Josef Mengele Essay, Research Paper
THE ANGEL OF DEATH: JOSEF MENGELE
“Right, left”, what man could send people to their death with a flick of a cane, without batting an eye? Josef
Mengele. The stories and pictures of Auschwitz tell a gruesome tale of death and torture. Stories of the
abused, used, and killed, the tales of the torturees have been told, but what about the torturers? The SS, the
“doctors”, the ones who carried out the deeds, what was their life like? That is what this paper will focus on.
What went on inside the pathology lab, and what went on inside the pathologist.
Millions of people passed through Auschwitz, Mengele’s domain, during the Holocaust. Early in 1945, it was
recorded that over 700,000 people were currently “living” (dying) there. Over 1 million people were killed at
Auschwitz, about a fifth of all the Jews killed. People were brought to Auschwitz in cattle cars, hundreds of
people would be put into a car and then not let out for days, without food or water. Even when the trains
arrived at Auschwitz they would often sit on the track for days until all the many trains which had come before
were unloaded. After this hellish journey, the first thing that people saw was Josef Mengele, the angel of
Auschwitz standing in his immaculate SS uniform, shining boots, perfectly brushed and pressed shirt and
pants, and glistening silver skulls.
Josef Mengele was a doctor at Auschwitz, he performed experiments, made selections, and is responsible for
sending thousands of people to the crematorium. As a person he was “split”, one side of him was the
heartless, uncaring, medical-atrocities side, while the other was a gentle, almost human side. When these two
side overlapped was when Mengele was most horrible. Often when taking small children to the gas chamber,
he would give them candy and make a game out of, “walking to the chimney”. Another example of false
kindness is well put in the words of Moshe Offer, a test subject of Mengele.
“They took X-rays of us, then Doctor Mengele came in. And he gave us sweets. He wore a white gown, but
beneath it you could see the SS trousers. He gave us candy, and then gave us some horribly painful
Josef Mengele was very high up in Nazi status, he reported to Heinrich Himmler, who reported directly to
Adolf Hitler. The attraction of Auschwitz to Mengele was the limitless supply of human test subjects. Mengele
was able to perform ANYTHING he wanted on live, human subjects. Life was good for Mengele at
Auschwitz, everyday he got luxuries: a fifth of a liter of vodka, a dozen cigarettes, and German sausage.
Auschwitz was a regular world for SS officers, there were houses with white picket fences to live in, a soccer
stadium, a theater, and an SS officers club where the officers got gourmet meals. It was not uncommon for an
SS officer to dine on roasted chicken and potatoes, while the prisoners were starving and dying.
Mengele served many purposes at Auschwitz, he made selections of the newly arriving prisoners, those who
could work to the right, and those who couldn’t to the left (gas chambers), and he performed experiments.
Mengele wanted to create a “pure” Aryan race, and to make German mothers give birth to as many German
babies as possible.
Doing selections gave Mengele access to any prisoner he wanted, he could hand pick his test subjects-and he
did. “Zwillinge, Zwillinge, Zwillinge!” Twins, Twins, Twins! Mengele picked twins, dwarfs, and people who
had deformities to do experiments on. He wanted to erase these traits from the “pure” Aryan race. Mengele
was very interested in doing autopsies on twins who had died at the exact same time, in the real world one
twin might die at 7 while the other might die at 77, but in this closed environment he could study twins who
had died at the same moment.
Many of Mengele’s experiments were based on literally creating a blond hair blue eyed race. One reason why
Mengele might have been obsessed with “German” looks is because his brown hair and eyes, and his
gypsy-esque look didn’t define him as a “pure” Aryan. One of his most famous experiments was with eye
color. Mengele or one of his assistants would inject dyes into the unanesthetized eye of a child, preferably a
set of twins. The dyes often resulted in injury, sometimes complete blindness, not to mention excruciating pain.
Another set of experiments were designed to create better equipment for German soldiers, better gear for the
cold, and for high altitudes. A set of freezing experiments were performed to make clothing for navy crew
who might fall in the water. People were placed in vats of ice water, naked, to see the fatal temperature of a
human. People were locked outside, in snow and ice, also naked, to collect more information on human body
temperature. Also sometimes after he had chilled someone Mengele would try to warm the person up, back
to normal functioning levels-this almost never worked.
One of the more gruesome experiments was a pressure chamber. Prisoners were locked inside a pressure
chamber that would simulate flying at high altitudes. The person’s breathing pattern was meticulously
recorded, until they died. People would often kill themselves by throwing themselves against the walls of the
chamber, so that they would not die a more horrible death, suffocation and sometimes explosion. As in the
words of Anton Pacholegg, an Austrian prisoner who assisted Dr. Rascher in the Dachau camp;
“I have personally seen through the observation window of the decompression chamber, when a prisoner
inside would stand a vacuum until his lungs ruptured.”
One can not help but wonder what kind of a person could ever consider doing things so horrible, much less
carry them out. Who could ever kill an innocent child by injecting chloroform into their heart, causing the
blood to coagulate and kill the child. Who could ever imagine sewing a set of twins together to try and make
siamese twins? These acts just seem to be out of the human realm. Yet Josef Mengele did all of these acts,
and more. When the Nazis realized that the Allied forces were getting closer, the Nazis covered up their
deeds by destroying most of the gas chambers and the pathology lab next to them that was occupied by the
“doctor” Mengele. We may never know the extent to which the experiments went.
Mengele covered up his past as well as the Nazis covered up Auschwitz, and better. Josef Mengele left
Auschwitz on January 17, 1945 after being there since 1943. Mengele secretly joined a normal German
infantry, and was released after the Allies found the soldiers in which Mengele was hiding. There had always
been a strong Nazi presence in South America, so with funds from his family, he went off the Argentina.
Mengele lived with a farming family in Argentina for a while, but Mengele was very scared of being caught, so
between 1945 and 1979 Mengele moved to and from different countries in South America. There was a great
hunt for the elusive Doctor Mengele, there were rewards, warrants, and even Nazi Hunters after him, but no
one ever found him. No one knew it when he died. Josef Mengele was living in Brazil with the Bossert family,
when for the first time, he went out in the sun in a public place. Mengele was paranoid that he would be
caught, so he often only went out at night. On January 7, 1979, the Bossert family persuaded him to go for a
swim to ease his mind. He did, but while out at sea he had a stroke, Mengele’s body was paralyzed, and he
started to drown. People managed to drag him out of the water, but it was too late, the infamous Doctor
Mengele was dead.
People didn’t find out until the mid-1980’s that Mengele was dead, I think that’s quite fitting to the seemingly
ever-present Josef Mengele. People say that they saw Mengele at the selection night and day. He was a
mythological creature at Auschwitz, he could come at any time day or night to take test subjects from the
barracks. Mengele was the symbol of the Nazis, evil, lurking, and always there.
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