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November 30, 2010

Dr. Josef Mengele: Don’t it make my brown eyes blue

Of all the SS men associated with the Holocaust, Dr. Josef Mengele is by far the most famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view.  The title of my blog post today comes from a Crystal Gayle song which you can hear on YouTube.

Allegedly, Dr. Mengele tried to make brown eyes blue.  But why would he do that?  As a medical doctor and a specialist in genetics, Dr. Mengele would have known that changing the color of a person’s eyes would not have allowed the new eye color to be passed on to future generations.  In his day, most people in Germany had blue eyes, so why waste time on trying to make brown eyes blue?

Dr. Josef Mengele is in the center of the photo

Dr. Mengele had a Ph.D. in Anthropology as well as a degree in medicine, which he received in July 1938 from the University of Frankfurt. He earned his Ph.D. in 1935 with a thesis on “Racial Morphological Research on the Lower Jaw Section of Four Racial Groups.” In January 1937, Dr. Mengele was appointed a research assistant at the Institute for Heredity, Biology and Racial Purity at the University of Frankfurt.

He worked under Professor Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, a geneticist who was doing research on twins. The grant for Mengele’s genetic research was authorized by the German Research Council in August 1943. As the war-time director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Hereditary Teaching Genetics, located in Berlin, von Verschuer secured the funds for Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz. The results of Mengele’s research on twins were sent to this Institute.

Allegedly, all of Dr. Mengele’s research papers from Auschwitz were destroyed by von Versheur.  That means that the survivors of the Birkenau camp can make up stories about Dr. Mengele and no one can say that the stories are false. But how did the stories of changing brown eyes to blue get started?

According to Gerald L. Posner and John Ware, the authors of Mengele, the Complete Story, Dr. Mengele had a particular interest in studying people who had eyes of two different colors.  The story of the eye color experiment on 36 children in Birkenau was told by Dr. Vexler Jancu, a Jewish prisoner at Birkenau.

As quoted in Mengele, the Complete Story, Dr. Vexler Jancu said the following:

In June 1943 I went to the Gypsy camp in Birkenau. I saw a wooden table. On it were samples of eyes. They each had a number and a letter. The eyes were very pale yellow to bright blue, green and violet.

This seems to be the origin of the eye changing story. But were these “samples” real eyes that had been removed from dead Gypsy children or were the “samples” actually glass eyes that Dr. Mengele was comparing to the eyes of still living Gypsy children?

Dr. Josef Mengele had arrived in Auschwitz in May 1943, and his first assignment had been to take care of the medical needs of the Gypsy camp. The following quote is from the book Mengele, the Complete Story:

Within days after his arrival, while Auschwitz was in the throes of one of its many typhoid epidemics, Mengele established a reputation for radical and ruthless efficiency. The nearby marshland made clean water difficult to obtain and posed a constant threat from mosquitoes. (Mengele himself contracted malaria in June 1943.) Other SS doctors had failed in their efforts to curb typhus in the close quarters of the camp barracks. Mengele’s solution to the problem was set out in one of the seventy-eight indictments drawn up in 1981 by the West German Prosecutor’s Office, when the authorities thought he was still alive. In terms of detailed evidence, this arrest warrant is the most damning and complete document that was ever compiled against him. According to the warrant, on May 25, 1943, “Mengele sent 507 Gypsies and 528 Gypsy women suspected of typhus to the gas chamber.”

Almost every Holocaust survivor claims to have had personal experience in dealing with Dr. Mengele.  There were over 30 doctors who participated in the selections at Birkenau, yet every survivor claims to have gone through the selection line while Dr. Mengele was on duty.

Dr. Mengele is the man on the far left

Ruth Elias, a survivor of both Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, wrote a book entitled Triumph of Hope, in which she described Dr. Mengele:

Mengele was an attractive man. A perennial little smile showed the gap between his front teeth. Immaculately dressed in jodhpurs, he wore a cap bearing the SS insignia and carried the obligatory riding crop, constantly slapping it against his gleaming black boots. Whenever he spoke to me, he was very polite, giving the impression that he was interested in me. It was hard to believe that his little smile and courteous behavior were just a facade behind which he devised the most horrific murderous schemes.

This description of Dr. Mengele is typical; all the survivors of Auschwitz describe him as handsome and charming.

Dr. Mengele wearing his Iron Cross medal

The photo above was taken while Dr. Mengele was home on leave, after spending 5 months at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He is wearing an Iron Cross medal on the pocket of his uniform. Dr. Mengele was very proud of his medals; he had earned the Iron Cross 2nd Class medal shortly after he was sent to the Ukraine in June 1941 at the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

In January 1942, Mengele had joined the prestigious 5th SS Panzer Division, nicknamed the Viking Division. In July 1942, he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class after he pulled two wounded soldiers out of a burning tank under enemy fire on the battlefield, and administered medical first aid to them.

After being wounded in battle on the Eastern front in 1942, Mengele was promoted to Hauptsturmführer (Captain) and sent to the Race and Resettlement Office in Berlin, the same office where Adolf Eichmann was in charge of transporting the Jews for “resettlement in the East.”

According to the book Mengele, the Complete Story, a severe outbreak of typhus struck the women’s camp in Birkenau in late 1943, while Dr. Mengele was the chief doctor for the women’s barracks. Around 7,000 of the 20,000 women in the camp were seriously ill.

The following quote is from Dr. Ella Lingens, an Austrian doctor who was a political prisoner at Birkenau. In a personal interview given to S. Jones and K. Rattan on February 14, 1984, Dr. Lingens said the following as quoted in Mengele, the Complete Story:

He sent one entire Jewish block of 600 women to the gas chamber and cleared the block. He then had it disinfected from top to bottom. Then he put bath tubs between this block and the next, and the women from the next block came out to be disinfected and then transferred to the clean block. Here they were given a clean new nightshirt. The next block was cleaned in this way and so on until all the blocks were disinfected. End of typhus! The awful thing was that he could not put those first 600 somewhere.

The Birkenau camp was 425 acres in size. Seven small villages had been torn down to make room for the camp; it was like a small city with a total of 300 buildings. There was a total of 140,000 prisoners in the camp in 1943, but the barracks had a capacity of 200,000 prisoners. There was plenty of space to put the first 600 women somewhere, even if he had to set up tents on the soccer field which was near one of the gas chambers at Birkenau. In his performance review, his superior officer complemented him on his work in stopping the typhus epidemic; there was no mention of the 600 women that he had allegedly murdered to accomplish this.

According to the book entitled Mengele, the Complete Story, by Gerald L. Posner and John Ware, Dr. Josef Mengele spent 21 months at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, and during that time, he sent 400,000 prisoners to their deaths in the gas chambers at Birkenau. Allowing for the time that Dr. Mengele could not work when he was sick with malaria and typhus, he selected 20,000 Jews and Gypsies per month to be killed, according to Posner and Ware.

There is a famous story about Dr. Mengele sewing two children together, back to back, to create Siamese twins. Vera Alexander, a survivor of Birkenau, claimed to be a witness to the Siamese twins experiment. Dr. Mengele had died in 1979 but his death had been kept a secret by his friends and family. In October 1985, while an intensive manhunt for Mengele was underway, Vera Alexander said the following in an interview for the TV production The Search for Mengele, as quoted in the book Mengele, the Complete Story:

One day Mengele brought chocolate and special clothes. The next day, SS men came and took two children away. They were two of my pets, Tito and Nino. One of them was a hunchback. Two or three days later, an SS man brought them back in a terrible state. They had been cut. The hunchback was sewn to the other child, back to back, their wrists back to back too. There was the terrible smell of gangrene. The cuts were dirty and the children cried every night.

Dr. Mengele escaped from Auschwitz before the camp was liberated by the army of the Soviet Union, and he took all of his research papers with him. These papers later fell into the hands of the Allies, but they have never been published. The results of Dr. Mengele’s experiments are currently being held in a vault in Israel. The testimony of some of the Jews, who were the subjects of his experiments or research, has been published, but not the results of Dr. Mengele’s experiments, nor his research papers on Jewish genetic conditions and diseases.

Dr. Josef Mengele died on February 7, 1979 when he suffered a stroke while swimming at Bertioga beach in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was not until a couple of years after his death that survivors began to come forward with stories about the crimes that he had committed at Birkenau, and a massive manhunt was made to find him.

But was anyone really trying to find Dr. Mengele?  Not according to his son. As long as Dr. Mengele was not found and brought to trial, the survivors of Birkenau could make up stories without having to prove those stories.

12 Comments »

  1. Are people stupid or just stupid? This author presents a valid point and reasonable questions, but quite a few of you just attempt to nullify it by crying “Anti Semite” or racist. I get sick of it sometimes how people use my faith as an excuse. I think the holocaust was terrible, yet I do see and acknowledge the “cracks” or unknown aspects of it. I can understand why people become suspicious of this event, why wont Israel allow any scientists enter Auschwitz to conduct research? Why won’t they release Mengele research results? Now can anyone respond with a valid answer? Or is it just easier to nervously blurt “Anti Semite! Self hating Jew!”. I don’t hate my religion or try to deny our suffering, but I do not approve of this bully of a state Israel that constantly beats on the palestinians as the Nazi party did on us. What do you say about that you racists?

    As for the German blonde hair blue eye’d discussion. Prove it. NOT ONCE, did the NSDAP ever care about everyone having blonde hair and blue eyes. It was merely the poster child for Germany. Because all of their “advertisements” had blonde hair and blue eyes, doesn’t mean that’s what they were scientifically trying to change. Hitler and his staff didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes? Starting to make sense.

    Look up the “Bloodhound lawyer”. He was an SS, that’s right schutz staffel member! Who prosecuted several SS officers at Auschwitz with war crimes, get this, ready? Here’s the zinger, DURING WW2!!! He continued after the war to prosecute the criminals. So why when he was at Auschwitz and interviewed Mengele, he did not notice any of the twistedness? Or the experiments? Hm? Am I an Anti-semite? Can’t be.

    Any excuses? Anyone?

    The holocaust was proven, but Mengele was not. The stories and numbers do not add up. Was he a good guy? Most likely not. Was he a monster who drank the blood of his victims as those potential “witnesses” claim? That is why the author poses these questions.

    Many first hand accounts with him have been scrutinized and questioned.

    Simply agreeing with the world and accepting what others say is fact shows stupidity on ones own part. Ask questions. If everything happened the way it did, bring the proof. We can prove Auschwtiz was real because it’s still there. Can we prove what it’s purpose was exactly? Yes and No. Can we pinpoint that Mengele was everywhere at the same time? No. Certainly not.

    Wake up people, ask questions, press for Answers or you will forever live questioning.

    Comment by Thomas Klein — October 14, 2012 @ 12:44 am

    • “Why won’t they release Mengele research results?” Yes, why?!

      “Bloodhound Lawyer” There are many proven cases of KZ-officials being relieved of office, punished for misbehaving against prisoners – explain???

      Why is there NOT ONE document by Nazi-Highcommand ordering or planning systematic killing/annihilation of Jews, the British Secret Service has nothing about it, it’s the reason why the Allies didn’t bomb the tracks to Auschwitz.

      Why would Nazi-Barbarians even care at 1943 to treat ill inmates at Auschwitz, why any “Deathmarches” instead of just murdering their victims? It all makes no sense.

      If according to Pressac and Hilberg Zyklon B was to 95-98% in use only for Delousing/Desinfection fighting TYPHUS – why aren’t we told, why is the Can-Collection at Auschwitz only connoted with forged and “rebuilt” “human gaschambers”, rebuilt by Soviets – remember “Red Terror”, “Great Purge”, or the Katyn-Massacre-Lie?

      6 Million in 1946, yet 6 Million still in 2012 – After all the many proven Lies of “4 Million victims in Auschwitz”, the “Gas-Vans”, the “Steam-Chambers”, alleged Gaschambers in non-polish, non-soviet freed camps….? Dachau: “Gaschamber never in use” …???

      The Siamese-Twin-Horrorstory will be proven a blatant lie as was the disgusting, horrifying “Soap-Story”.

      Comment by Hans-Solo — December 28, 2012 @ 4:50 am

  2. Garbage. You are attempting to defend the indefensible. All wars are horrifying but what happened during WW2 was especially monstrous and Dr Mengele played an integral role in that death machine. I don’t believe in capital punishment but in his case (as with a few others) I would have been strongly tempted to make an exception.

    Comment by --- — May 1, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  3. Shame on anyone who respects any of the people who have ever hurt or even killed anyone (race and beliefs don’t matter)

    Comment by phoebe — February 13, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  4. How can people be okay with the horrible things the Nazi’s did. I can’t believe anyone would ever take the side of such a cruel dynasty.

    Comment by phoebe — February 13, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  5. Well, I see two versions of history over and above what you might like to read or write or interpret, assuming more sides to this story than are obvious.
    First, the conventional view of history as validated by research, original sources, and hard graft looking to expert testimony where there is any doubt. That has given us World War Two, a hundred twin survivors and opinions or memories from those that were on either side of the fences. It includes monographs like Posner’s that concludes Mengele’s science was sheer terror, he lived in fear a hermit and a burden on all who knew him. And he died in 1979. That is his official history, embellished any way you can, of course.
    Second we have an alternative history approached not using Mengele’s name at all. Somehow we are supposed to believe his use of trauma..[such that of the 100 twins hardly anyone are prepared to mention it and many probably could not...the purpose of the exercise allegedly,] made him the actual “Father of Monarch Programming”. Clues abound that he was sidelined to work for intelligence agencies/an agency or two, early on. And the rest, as they say, became history but was quite different. Sio much so that I claim here and elsewhere Mengele was needed even at 93 in 2002 to assess bloggers making sense of the Monarch Operation and adding new previously unreported practices. Google “How tall was Mengele” and you will get a flavour for the fight he was continuing, probably because records were destroyed by Helms in the early 70′s and as an old warrior his touch was still needed. Now move on and away from Mengele, and google “sneeze” and “NSA”. This is a whole new game in which you may think there are winners and losers. And history will be fair to both parties.

    Comment by Tim Baber — November 8, 2011 @ 4:03 am

  6. I am surprised this ranks so high in Google searches because I thought it was badly researched and not entirely well-written.

    In the first paragraph, the author states that “in his [Mengele's] day, most people in Germany had blue eyes, so why waste time on trying to make brown eyes blue?” This sentence immediately made me call into question the depth and detail of research done (or, as the case may be, not done) for this article. I would like to see your source, if any, regarding the percentage of blue-eyed people who lived in Nazi Germany. Fact is, Nazi Germany recognized six different phenotypes as “Aryan” – the majority of whom were not of the Nordic type and did have neither light-blond hair nor blue eyes. There are some regions of Germany where light hair (blonde to light brown) and light eyes blue-gray to green) are more common (as much as about 50% of the population) but overall in Germany, both then and now, the majority of the population did not have light eyes OR light hair.

    Some of your timeline seems to be off as well. Mengele was originally drafted into the Wehrmacht in June 1940 but then volunteered for the Waffen-SS. He was already with the Viking Division in summer 1941 as documented in Keller’s book “Günzburg und der Fall Mengele” as Mengele met a former fellow student at the front near Dnipropetrowsk in Ukraine. Mengele left Viking in January 1943 after being wounded, as per correspondence from his wife. In February he was placed in the SS-Ersatz-Battalion “Ost” from where he was then first sent to Berlin then to Auschwitz.

    You also have to understand that “in Mengele’s time” it was not necessarily an obvious given that he would have known and understood that all eye color is genetic. As a matter of fact, Karin Magnussen was studying how much of eye color was genetic, whether eye color could be used as a way to classify racial pheontype, and what influence, if any, the use of hormones and chemicals had on an individual’s eye color. (See Hesse, “Augen aus Auschwitz” and Massin, “Mengele, die Zwillingsforschung und die Auschwitz- Dahlem Connection”.) The chemical substances Mengele tested at Auschwitz were largely provided by Magnussen, being that Mengele himself had no optometry experience, and Magnussen used some of the eye samples sent back to Berlin by Mengele, particularly those from heterochromic concentration camp inmates, in her research.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Comment by Historian — November 3, 2011 @ 1:56 am

    • What did you search on? I did a google search on “Dr. Mengele turning brown eyes blue” (without the quotes) and my blog post came up in the number four spot. The results in a google search are determined by an algorithm. The results are not based on whether or not the article is well-written nor whether sources are given nor whether proper research was conducted.

      I suggest that you try a search on Dr. Mengele + monster. This will give you results, of which you will approve. Or you could contact google and persuade them to change their algorithm to put kosher results at the top. They have been persuaded in the past to change their algorithm, and they might do it again for you so that you will not have to be offended by my blog again.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 3, 2011 @ 8:37 am

  7. Can you confirm the source of your information regarding the present whereabouts of the records of Joseph Mengele’s medical experiments? I understood that they were destroyed before liberation.

    Comment by rebecca — May 25, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    • I don’t recall my source for this information. I might have read about it when David Irving’s lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt was going on. I recall that there were some records stored at Yad Vashem that the defense wanted to get permission to be released so that they could use it in the lawsuit trial. As nearly as I recall, it was also mentioned that the results of Dr. Mengele’s experiments were stored at Yad Vashem in a vault.

      Comment by furtherglory — May 26, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  8. “This seems to be the origin of the eye changing story. But were these “samples” real eyes that had been removed from dead Gypsy children or were the “samples” actually glass eyes that Dr. Mengele was comparing to the eyes of still living Gypsy children?”

    How about just a lie?

    Brown eyes, blue eyes, eye color change. that’s obviously about aryan race characteristics stuff. But as any intelligent person knows, changing eye color doesn’t change genetics. So it’s just some dumb lie to villify Mengele.

    Comment by Budham — December 7, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

    • Dr. Mengele was studying genetics and heredity. When he saw that the Gypsy children sometimes had eyes of two different colors, he would have taken the opportunity to study the heredity involved in this characteristic. I believe that he actually had glass eyes of different colors that he was using in his research on inherited eye colors.

      Comment by furtherglory — December 7, 2010 @ 2:09 pm


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