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The Angel Of Death Essay, Research Paper

The medical professions of Germany, including academic medicine, played a critical role in the evolution of Nazism s programs of human destruction, programs that were based in genocide and the exploitation of the dead. The atrocities associated with the Holocaust are staggering, especially when the words Auschwitz and Mengele are mentioned. Dr. Josef Mengele was a man that was twisted by Nazi ideology and notions of Aryan supremacy into a madman who was responsible for so many deaths at Auschwitz. Through his responsibilities as a selector at the arrival gates and a human experimenter in his laboratory behind the scenes, Mengele brutalized and slaughtered thousands of men, women and children. Once he had acquired a sense of power and control from being stationed at Auschwitz, Josef Mengele grew insane with this power and became an actual angel of death , victimizing the feeble and weak at the arrival gates and performing unethical human experiments on so many young subjects.

In October of 1930, Josef Mengele enrolled at Munich University and began studying philosophy and medicine. # At about the same time, the City of Munich was going though ideological revolution due to the rising popularity and power of the Nazi party. Professor Rudolf Hess proclaimed at a mass meeting that National Socialism is nothing but applied biology .# This speech was very inspirational to Josef Mengele because he viewed himself as a Nazi revolutionary and a biological revolutionary .# As Mengele became more involved with National Socialism, he acquired his doctorate from


Munich and moved to Frankfurt to study under Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, who ultimately set the foundation for the racial research performed by Mengele at Auschwitz. The main emphasis of his research in Frankfurt was the importance of heredity within the context of Nazi race science .# After joining the Nazi party in the summer of 1937 and the Schutzstaffel (SS), which was Hitler s elite corps of race guardians, in May of 1938, Mengele was involved in active trench duty until he got injured in battle and was unfit to fight thereafter.# He would then be assigned as a physician at Auschwitz in May of 1943.# With all the medical, philosophical, political and militia training, Josef Mengele was evidently deeply influenced by these National Socialist ideologies that would eventually set the stage for the medical atrocities that he would order and perform at Auschwitz.

As like many other doctors at Auschwitz, Dr. Josef Mengele was assigned to supervise the selections of incoming transports of prisoners. These selections determined who would be put immediately to death, and who would become prisoners in the camp. Dr. Olga Lengyel, an inmate doctor, recalls that He [Mengele] would point with his cane at each person and direct them with one word: right or left . He seemed to enjoy his grisly task .# With this motion of left and right , Mengele would inevitably acquire the title of Angel of Death because of his power over so many lives. One of the barbers in


Auschwitz mentioned what Mengele s attitude was towards these selections: Only if there is a demand for workers does Dr. Mengele pass Jews into camp, the barber said, adding, At times they are short of gas .# Gas chambers were not the only method of execution used. Lethal injections and firing squads were used many times in order to make room for the healthy, working prisoners. However, one of the main reasons that Mengele wanted to be at the gates when the new trains arrived, was to ensure that all twins would be sent to his laboratory. Mengele ordered the SS guards who assisted him in the selection process to scour the lines of prisoners for twins. Zwillinge, zwillinge, or Twins, twins would be shouted by the guards as they would search the trains.# Even when Mengele was not scheduled to be at the ramps, he would often be there to ensure that all twins that arrived were sent to him.# He had an obsession with being an actual Angel of Death in that he had power to decide one s fate. He also had an obsession with his research that would inevitably involve the experimentation of twins due to his involvement in genetics and racial characteristics.

The use of twins was at the forefront of Josef Mengele s research. His stated mission at Auschwitz was to perform research on human genetics.# Mengele believed that if sets of twins without many hereditary defects were carefully analysed, a researcher


could compile this information on heredity and draw conclusions upon them.# Mengele had a longing desire to become recognized as a great scientist #, and he brought this attitude and drive to Auschwitz and his experimentation on twins. The majority of all the twins that arrived at Auschwitz, were spared from outright execution and were placed in a special barracks called the Zoo .# These twins were nicknamed Mengele s Children because they were his favourite subjects to work with and they received special treatment such as extra food rations.# However, the experiments that Mengele would perform on the twins would be nothing but cruelty. The most infamous experiment was his eye colour experiment on many twins. Starting with an interest in prisoners with eyes of different colour and prisoners with blonde hair and brown eyes, Mengele injected different dyes and chemicals into the eyes to record a reaction.# Scientifically, injections of methylene blue, the chemical that Mengele used most often, cannot alter the colour of eyes. The only result is pain and horrible infections.# Many children recovered to an extent but they would inevitably end up dying or having permanent blindness. If any of the twins died, Mengele would harvest their eyes and pin them to a wall, in the same manner a biologist


would pin small specimens to styrofoam.# From showing a compassionate side by saving many twins at the arrival gates, Mengele would sooner or later subject these children to his cruel experiments in pursuit of genetic information that did not exist except in the imagination of an Aryan supremist like Mengele.

Dr. Josef Mengele having achieved a sense of power in the Nazi party, he grew obsessed with this power at Auschwitz and all forms of cooperation with Mengele were ways of legitimizing murder and helped Mengele s need to assume an ethical order in his work. He became an actual angel of death through deciding life or death for prisoners arriving at the ramps and performing unimaginable and cruel human experiments on so many young subjects. Josef Mengele has been considered to be the most terrible of all the doctors under Hitler because of his bloodlust for death and his severity of experiments on twins that ended up being scientifically worthless.# Medicine not only provided the scientific rationale that legitimized these selections, but it also exploited human victims for inhuman research. During the Holocaust, medicine was used as an excuse for genocide and mass killings, especially at Auschwitz.


Jacobs, Benjamin. The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1995.

Kaplan, Harold. Conscience and Memory: Meditations in a Museum of the Holocaust. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1994. P. 70.

Kater, Michael H. Doctors Under Hitler. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide.

New York, N.Y.: Basic Books Ltd., 1986.

Lynott, Douglas. Josef Mengele: Auschwitz . http://va.crimelibrary.com/mengele/ausch.htm. The Crime Library, 2000.

Lynott, Douglas. Josef Mengele: Mengele s Research . http://va.crimelibrary.com/mengele/research.htm. The Crime Library, 2000.

Lynott, Douglas. Josef Mengele: The Making of a Young Nazi . http://va.crimelibrary.com/mengele/young.htm. The Crime Library, 2000.

Who was Josef Mengele? . http://www.holocaust-history.org/short-essays/josef-mengele.shtml. The Holocaust History Project, Inc., 1999.

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