Josef Mengele

The Notorious Auschwitz Doctor

A picture of Dr. Josef Mengele with Richard Baer and Rudolf Hoess at Auschwitz.
From left to right they are: Richard Baer (Commandant of Auschwitz), Dr. Josef Mengele and Rudolf Hoess (the former Auschwitz Commandant). (July 1944). (Photo courtesy the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Who Was Dr. Josef Mengele?

Josef Mengele was a Nazi SS doctor who experimented on twins, dwarves, and others at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp during the Holocaust. Although Mengele looked kind and handsome, his heinous, pseudoscientific medical experiments, often performed on young children, has placed Mengele as one of the most villainous and notorious Nazis. At the end of World War II, Mengele escaped capture and is believed to have died in Brazil 34 years later.

Dates: March 16, 1911 - February 7, 1979?

Early Life

  • Born March 16, 1911 in Günzburg, Germany
  • Parents were Karl (1881-1959) and Walburga (d. 1946) Mengele
  • Two younger brothers: Karl (1912-1949) and Alois (1914-1974)
  • Nickname was "Beppo"
  • 1926 diagnosed with osteomyelitis

Education and beginning of WWII

  • 1930 graduated from the Gymnasium
  • March 1931 joined the Steel Helmuts (Stahlhelm)
  • January 1934 SA absorbed Stahlhelm
  • October 1934 left SA because of kidney trouble
  • 1935 awarded PhD from the University of Munich
  • January 1, 1937 appointed a research assistant at the Third Reich Institute for Heredity, Biology, and Racial Purity at the University of Frankfurt; worked with Professor Otmar Freiherr von Vershuer
  • May 1937 joined the NSDAP (member #5574974)
  • May 1938 admitted to the SS
  • July 1938 awarded medical degree by University of Frankfurt
  • October 1938 began basic training with the Wehrmacht (lasted three months)
  • July 1939 married Irene Schoenbein
  • June 1940 joined the medical corps (Sanitätsinspektion) of the Waffen SS
  • August 1940 appointed an Untersturmführer
  • Attached to Genealogical Section of the Race and Resettlement Office in occupied Poland
  • June 1941, sent to the Ukraine as part of the Waffen SS; received the Iron Cross, Second Class
  • January 1942 joined the Waffen SS's Viking Division medical corps; earned the Iron Cross, First Class by pulling two soldiers out of a burning tank while under enemy fire; also awarded the Black Badge for the Wounded and the Medal for the Care of the German People; wounded
  • End of 1942 reposted to the Race and Resettlement Office, this time in its headquarters in Berlin
  • appointed to Haupsturmführer (captain)

Auschwitz

  • May 30, 1943 arrived at Auschwitz
  • Conducted medical experiments on twins, dwarfs, giants, and many others
  • Seemingly constant presence and participation in the selections at the ramp
  • Responsible for selections in the women's camp
  • called "Angele of Death"
  • March 11, 1944 his son, Rolf, was born
  • Sometime middle of January 1945, he fled Auschwitz

On the Run

  • Arrived at Gross-Rosen camp; then left before Russians liberated it on February 11, 1945
  • Spotted at Mauthausen
  • Captured as prisoner of war and held in a POW camp near Munich
  • Received papers from fellow prisoner, Dr. Fritz Ulmann; for vanity reasons had not gotten blood type tattooed beneath arm, American Army did not realize he was a member of the SS and released him
  • Aliases include: Fritz Ulmann, Fritz Hollmann, Helmut Gregor, G. Helmuth, Jose Mengele, Ludwig Gregor, Wolfgang Gerhard
  • Remained on George Fischer's farm for three years
  • 1949 escaped to Argentina
  • 1954 his father came to visit him
  • 1954 divorced from Irene
  • 1956 had his name officially changed to Josef Mengele
  • 1958 married his brother, Karl's, widow - Martha Mengele
  • June 7, 1959 West Germany issued its first arrest warrant for Mengele
  • 1959 moved to Paraguay
  • 1964 the Universities of Frankfurt and Munich withdrew his academic degrees
  • Assumed that his remains were buried in Embu, Brazil in a grave marked "Wolfgang Gerhard"
  • Believed to have died on February 7, 1979 on the beach at Bertioga in Embu, Brazil while suffering a stroke while swimming in the ocean.
  • February 1985 a public trial, in absentia, was held at Yad Vashem
  • In June 1985, the body in the grave was exhumed for forensic identification.