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Shofar archives:


Tales of the ‘Last Nazi’
by Hal Quinn

A tangled 40-year-old net slowly tightened last week around the
“Angel of Death,” Josef Mengele. Each day evidence mounted that the
world’s most wanted criminal, a man responsible for the deaths of
400,000 Nazi concentration camp inmates during the Second World War,
had, in his own death, escaped his captros – and retribution for his
crimes. Scientists examined the remains of a body exhumed on June 6
from a grave at Embu, Brazil, and American and Brazilian forensic
experts said they had no doubt that the handwriting in notes and
letters written by the man was that of Mengele. Even famed Nazi
hunter Simon Wiesenthal allowed that there was a “50-50” or “maybe
60-40” chance that the infamous Dr. Mengele of Auschwitz-Birkenau
was dead.

Although it was the sixth report of Mengele’s death since 1946, it
seemed to be the most plausible. Breaking three decase of silence on
his father’s fate, Mengele’s son, Rolf, 41, released a statement in
Munich declaring, “I have no doubt that the corpse exhumed in the
cemetary at Embu … is the remains of my father.” Then the son
pledged to hand over critical evidence to the chief prosecutor in
charge of West Germany’s search for Mengele, Hans-Eberhard Klein. A
statement issued by his step-brother, Jens Hackenjoa, said that the
evidence would include proof of Rolf’s visit to his father’s grave
in 1979, a photo of Mengele taken in the 1970s and a sample of his

Rolf Mengele also gave the Munich-based magazine _Bunte_ hundreds of
photographs, letters and about 30 lb. of documents which the son
said were a record of Mengele’s life at large in South America.
_Bunte_ editor Norbert Sakowski, who planned to start publishing a
series of heavily illustrated articles this week, said that Rolf
Mengele had asked for no renumeration. He added that if _Bunte_
makes a profit by selling subsidiary rights, it will give the money
to survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Sakowski said the son’s motive was that “he was burdened by the
heritage of his father. He felt that if all of these details were
published, it would be all over.” The editor added that information
in the documents showed that Mengele had lived in various South
American countries and that he had visited Europe several times. As
well, family members, using their own passports, used to visit him
in South America. Said Sakowski: “It’s quite unbelievable that they
never caught him.”

In Brazil people who gave sanctuary to a man claiming to be Mengele
for more than 15 years offered persuasive testimony that their
sometimes autocratic, sometimes urbane house guest was in fact the
object of one of the most intensive manhunts in postwar history. At
week’s end, the balance of circumstantial evidence shifted strongly
toward confirmation that the bones disinterred from Embu, officially
listed as the remains of one Wolfgang Gerhard, were Mengele’s. Both
Brazilian and American analyists declared themselves convinced that
Mengele had in fact died. But Israeli and West German investigators
who have pursued Mengele for 40 years are not totally convinced.
Said Klein: “The case will only be closed for us when we are certain
that he is dead.”

At the city morgue in Sao Paolo, X-rays of the remains from Embu
were consistent with the body being Mengele – and ruled out the
possibility that the bones had been Gerhard’s. A 30-hour examination
by handwriting experts identified 15 points of similarity between
Mengele’s 1938 application to join the Nazi Waffen-SS, and other
material, and documents found in a Brazilian farmhouse where he
spent his final years. Forensic expert David Crown, head of the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency’s documentary identification department
from 1967 to 1982, declared: “They were handwritten by Mengele. If
we had found there was some problem with the writing, we would have
rendered a qualified conclusion. The fact that we are rendering an
absolutely positive conclusion means that we have no doubt as to the
authenticity of that writing.”

Sao Paolo police chief and head of the Brazilian investigation team
Romeu Tuma declared: “It is almost certain Mengele lived in Brazil
for at least 15 years and drowned Feb. 7, 1979.” Mengele would then
have been 68 years old. Still, forensic study of 500 bones and bone
fragments, a stump of hair and seven teeth found at the grave site
may not be completed until the end of the month. Even then, Tuma
conceded, only fingerprints would provide real confirmation.

According to Tuma, the man reported to be Mengele was sheltered in
Brazil from 1961 until his death by two couples – Hungarians Geza
and Gitta Stammer and Austrians Wolfram and Liselotte Bossert. They
were introduced to their boarder by Wolfgang Gerhard, whose
identification papers were found at Embu. According to his son,
Adolf, Gerhard, a salesman described by Tuma as a Nazi “fanatic,”
died in poverty in Graz, Austria, in 1978.

Gita Stammer, with whom “Mengele” lived for 13 years, said that the
experience was often a troubling one. “Those weren’t happy years for
us. He took over our lives and was authoritarian with our children.”
Stammer learned his identity during the second year of his stay. “I
read some article about the war and asked him who he was. He said:
‘You have lived with me long enough to know. I am Josef Mengele.'”
Warning the Stammers to keep silent, Gerhard told them, “You should
be happy that in your unimportant little lives something great has
happened to you.” Still, they were relieved when Mengele left to
live with the Bosserts. Stammer denied being paid for keeping
Mengele and that his family in Germany was indifferent to his

Still, there were apparently a number of transactions between the
man who said he was Mengele and his family in Germany, some of which
may have involved money. The fmaily owns and operates Karl Mengele &
Sons, a farm machinery manufacturing firm in Guenzburg, West Germany
(1984 sales, 110 million). So prominent is the company that signs
outside the Bavarian town read: “Mengele-Guenzburg.” Hans Sedlmeier
– a lifelong friend of Mengele’s and a former firm manager whose
confiscated correspondence with Wolfgang Bossert first led police to
the Embu grave – made several trips to Brazil, carrying letters and,
according to Bossert, money.

As well, Tuma said the Stammers enjoyed a higher standard of living
than could be expected from Geza Stammer’s earnings as a
topographical engineer. The income, Tuma added, could not justify
Stammer’s frequent overseas travel or his current trip to Europe.
Police are now investigating Bossert’s contention that Mengele’s
funds were invested in the Stammer farm outside Sao Paulo.

Bossert insisted last week that no Nazi groups – such as Odessa or
Kameradenwerk, organized to protect and aid Nazis after the war –
assisted Mengele. He added: “If such organizations exist, they
should be ashamed not to have found any other protection or shelter
for Mengele than a Hungarian couple or myself.” But unlike Gitta
Stammer, the Bosserts were genuinely fond of the man they believed
to be Mengele, the doctor who with a simple wave of his finger, left
or right, decided who would live at Auschwitz and who would die. And
they were upset at their boarder’s death. “Liselotte called me up
and said, ‘The old boy’s dead,'” Bossert recalled. “She was crying a
lot.” He added that the Bossert children “adored” Mengele, calling
him “Tio” – uncle. And the Bosserts’ housemaid, Elsa Gupian de
Olivera, now 34, was also attracted to him. Said de Olivera: “(He
was) charming, despite his age. He said he wanted me to live with
him without getting properly married. If he had been able to marry
me legally, I would have done it.” Mengele’s second wife, Martha,
63, lives in Merano, Italy.

Still, while teams of Brazilian, German, Israeli and U.S.
investigators pored over the accumulating evidence, skeptics
continued to regard the story as an elaborate hoax. Said Rabbi
Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the centre named for Nazi-hunter
Wiesenthal: “We know how much Mengele and his supporters have to
gain by making the world believe he is dead, especially with the
background of the Hitler Diaries hoax in our minds.” Police chief
Tuma disagreed: “If someone cooked this up, then he must have a
finer mind than Agatha Christie,” he said. “It would have been a
novel for the future that was 15 years in the planning.”


With Richard House in Sao Paulo, Peter Lewis in Brussels and Sue
Masterman in Vienna.

Source: MacLean’s Magazine, v98, June 25, 1995. pp. 28-29