Josef Mengele was born in 1911 in the German Empire and was known as the ‘Angel of Death’ or the ‘Nazi Doctor’. He was mostly known for his experiments on people in the deadly Nazi concentration camps.
Mengele was also partially responsible for the victims of the gas chambers.
Mengele’s Early Life
As stated above, he was born in 1911 in the German Günzburg as the son of Walburga and Karl Mengele. Mengele was quite good at school and had an extensive interest in Art and Music. In 1930, Mengele completed high school and then went to study Philosophy in Munich.
At the time, the Nazi headquarters were located in Munich. A year later, he decided to join Der Stahlhelm, a military organization part of the Nazi Party.
In 1935, Mengele graduated and received his Ph.D. in Anthropology. Two years later, he started to work for “The Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt.”
As the assistant of Doctor Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, Mengele researched genetics and wrote his thesis about how genetic factors could have a role in a cleft lip and palate or a cleft chin.
Mengele’s Military Experience
The Nazi ideology brought together some of the elements Mengele studied. Like race and eugenics. This made it very attractive to Mengele.
He joined the Nazi party in 1937 and the SS in 1938, and as he joined this military unit, he received some basic military training and was called for service in 1940 after the war broke out when Germany attacked Poland.
He soon volunteered for the Medical Service, where he served as Untersturmführer. He soon was selected to work at the Race and Settlement Office, which evaluated potential candidates for Germanisation.
His Work in Auswitchz
After recovery, he was no longer suitable for the front, and he was sent to Berlin. From May 30, 1943, he worked in Auschwitz concentration camp as a doctor and responsible for selecting prisoners.
He owes his nickname “Todesengel” (Angel of Death) mainly to this position; Mengele selected the prisoners upon arrival at the camp. Those who did not pass the selection were immediately forwarded to the gas chamber.
Mengele became notorious for his brutal medical experiments in Block 10 of Auschwitz on prisoners, and especially on twins, who were considered important for eugenics because of their genetic similarity.
The experiments included exposure to cold to death, experiments in vacuum chambers, limb amputation and organ removal (reportedly often without anesthesia), and trying medical treatments and drugs.
One of his experiments aimed to make conjoined twins by sewing identical twins together — an experiment that failed. He also experimented with injecting a blue substance into the eyes to make them “Aryan.”
During his time in Auschwitz, Mengele provided all kinds of human material to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics in Berlin and its director, Verschuer.
In the medical science world, where the individual fate of patients is central, Mengele’s experiments are widely rejected and regarded as criminal. In any case, the results of his experiments are scientifically useless.
Reliable scientific testing was lacking, and the rationale that one race is superior to another is unfounded. Mengele pursued something that he never obtained.
After the war, a debate started about under which conditions medical experiments on humans are allowed. This led to the Helsinki Declaration prepared by the World Medical Association.
Life After the War
After the war, Mengele worked under a false name between 1945 and 1949 as a farmhand in Mangolding, a village near Rosenheim. In 1949 he escaped to South America via Italy.
Between 1949 and 1959, he lived in Buenos Aires, financially supported by his family. In 1954 he divorced his wife. In 1956 he spent a vacation in Switzerland with the widow of his brother Karl, his German-born only son, and a cousin. He applied for and received a new German passport under his own name.
He married again in 1958 in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, to his sister-in-law Martha Maria Weil, the widow of Karl. In 1957, Mengele, who worked in Buenos Aires as a doctor in illegal abortion clinics, was arrested by the Argentine police on charges of 100-fold abortion and the death of a young woman during an abortion.
Mengele died in 1979 while swimming, possibly of a heart attack or a stroke. He was buried under the name ‘Wolfgang Gerhard.’ His death remained a secret for several years.
At the time, large sums of money were offered for his arrest. His identity was confirmed in 1985 after excavation of the body and measurement of the bones and finally proved in 1992 when his DNA was compared with that of living relatives.