|AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE
|recommendation for promotion, this remains, to say the
least, a rousing endorsement. It could even be seen as a contribution to the
Mengele legend from the side of the SS.
We can look more closely at
Mengeles Auschwitz existence by examining his involvement in selections,
in scientific research,* and in his varied relationships (with his
SS colleagues and with prisoner doctors), and also his overall psychological
characteristics and continuing significance for others.
|Mengele on the Ramp
| For many inmates, Mengele embodied the selections process.
As one prisoner doctor put it, I
think that Mengele developed an
idée fixe: selections, selections, and more selections. He
tended to be identified as (in Dr. Peter D.s words) the chief of
those who did the selections. Or as another prisoner doctor said,
Everything in Auschwitz was under
Mengele was the
one, who was present at all the transports. Usually he alone, himself, stood on
the ramp and he made the selections When he couldnt do it he sent another
clever SS doctor [to do it].
The strength of that impression is
conveyed by a witness in the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial who had worked in the
Canada Kommando unloading prisoner transports, and who remembered only the name
of Mengele When the judge commented, Mengele cannot have been there all
the time, the witness answered, In my opinion always. Night and
day.13 Dr. Olga Lengyel, speaking less
specifically, caught the overall feeling of inmates in her description of
Mengele as far and away the chief provider for the gas chamber and the
the evidence we have is that Mengele took his duty turn on the ramp like
everyone else. But the impression that he did all, or almost all, selections
was fed by at least two factors: he frequently went to the ramp when not
selecting in order to see that twins were being collected and saved for him and
he brought such verve and energy to the selections task that his image became.
most associated with it.
Former inmates described him as an elegant
figure on the ramp handsome, well groomed, extremely upright in posture.
They sometimes misperceived him as very Aryan-looking or tall
and blond, when he was actually of medium height and had dark hair and
complexion. His attractiveness hid Auschwitz truths: he conveyed the
impression of a gentle and cultured man who had nothing whatever to do with
selections, phenol and Zyklon B"15 A survivor
described him to me as the false front for the crematorium.
He had an easy rhythm in his conduct of large-scale selections: a
* In subsequent discussions,
I refrain from using quotation marks with research, but it should
be understood that I view Mengeles work as always lacking full scientific
responsibility (see especially pages 365-69).