Mengele was a German physician who performed medical experiments on prisoners. Josef Mengele was born on March 16, 1911 in Gunzburg, Bavaria. He began studying medicine in 1930 with a special interest in anthropology and genetics. From 1935, he worked at a medical clinic. He also joined Germany's National Socialist Party led by Adolf Hitler. Mengele became a research assistant at an institute for heredity and racial purity at Frankfurt University. By 1938, he joined the elite Schutzstaffel (SS) within the National Socialists. In 1939, Mengele married Irene Schoenbein. Mengele volunteered for the German Army in 1940 and took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union before an injury rendered him unfit for military service.
In May 1943, Mengele voluntarily became the senior physician in the women's section of the Auschwitz concentration camp. One of his duties was to examine arriving prisoners and decide whether they were to be sent to the gas chambers or to forced labor. A number of the prisoners also became the subjects of Mengele's medical experiments. Auschwitz provided him an unending supply of research subjects, especially Roma, deformed people, and twins. Mengele's particular interest was twin research because he believed that if the Nazis could duplicate multizygotic births, the population could attain Aryan perfection. He observed each twin-couple under the same life conditions and killed them in the best of health—an ideal assumption for post-mortal research. Mengele's crude surgery included amputations and deliberate infections with diseases in order to observe reactions. He also used methods involving electricity and radiation. Observers noted that he never expressed regret over the suffering of his human subjects. Mengele became known as the Angel of Death.
Mengele continued his experiments until the advance of the Red Army forced him to leave Auschwitz on January 17, 1945. U.S. forces captured him, but he managed to escape despite being listed as a war criminal. He returned to Gunzburg and, in 1948, with financial assistance provided by his family, was able to travel to and settle in Argentina under an assumed name. In 1956, Mengele returned to Germany and married for a second time. In 1961, he fled to Paraguay. Fearing capture, he fled to Brazil in 1978. On February 7, 1979, Mengele went for a swim, suffered a stroke, and drowned. After investigations ordered by the U.S. Justice Department, his gravesite at Bertioga was revealed. Experts proved that the skeleton was that of Mengele. The discovery of his death ended a worldwide manhunt.
See also: Medical Experimentation (WWII).
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