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Josef Mengele (1911-1979)

Josef Mengele (1911-79) was a doctor at the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1943 and 1945. He was notorious for his medical research on humans. Most subjects died because of his experiments.

Mengele studied anthropology and medicine, and became interested in genetics. His postgraduate studies focused on heredity and the study of racial difference. He joined the German National Socialist Worker’s Party (NSDAP or ‘Nazi’ party) in 1937 and the SS in 1938, quickly being promoted.

In 1943, Mengele replaced a camp doctor at the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was responsible for the selection process of new prisoners, ordering the death of around 40,000 inmates. At Auschwitz, Mengele also began experimenting on twins, Roma children and other inmates. He examined living persons and then killed them by lethal injection to check his findings through postmortem examinations.

Mengele was captured by US troops in 1945. However, he was released because his identity was not known, and he hid until 1949, when he escaped to Argentina. He died in Brazil in 1979, though his death only became known after his remains were dug up and analysed in 1985.

Bibliography

G Astor, The "last" Nazi: the Life and Times of Dr. Josef Mengele (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1985)

L Matalon Lagnado and S C Dekel, Children of the flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1991)

Glossary:

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