Mengele A Psychological Analysis Essay, Research Paper
Monsters are supposed to be fictitious. They are supposed to be something that only appear in nightmares and fairy tails. Unfortunately, sometimes these monsters take on a very real human face. This was the case with Dr. Josef Mengle, also known as the “Angel of Death.” In the essay “What Made This Man? Mengele,” by Robert Jay Lifton and in an excerpt from Bruno Bettelheim’s essay “The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank,” we get some insight into what made Mengele the monster that he was.
Lifton talks about Mengele in great detail, especially his almost psychotic fascination with research on twins. Mengele is described as a very methodical practitioner of all of his duties. His personality is characterized as “dual.” An inmate doctor characterized him as “the double man” who had “all the human feelings, pity and so on,” but also had in his “psyche” an “impenetrable, indestructible cell, which is obedience and received order.” This description, of a gentle man, is exemplified by the almost father like way he treated the twins in his captivity. The methodical monster side is best shown by a case of a set of male twins who showed a symptom of tuberculosis. When the inmate doctors reported that they couldn’t find the disease, Mengele took the twins in another room, shot them in the neck and proceeded to examine their organs, only to come to the same conclusion. Even though the two boys were amongst his favorite captives, he had no trouble, or afterthought, in killing them. Another trait was Mengele’s “schizoid tendencies.” He was paranoid about cleanliness. Inmate doctors had to air out hospital wards prior to his inspection and people were sent to their deaths for having blemishes or scars. In short, Mengle was a schizophrenic, with a dual personality disorder.
In an excerpt from “The Ignored Lesson of Ann Frank,” Bettelheim describes of Mengele’s characteristics. He talks about how Mengele took extreme precautions during the childbirth of one female inmate, including “rigorously observing al aseptic principles, cutting the umbilical cord with greatest care,” only to send both mother and newborn to the gas chamber thirty minutes later. Bettelheim explains this act by saying that Mengele had to “double” himself in order to live with himself and his experience. This excuse is based on the belief that Mengele, although cruel and monstrous on the outside, was really a product of his surrounding. He is saying that Mengele had to adapt.
Although, in my opinion, wrong in his conclusion, Bettelheim adds greater insight, with his account, on Mengele’s psyche. Mengele was not a product of his surroundings in order to cope. I agree with Lifton’s analysis, that Mengele had these monstrous traits all along and his position let them out. He was not coping with his surroundings, he was invigorated and thrived by them. In a different time, Mengele might have exhibited his sadistic nature in a less monstrous way, but he would have exhibited it non the less.