Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 
Method and Goals: “There Would Never Be Another Chance Like It”
Mengele’s method was a product of his scientific training and earlier experience, his Nazi ideology, and the peculiarities of the Auschwitz setting.

His anthropological prisoner assistant, Teresa W., considered Mengele’s method more or less standard for the time, the norm for anthropological work. She recognized it as the same approach she had been trained in at her Polish university under a distinguished anthropologist with German pre-Nazi academic connections. That professor stressed “the biological foundation of [the] social environment” and the delineation of “racial types” (although her professor strongly rejected Nazi theories of racial superiority), making use of statistical methods he had introduced.

Mengele’'s approach differed only in being “terribly detailed,” more so than she thought necessary. It included measurements of skull and body, and various characteristics of nose, lips, ears, hair, and eyes. His anthropological assistant was given quality Swiss instruments, a white coat “like the physicians,” a secretary to write down observations, and a prisoner anthropology student to help her. Teresa W. told me that Mengele never discussed his research aims with her, but she considered the work scientifically legitimate and had testified earlier that “in the area of recognized anthropology, [work with twins] constitutes a very important part of research, in. which especially the aspect of heredity plays a great role.” And as W. said to me, “If he would like to have a false statement, than [why] all this trouble to do such … detailed research?” She did, however, recognize that Mengele might “twist [his findings] a little bit to his aims” if it would demonstrate German racial superiority; and also that “maybe if something was not … according to … Nazi wishes, … he [might] not publicize it.” She was also aware of what she owed to the research “In a way, his anthropology really saved my life in Auschwitz.”*

The relative number of identical twins (those developed from a single ovum) as opposed to non-identical twins (from different ova) among Mengele’s research subjects is unclear. Also unclear is the extent to which he maintained this crucial distinction, since non-identical twins are genetically similar only to the extent that ordinary siblings are. The fact that a few ordinary siblings are known to have successfully masqueraded as twins gives us reason to doubt the reliability of Mengele’s research findings.

Mengele remained in close contact with Professor Verschuer throughout his stay in Auschwitz and regularly sent him research results and specimens at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology and Human Heredity and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem that Verschuer then headed.
* Mengele also used twins as subjects for more general anthropological interests. In the Gypsy camp, according to Dr. Alexander O., Mengele “kept … samples of hair [and] eyes [from twins], equipment to take fingerprints, handprints, and footprints,” and “compared the various Gypsy ethnic groups.”   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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