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The Search for Dr. Josef Mengele

Updated on October 10, 2009
Dr. Josef Mengele
Dr. Josef Mengele

At the end of WWII, one of the most notorious fugitives from justice was the chief medical officer at the Auschwitz death camp, Dr. Josef Mengele. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of the camp’s inmates. Many of them, including young children, had died as a direct result of his barbarous experiments.

Rumors abounded as to his eventual fate, but the facts appeared to be that he had evaded capture in Germany for four years before fleeing to Argentina. In the mid 1980s, when international efforts were being made to track him down in his South American hideout, reports were received that Mengele was buried in a Brazilian village in a grave bearing the name Wolfgang Gerhard. The occupant of the grave, whatever his real identity, was listed as having drowned in 1979 at the age of sixty-seven.

The grave was opened and the body removed in June 1985, and all the techniques available were used to try to provide a positive identification. The problem was that the only known personal information about Mengele was contained in his S.S. personnel file. This didn't provide much detail, giving only basic information such as Mengele’s head circumference and overall height. When forensic anthropologists examined the bones from the grave they found that the occupant was Caucasian, judging by the shape of the eye sockets and nose. The pelvic bones suggested the body had been male, and the characteristics of the arm bones indicated he had been right-handed. Judging by the wear of the teeth, the man had been between sixty and seventy years when he had died.

At that time, the only further techniques that could be made to establish the body’s identity involved comparing X-rays of the teeth with Mengele’s dental chart from 1938, and attempting to match the skull with an old photograph of Mengele. The results indicated the corpse was almost certainly that of the missing criminal, but without positive proof, some doubt remained.

It was only in 1992, when DNA samples from the corpse were compared with samples provided by Mengele’s living relatives in Germany, that a positive identity was received. The corpse was indeed Mengele’s and though he had managed to escape from justice for the remainder of his life, the search was over at last.

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    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Interestiing article. It's amazing how many of the Nazi's seemed to try and hide Argentina and some other South American countries. It's good to know that one monster met a fitting demise.

    • Choke Frantic profile image
      Author

      Choke Frantic 7 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

      Thanks for commenting, Pamela. I don't actually know much about the Nazis or post World War II, because we always studied Australian history in school, but I find this very interesting. When I heard that Mengele had drowned I almost laughed. A horrible death for a horrible person.

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 7 years ago from New Jersey

      I've never heard of Dr. Josef Mengele, but I know about Auschwitz all too well. It's too bad they didn't find him before he died so he could get the sentence he deserved. Seems a lot of these Nazi leaders either died in hiding or by their own hands (like Hitler) like the cowards they really were. Great Hub.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      That was a very good historical hub on Josef mengele, thanks for sharing. creativeone59

    • Choke Frantic profile image
      Author

      Choke Frantic 7 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

      MistHaven - When I first heard about Dr. Mengele I felt exactly the same way. However, I do think drowning is a horrible way to die to its possible that maybe he got a slice of justice.

      Creativeone59 - Thanks so much for your comment!

    • Waren E profile image

      Waren E 7 years ago from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............

      He had it coming...LOL,I don't mean to be insensitive but

      he was a real Bastard I'd say,all those poor children!

      Great Hub CF!

    • Choke Frantic profile image
      Author

      Choke Frantic 7 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

      Thanks, Waren E.

    • profile image

      lyricsingray 7 years ago

      Fascinating and I certainly learned a great deal - Great Job Girl! Thank you, Kimberly

    • Choke Frantic profile image
      Author

      Choke Frantic 7 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

      Thankyou for your comment, lyricsingray.

    • profile image

      Smarty 7 years ago

      Why does everyone think he was such a horrable pearson?! well i know why, but i dont understand is noone sees the amazing acploshments he made, the disvers from those deaths (horrble as they may be) saved those of thosands more, i love his work, even tough i persoanlly would be consedderd by nazi terms as a gypsy, and those horrible things could have been done to me, in the big picture, hes an amazing pearson.

    • jwood00 profile image

      jwood00 6 years ago from the other side of morning

      Good article.

      To the person above, you are either a troll or mentally ill. The argument for numbers is one of the most philosophically absurd ones.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      To smarty, no one person deserves to die in fear and absolute terror so that many more can live. It is absurd and cruel and advances in medicine are made every day without cruelty. Very interesting hub Choke Frantic. Great read!

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