Unmasking the "Angel of Death"
by David G. Marwell
Pub Date 28 Jan 2020
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A gripping history of the infamous Nazi doctor, from a former Justice Department official tasked with uncovering his fate.
Perhaps the most notorious war criminal of all time, Josef Mengele was the embodiment of bloodless efficiency and passionate devotion to a grotesque worldview. Aided by the role he has assumed in works of popular culture, Mengele has come to symbolize the Holocaust itself as well as the failure of justice that allowed countless Nazi murderers and their accomplices to escape justice. Whether as the demonic doctor who directed mass killings or the elusive fugitive who escaped capture, Mengele has loomed so large that even with conclusive proof, many refused to believe that he had died.
As chief of investigative research at the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations in the 1980s, David G. Marwell worked on the Mengele case, interviewing his victims, visiting the scenes of his crimes, and ultimately holding his bones in his hands. Drawing on his own experience as well as new scholarship and sources, Marwell examines in scrupulous detail Mengele’s life and career. He chronicles Mengele’s university studies, which led to two PhDs and a promising career as a scientist; his wartime service both in frontline combat and at Auschwitz, where his “selections” sent innumerable innocents to their deaths and his “scientific” pursuits—including his studies of twins and eye color—traumatized or killed countless more; and his postwar flight from Europe and refuge in South America.
Mengele describes the international search for the Nazi doctor in 1985 that ended in a cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the dogged forensic investigation that produced overwhelming evidence that Mengele had died—but failed to convince those who, arguably, most wanted him dead. This is the riveting story of science without limits, escape without freedom, and resolution without justice.
About the Author: David G. Marwell, former director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, worked on the Mengele case at the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations in the 1980s. A historian who has served and led a number of government and nonprofit institutions, he lives in University Park, Maryland, with his wife.
“In Mengele, David Marwell has written the final and fascinating history of the ‘Angel of Death.’ His prodigious research results in many new insights into one of the most notorious Nazis…Marwell, who played a personal role in some of the events he recounts, displays not only the refined eye of a historian but emerges as a talented storyteller. The often infuriating tale he sets forth moves along effortlessly. At long last, in this important book, Mengele has been captured.” - Gerald Posner, author of Mengele: The Complete Story
“A fresh perspective on the notorious Auschwitz doctor, from his infamous experiments to the decades-long postwar search for him. Never losing sight of Mengele’s monstrous activities, Marwell tackles common myths (Why was Mengele really interested in twins? And why his fascination with eye color?) and, chillingly, traces the underlying links between his ‘research’ and respected scientific institutions. Further: as an Office of Special Investigations historian committed to tracking down this elusive mass murderer, Marwell brings special insight and a wealth of detail to his riveting discovery tale.” - Debórah Dwork, author of Flight from the Reich: Refugee Jews, 1933-1946
“Marwell’s lucid and legend-busting account of Josef Mengele’s life and deeds—and of the intricate and elaborate detective work required to find and conclusively identify him—is both absorbing and authoritative.” - Peter Hayes, author of Why? Explaining the Holocaust
“This is a book that only David Marwell could write after half a lifetime of studying and pursuing Josef Mengele. Marwell does more than portray the man, he details his multiple escapes, identities, and careers, the thirty-four-year search for his capture, the political intrigues and rivalries between countries, Nazi hunters, and intelligence agencies that led to Mengele’s grave. A fascinating story of great importance.” - Michael Berenbaum, former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Research Institute
“David Marwell’s Mengele is a fascinating historical work. How did Dr. Mengele come to epitomize the many medical atrocities committed by trained doctors at Auschwitz? How did he escape? How was he (almost) found? But it is far more than just exceptionally solid scholarship. It is also a thriller and a first-rate detective story written by someone who was part of the team that had to unravel this mystery” - Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of Antisemitism Here and Now and Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory University