US News | January 19, 2010
Few names make one cringe in horror like that of Josef Mengele, the Nazi concentration camp "doctor" who performed gruesome human experiments—especially on twin children—before dodging Allied troops and fleeing to South America in 1945. Yet despite some people's obsession with the medical monster and all that's been written about him, little of Mengele's own work has ever been seen. "Mengele," says Bill Panagopulos, president of Alexander Autographs, an auctioneer of historical goods, "is very, very rare."
Until now. Panagopulos is featuring two Mengele writings in his next auction. The sale on January 20 and 21 is expected to bring Nazi collectors out of the woodwork to cough up $100,000 for the never-before-seen artifacts.
One is a letter he wrote from Auschwitz to his estranged wife proclaiming his love and plans for "our imaginary reunion." The other is a 180-page "diary" devoted to Mengele's theories on eugenics and population control and his rambling views on women, politics, and the church. Consider: "The real problem," writes Mengele, "is to define when human life is worth living and when it has to be eradicated." The diary is written within the covers of a composition book titled Illustrated Zoology.
Who'd buy these? Surprisingly, Panagopulos says that it's very often Jewish collectors, who use the items to teach history or donate them to museums. The Connecticut auctioneer wouldn't identify the owner of the artifacts, which were seized in Brazil years after Mengele died in 1979.
Perhaps more intriguing is why anybody would sell the secrets of Dr. Death. Says Panagopulos: "As horrendous as he was, Mengele is a historic figure, as are Mao, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Anything uncovered that can offer us an insight into their thinking helps complete the historical record and perhaps helps prevent similar crimes in the future."