Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 
[de…] scribed as “strict Catholic,” and Mengele identified himself as a Catholic on all his official forms, rather than using the more favored Nazi category of “believer in God.” He is remembered from his youth as a serious student, a popular and enthusiastic friend in whom one could recognize "a very distinct ambitiousness,” a young person with intelligence but more or less ordinary.4

His early right-wing nationalism was reflected by his joining the Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet, a nationalistic war veteran’s organization) in 1931, at the age of twenty. He subsequently became enthusiastic about the Nazi movement, joining the SA in 1934, and applying for Party membership in 1937 and for SS membership upon being admitted to the Party the following year. There are rumors that, while studying in Munich, he met such high-ranking Nazis as Alfred Rosenberg and even Hitler himself — rumors that, in the absence of evidence, fit well with his mythology.

What does seem clear, and what Ernst E. emphasized to me concerning his friend, is that these Nazi leanings had considerable influence on his intellectual choices. Matriculating at the universities not only of Munich but also of Bonn, Vienna, and Frankfurt, Mengele came to concentrate on the physical anthropology and genetics of his time, eventually working under Otmar von Versehuer at the Frankfurt University Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene: the model institute mentioned earlier in connection with the quest for a “biologized” society by means of a national system of files on individual genetic characteristics. Verschuer’s son much later remembered Mengele as “a friendly man,” so kind that women at the institute referred to him as “Father Mengele” — a nickname that could of course have other connotations.5

Mengele produced three publications prior to his Auschwitz arrival. The first, completed in 1935 but appearing in 1937, was his dissertation in the Anthropological Institute (in the department of philosophy) at the University of Munich, and was entitled “Racial-Morphological Examination of the Anterior Portion of the Lower Jaw in Four Racial Groups.” In this study he was intent upon demonstrating structural differences in a portion of the lower jaw in old Egyptians, Melanesians, short-skulled Europeans (mostly Eastern and Dinaric [Adriatic coast of Yugoslavia]), and long-skulled Europeans, primarily Nordic. He insisted that a previous investigator’s failure to determine differences was due to deficiencies in method; and that “wherever a distinction is possible, it must be made.” In following the practice of his time and place, he depended upon extensive measurements precisely rendered. He concluded, not surprisingly, that these anterior segments of the lower jaw “show clear differences well suited for racial distinctions.” But his division of the two European racial groups is both cavalier and vague, especially in his undefended assumption that the long-skulled European material “represents primarily the Nordic element.”6

His medical dissertation, published in 1938 and entitled “Genealogical Studies in the Cases of Cleft Lip-Jaw-Palate,” prefigured his Auschwitz  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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