German doctor, Josef Mengele left an ironic legacy as one of the most terrifying and vilest murderers in history. By carrying out inhumane medical experiments on thousands of innocent Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp, Mengele became notoriously known as the “Angel of Death.” Here’s the life story of the notorious Nazi physician who mysteriously got away with his crimes for decades.
Bio and Pre-Holocaust
The notorious Nazi doctor was born on March 16, 1911, in Günzburg, near Ulm. Born with a silver spoon, Josef was the eldest son of Karl Mengele, a successful German businessman who was into manufacturing. Growing up, Mengele was naturally intelligent and his wealthy background made him quite popular among his peers. An ambitious mind and a graduate of the University of Munich, Mengele earned a doctorate in anthropology in the year 1935.
He further pursued his post-doctoral work at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt under a prominent Nazi scientist and eugenicist, Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer. Mengele enthusiastically learned well under von Verschuer who was at the time famous for his research with twins, and after one year, he not only earned his second doctorate in medicine but also got a recommendation from the renowned scientist. It was while working with Verschuer that Mengele sparked up the curious interest in using twins for medical research.
Josef Mengele Experiments That Made Him Angel of Death
In May 1943, Mengele was transferred to Auschwitz where he resumed as the medical officer in charge of Birkenau’s concentration camp. Mengele’s enthusiastic character got the best of him in the Birkenau camp and also marked the beginning of his infamous tenure. The Nazi doctor who seemed to be almost everywhere always had a meticulous appearance and was ever eager to manage any extra camp work not technically assigned to him.
According to various survivor accounts, Mengele had a characteristic cruel demeanor on camp and was often noticed searching for twins in the selection area whenever new prisoners were dispatched at Auschwitz. Besides discharging his normal daily duties in camp alongside other Nazi doctors, Mengele began studying the influence of heredity on various physical traits. As part of his study, he also carried out and managed his own research using numerous inmates he carefully selected for his human experiment.
With a wide variety of research interests which included a fascination with heterochromia, (a condition in which a person had two different colors of the iris), Mengele carried out several dehumanizing and lethal experiments with twins, especially kids. He either maimed or killed his subjects through various means such as gouging out the eyes of people with different colors of iris, stitching twins together behind, and dissecting them for experiments.
After assembling numerous pairs of twins, Mengele would turn one of the twins into his lab rat by injecting him/her with mysterious substances. If his test subject died, the same fate would befall the other twin who would also be instantly murdered with chloroform injected into the heart. He would then proceed to dissect the twins and carry out autopsies for comparison. More so, the Nazi doctor also injected dyes into children’s eyes for pathology tests in Germany.
Desperate to trace the genetic origins of various diseases, D.r Mengele eventually became famous for his experiment with twins and consequently became known with the monikers ‘Angel of Death’ or ‘White Angel’. With his pointless and futile research efforts in Auschwitz, Mengele hoped to not only prove Nazi race theories but also make a second post-doctoral dissertation which would pave the way for his admission into a German university as a professor.
Post War and Death
In January 1945, Dr. Josef Mengele fled Auschwitz camp to avoid being captured by the Red Army. Though he was initially held in custody by the US Army immediately after the war, he was soon released because US officials were not yet aware that his name was on the list of wanted war criminals and also the most wanted Nazi in the world at the time.
From 1945 to 1949, with the aid of his family, the Nazi doctor settled in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he worked on farmlands under false aliases. Before becoming the most wanted Nazi in the world, Mengele and another Nazi bureaucrat, Adolf Eichmann were at the top of the list. But after Nazi hunters captured Eichmann in Buenos Aires, tried and killed him, Mengele fled, first to Paraguay and then Brazil to continue evading the authorities who were hot on his trail.
Mengele spent his last years living in poverty and with isolated families near Sao Pãolo. Stressed out from loneliness as well as the paranoia of being captured, Mengele’s health deteriorated. After being sheltered from justice by Nazi friends and family for more than three decades, karma finally caught up with Dr. Josef Mengele on February 7, 1979. He died in Brazil – while swimming at a resort – from a stroke. He was buried in a Sao Pãolo suburb under the alias Wolfgang Gerhard.
In June 1985, after collecting several pieces of evidence over the years, investigators trailed Mengele’s grave to that of the man buried as Wolfgang Gerhard. After digging up the grave, forensic and genetic evidence positively proved that the remains actually belonged to Josef Mengele. It was revealed in March 2016, that a Brazillian court had ruled that Mengele’s remains will be used for medical research by student doctors at the University of São Paulo.