Seminarski i Diplomski Rad

Dr. Josef Mengele

The Holocaust remains one of the most tragic events in history with the cruel and inhuman treatment of many innocent people. Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration death camp located in Poland, is notorious for experiments Dr. Josef Mengele performed on twins during their imprisonment. Mengele’s two main roles while at Auschwitz included working on the selection plank and scientific research done in the laboratories. In the selection process, Mengele chose who would live and who would die: the stronger of the prisoner’s lives being spared to become workers in the camp, while the old, sick, and weak were directed to their death. Mengele appeared to enjoy and take great pride in working on the selection plank, being there allowed Mengele to choose firsthand the next guinea pigs for his medical experiments.
Dr Josef MengeleJosef Mengele was the second son of a well-to-do strict Catholic German family, and he chose to identify himself on all official forms as Catholic instead of the more favored Nazi term of “believer in God”. Mengele’s particular interest in genetics and physical anthropology eventually made it possible to begin work under Otmar Von Verschuer at the Frankfurt University Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene. Mengele and Von Verscher worked together under the Nuremberg race laws as racial experts (Lifton338-340).
Mengele joined the General SS in 1938, being drafted at the outbreak of the war into the elite Waffen SS. In 1943, the doctor assumed the position as chief over the women’s section in Auschwitz after being injured in the war. This is the era in which the doctor became infamous for the part he played in selections and medical experiments with a particular interest in identical twins. A grant from the German Research Council awarded to Von Verschuer funded these experiments; the human-specimen material collected from inmates at Auschwitz was forwarded to the Kaiser Wilheim Institute in Berlin-Dahlem headed by Von Verschuer. Inmates were killed and maimed strictly to obtain their heads, eyes, and blood samples: the large captive population served as a unique laboratory for research. Mengele thought of these experiments as a way of reaching a personal goal in his academic career, “ habilitation” a requirement for an appointment at the university (Seidelman 225-226).
Eva Moses Kor, a twin who survived Dr. Mengele’s brutal experiments tells the story of being a guinea pig at Auschwitz. Upon arriving at Auschwitz, Kor saw tall smoking chimneys high above the buildings, and a very distinct odor filled the air. According to Kor, there is not another slice of land where so many lives have been changed in such a short period. Kor remembered being packed in a cattle car on a train with her family and other Jews for two days with nothing to eat or drink before finally reaching their destination. The Kor family—once consisting of a mother, a father, two older sisters, and Eva’s twin sister, Miriam—ceased to exist moments after stepping off the train onto the selection plank. Eva's mther grabbed the twin’s hands tightly, with her Father holding the hands of the two older siblings. Kor remembered turning around to see her Father and older sisters being pulled in a different direction. The SS officer shouting, “Twins! Twins,” demanding to know if she and Miriam were twins while her Mother was being pulled away crying, with her arms reaching for the girls. Kor stated that in an instant nothing would ever be the same; life changed forever.
Moreover, the life of a ten year old little girl would now become that of a guinea pig. Walking into the barrack Kor remembered seeing corpses of three children laying on the floor naked, with their eyes open as if they were staring at her. Numbers were tattooed on the children’s arms as a form of identification. There were days when the twins were taken to rooms where they were required to sit for six to eight hours naked while their heads and other body parts were measured and compared; eye color, shape and size compared to charts. Other days they were taken to blood labs, Kor remembered both arms being tied off to restrict blood flow while being injected with unknown substances. After one of these injections Kor became very ill and was taken to the hospital, describing the other patients she saw there as “the living dead”. While doing rounds Mengele and four other doctors came to visit; announcing Kor only had two weeks to live after checking her chart, but Kor refused to die. Later her twin sister, Miriam told her that during the time Eva had been hospitalized, she was taken to a different barrack. Had Eva died Miriam would have been taken immediately to the lab and killed by an injection into the heart so Mengele would have both twin’s bodies for comparative autopsies (Kor).
According to the book “Auschwitz” Mengele had a schizophrenic nature. Vera Alexander, a Czechoslovakian inmate working as a Kapo states, “Mengele used to come to the camp every day—he used to bring chocolate…When I shouted and told the children off, they usually reacted [by saying], ‘We will tell Uncle you are bad. ’Mengele was the ‘Good Uncle’ (Rees180). Mengele full of charm and a smile on his face would visit the children in the barracks only to have the “Good Uncle” perform cruel experiments on them later, sending them back to the barracks crying in pain.
“The rumor at the camp was that he was trying to understand the exact circumstances in which multiple births occur, and therefore wanted to undertake research that might eventually allow women in Reich to have more children more quickly. But it is more likely he was chiefly motivated by the desire to understand the role of genetic inheritance in development and behavior –this was a topic that obsessed many Nazi scientists” (Rees 180).
Even if the intentions of early eugenicists meant well, to treat and eliminate disease, the so called “racial hygiene” practiced by the Nazis ‘Third Reich soiled the reputation by the extreme nature of the experiments.
“To further their idea of “racial cleansing,” Nazi physicians used other alternatives to curb the reproduction of innocent “inferior” citizens. These alternatives included sending those individuals to the gas chambers or using them for medical trials—experimental medicine taken to extreme measures. Indescribably inhumane acts were performed on the so-called “abnormal” people, including twins, children with diseases, and Jews, in the secretive laboratories of German Physicians. These acts included determining the most efficient way of murdering a human being and finding the secret of multiple births to rapidly increase the German population” (Parendi).
“Knowledge can be dangerous if it’s not applied properly” (Kor).

Works Cited

Kor, Eva Moses. MSU Campus, Springfield, Missouri. 26 Feb. 2012. Lecture.
Lifton, Robert Jay. "Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele." The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic, 1986. 337+. Print.
Mehta, Parendi. "Human Eugenics: Whose Perception of Perfection?" The History Teacher 33.2 (2000): 222-40. JSTOR. Web.4 Apr. 2013.
Rees, Lawrence. "Corruption." Auschwitz : A New History. New York: Public Affairs, 2005. Print.
Seidelman, William E. "Mengele Medicus: Medicine's Nazi Heritage." The Milbank Quarterly 66.2 (1988): 221-39. JSTOR. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.



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