Born in 1911, Josef Mengele was a philosophy student who would go on to become one of the most frightening faces of the Holocaust. Known as the Angel of Death, many facts about Josef Mengele have become interwoven with rumors and conjecture that have changed him from the Nazi doctor that created a tangible Hell in Auschwitz to a boogeyman who still haunts the secret history of Europe and America into the 21st century.
This list records some strange facts that you may not read in a standard Josef Mengele biography. Who was Josef Mengele? There is no easy way to talk about one of the most heinous war criminals of the 20th century. Josef Mengele did truly horrible things that earned a reputation similar to a super villain straight out of a Captain America story. But as you’ll come to see, he was a regular person doing terrible things because he believed they were the right thing to do - which makes everything he did at Auschwitz even more terrifying.
Just so you know, you’ll probably have to take a few breaks to clear your head while reading this list of facts about Josef Mengele.
Mengele Was Obsessed With Studying Twins
One of the most well-known facts about Mengele is his chilling fascination with twins. His experiments began as a way to further explore the Nazi's pet concept of eugenics, a philosophy advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through a systematic weeding out of perceived negative pieces of DNA. After working with Professor Otmar Freiherr von Vershuer, Mengele believed that twins held a secret to understanding how one goes about physically removing genetic makeup.
Because twins were special to Mengele, they were afforded some basic human rights that the rest of the prisoners at Auschwitz were denied, like keeping their hair and wearing clothes. That's where the benefits of being considered one of "Mengele's Children" ended. The twins were subjected to brutal experiments that were ultimately more about inflicting terror than genuine scientific investigation.
He May Have Created A Village Of Twins In South America
In 2009, Jorge Camarasa, an Argentine historian, claimed that Josef Mengele used the Brazilian farming enclave of Candido Godoi as a laboratory to continue his experiments with twins. Camarasa's evidence is mostly predicated on the fact that beginning in 1963, the town's twin birthrate skyrocketed.
According to people who lived in Candido Godoi, Mengele came to town under the auspices of being a "rural doctor" who went from house to house helping with minor medical ailments and withdrawing vials of blood from everyone he treated. Since Camarasa floated this theory, researchers have argued about the possibility of something like this even occurring, with most scientists claiming that the insular nature of the community has more to do with the twin birth rate than a mad scientist.
The US Actually Had Him In Custody
This is definitely one of the most frustrating parts of the Mengele story, and it shows just how chaotic things were at the end of the war. Immediately after Germany surrendered, Mengele was held in US custody, but because US officials were unaware that Mengele was on a list of wanted war criminals, they released him. Then, from the summer of 1945 until spring 1949, the physician worked as a farmhand near Rosenheim, Bavaria, under false papers before his wealthy family helped him flee to South America.
He Gave People With Medical Anomalies Special Treatment In Auschwitz
Mengele based a lot of his experiments around subjects with physical abnormalities, partially because he thought that the key to perfecting eugenics lay somewhere in the bodies of the deformed, disabled, and different and partially because he seemed to have an obsession with genetic outliers. So much has been written about Mengele's love for twins that people gloss over his odd fascination with a specific family who arrived in Auschwitz. Mengele was obsessed with the Ovtizes, a Transylvanian family with 10 children, seven of whom were dwarves. He allowed them to keep their clothes and their hair while siphoning their blood, removing their teeth, and placing them under intense psychological scrutiny. Though their time in the camp was torturous, the entire Ovitz family survived their time in the camp.