Dr. Mengele Essay, Research Paper
The life story of Josef Mengele is one that is filled many twists and turns that play out like a suspense story with an ending that does not seem to fit what one would expect. The authors of the book Mengele: The Complete Story, Gerald L. Posner and John Ware, wrote this book largely with information taken from diaries and letters of Mengele s, and interviews with those who knew him. It is a look into the life and times of a man whose nickname was The Angel of Death. Josef s life and post-mortem fate could be divided into three different chapters. His pre-war life and life during World War II was one of privilege and freedom to satisfy his perverse desire to perform bizarre and mostly useless medical experiments on unwilling participants in Nazi death camps. His post-war life consisted of being constantly on the run; a lonely and depressed fugitive wanted by countries worldwide for the atrocities he committed against Jews, Poles, Gypsies, and others during World War II. His lonely death by drowning, in Brazil, and humiliating post-mortem fate suited the man well. Although this report might seem to follow a chronological order, it is not simply a telling of a life story. It is a look into who Josef Mengele was, and how he changed over the years.
The authors underlying main theme, throughout the book, seemed to be to show that Josef Mengele was not who his infamous legend would dictate. It is true that he was a cold and ruthless killer who murdered thousands of innocent people. He earned the nickname The Angel of Death for the way he would remain calm and composed while performing such torturous an act as a live dissection of a human being. He had a sick fascination with twins. He believed that twins held the secret to discovering how to perfect a master race. The following is a description by Vera Alexander, a witness of Mengele s horrors, of a common experiment Mengele would perform on twins:
One day SS men came and took two children away. They were two of my pets, Tito and Nino. One of them was a hunchback. Two or three days later, an SS man brought them back in a terrible state. They had been cut. The hunchback was sewn to the other child, back to back, their wrists back to back too. There was a terrible smell of gangrene. The cuts were dirty and the children cried every night. (P.37 par.4)
Forced childbirth, by jumping on a woman s stomach until the fetus was expelled from the womb, needless amputations, and sterilization of thousands were just a few of the things Mengele did that has earned him his reputation. However, this man who exhibited a sense of strength and fierceness to his victims was neither physically or emotionally strong. He was very insecure about his physical appearance, and constantly thought people were out to get him. He felt he had to belittle others accomplishments in order to make himself feel more confident. Mengele especially hated gypsies, and viewed them as more of a subspecies than other groups he killed. The following passage, which comes from Mengele s arrest warrant, which detailed his heinous crimes, illustrates his disregard for their lives:
..On May 25th, 1943, Mengele sent 1035 gypsies suspected of typhus to the gas chamber, and on May 25th and 26th he spared those Gypsies who were German while he sent approximately 600 others to be gassed. (p. 25 par.1)
What is ironic about this hatred is that Mengele himself was far from being considered physically superior to anyone. In fact, since childhood, he had been self-conscious of his slightly tawny skin, his penetrating brown-green eyes, and his dark hair. At school he endured taunts from his classmates about his Gypsy looks. (p. 25 par. 2) It could be seen that his contempt for Gypsies might have arisen due to trauma he endured during childhood from others, as well as a self-imposed trauma he brought upon himself, due to his unstable personality. Mengele was plagued with sickness and disease his whole life, and tried desperately to hide this fact. He was a vain man, who liked to preen himself in front of a mirror. In fact, he refused to have his blood type tattooed on his chest, which was a Nazi tradition, because he loved his smooth skin so much. This act of vanity was probably what helped him evade capture initially. The blood type tattoo was the first thing the allies checked for on suspected Nazi s when they liberated the death camps.
Josef Mengele s life on the run from the law was not how the movie The Boys from Brazil portrayed it. In the movie, Josef Mengele was shown living in South America in luxury, wielding power over the still-existent Nazi party, with cloned Adolf Hitler s ready to take over the world. This was far from the true lonely life of isolation he ended up living. He eluded authorities by sheer luck, and on many occasions, his brushes with being exposed for who he was bordered on seeming like a Hollywood movie suspense scene. He was forced to flee from one South American country to another, in order to evade possible capture by authorities. His life was unstable and he became an old man before his time. Even in Brazil, where he finally made his home, he still faced the Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who pursued him relentlessly until Mengele s remains were found in 1985. His final days were rather pathetic. He lived in a dilapidated old bungalow with a cracked floor and leaky roof. This man, who had controlled the fate of so many, now found himself suffering from loneliness, failing health, and poverty. He looked for friendship in anyone. He even attempted to buy the companionship of a sixteen-year-old neighborhood gardener named Luis. He yearned so much for companionship that he spent all the money he had, to buy a television set in hopes of luring the boy over to his house so he would have someone to talk to. He told one of his few friends Hans Sedlmeier about the TV, I hope it might persuade my new housemate to stay. (P.262 par.6) Mengele met his fate on a beach in Brazil. The official cause of death was drowning. He was buried in a friend s unmarked grave, yet it would be 6 years before the world knew that Mengele was dead.
The authors of this book were mostly non-judgmental of the actions and life of Josef Mengele. They wrote this biography without being critical of what he had done, simply displaying the facts of what happened. The stories they presented of the horrors he committed spoke for themselves without the authors having to condemn him. The only element of judgment by the authors appeared in the last paragraph of the book. It followed the revelation that a skeleton thought to be Mengele s had proven to be genuine by using DNA testing. It went as follows:
For the sake of the civilized world s peace of mind, these scientists had performed one worthwhile experiment on an unworthy life. (p. 325 par. 6)
This passage seemed to say that the authors felt that Mengele was not worthy of having his life story published, yet they felt the world deserved to know the true story. When the book is examine as a whole, the general feeling a reader would get is that Mengele was cold, heartless, and felt little remorse for anything he had ever done. In fact, he regretted not working harder to exterminate more people than he had. Mengele was presented as who he was. This makes it seem as though there is an unfair amount of negativity presented about him. Other than a few occasions where he showed compassion, such as with his son and cleaning lady, he really did not have many redeeming qualities. Mengele personified hatred, arrogance, and cruelty. Trying to keep a balance between the positive and negative of the man would have been impossible.
At the end of his life, Mengele was still the same man he always was. He had been humbled by his life of simplicity, yet the arrogance and bitterness he showed as a young SS doctor were still present. Although Mengele evaded capture and was never brought to trial, it does not mean he was never punished. If Mengele had been put to death, his life would have been over, without any further suffering. Mengele lived, and his life of loneliness, isolation, and alienation from his family and the ones he loved was much more painful than had he been put out of his misery years earlier. With his life a waste, all his aspirations dead, and his spirit weakened, Mengele s life was his punishment.