to be killed. With Red Army troops sweeping through Poland, Mengele was transferred 280 kilometers (170 mi) from Auschwitz to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp on 17 January 1945, just ten days before the arrival of the Soviet forces at Auschwitz. After the war, he fled to South America where he evaded capture for the rest of his life.

Before the war, Mengele had received doctorates in anthropology and medicine, and began a career as a researcher. He joined the Nazi Party in 1937 and the SS in 1938. He was assigned as a battalion medical officer at the start of World War II, then transferred to the Nazi concentration camps service in early 1943 and assigned to Auschwitz, where he saw the opportunity to conduct genetic research on human subjects. His subsequent experiments focused primarily on twins, with little regard for the health or safety of the victims.[2][3]

Mengele sailed to Argentina in July 1949, assisted by a network of former SS members. He initially lived in and around Buenos Aires, then fled to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil in 1960, while being sought by West Germany, Israel, and Nazi hunters such as Simon Wiesenthal who wanted to bring him to trial. He eluded capture in spite of extradition requests by the West German government and clandestine operations by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. He drowned in 1979 after suffering a stroke while swimming off the Brazilian coast, and was buried under a false name. His remains were disinterred and positively identified by forensic examination in 1985.

Early life and education

Mengele was born on 16 March 1911 to Karl and Walburga (née Hupfauer) Mengele in Günzburg, Bavaria, Germany.[4] He was the oldest of three children; his two younger brothers were Karl Jr. and Alois. Their father was founder of the Karl Mengele & Sons company, producers of farm machinery.[5] Josef was successful at school and developed an interest in music, art, and skiing.[6] He completed high school in April 1930 and went on to study philosophy in Munich,[7] where the headquarters of the Nazi Party were located.[8] In 1931, Mengele joined the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten, a paramilitary organization that was absorbed into the Nazi Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment; SA) in 1934.[7][9]

In 1935, Mengele earned a PhD in anthropology from the University of Munich.[7] In January 1937, he joined the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt, where he worked for Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, a German geneticist with a particular interest in researching twins.[7] As von Verschuer's assistant, Mengele focused on the genetic factors that result in a cleft lip and palate, or a cleft chin.[10] His thesis on the subject earned him a cum laude doctorate in medicine (MD) from the University of Frankfurt in 1938.[11] (Both of his degrees were revoked by the issuing universities in the 1960s.)[12] In a letter of recommendation, von Verschuer praised Mengele's reliability and his ability to verbally present complex material in a clear manner.[13] The American author Robert Jay Lifton notes that Mengele's published works were in keeping with the scientific mainstream of the time, and would probably have been viewed as valid scientific efforts even outside Nazi Germany.[13]

On 28 July 1939, Mengele married Irene Schönbein, whom he had met while working as a medical resident in Leipzig.[14] Their only son, Rolf, was born in 1944.[15]

Other Languages
العربية: يوزاف منغيله
aragonés: Josef Mengele
تۆرکجه: یوزف منقله
беларуская: Іозеф Менгеле
български: Йозеф Менгеле
bosanski: Josef Mengele
català: Josef Mengele
čeština: Josef Mengele
Deutsch: Josef Mengele
español: Josef Mengele
Esperanto: Josef Mengele
euskara: Josef Mengele
français: Josef Mengele
hrvatski: Josef Mengele
Bahasa Indonesia: Josef Mengele
íslenska: Josef Mengele
italiano: Josef Mengele
latviešu: Jozefs Mengele
lietuvių: Josef Mengele
македонски: Јозеф Менгеле
Bahasa Melayu: Josef Mengele
Nederlands: Josef Mengele
português: Josef Mengele
română: Josef Mengele
Simple English: Josef Mengele
slovenčina: Josef Mengele
slovenščina: Josef Mengele
српски / srpski: Јозеф Менгеле
svenska: Josef Mengele
Türkçe: Josef Mengele
українська: Йозеф Менгеле
Tiếng Việt: Josef Mengele