|Dr. Auschwitz: Josef
| Method and Goals: There Would Never Be Another
Chance Like It
Mengeles method was a
product of his scientific training and earlier experience, his Nazi ideology,
and the peculiarities of the Auschwitz setting.
prisoner assistant, Teresa W., considered Mengeles 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.
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
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
The relative number of identical twins (those
developed from a single ovum) as opposed to non-identical twins (from different
ova) among Mengeles 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 Mengeles
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.