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Genetic fingerprint proves Mengele's death in Brazil

BERLIN -- Genetic testing has confirmed that the remains of a man who drowned in Brazil in 1979 were those of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, the 'angel of death' at the Auschwitz concentration camp, according to German officials.

State prosecutors in Frankfurt said Wednesday British scientists looking at a sample from the drowned man's bone were able to match the genetic fingerprint to the blood of Mengele's son, Rolf.

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The remains identified as those of Mengele were those of a man with the assumed name of Wolfgang Gerhard, who drowned in a swimming accident at an Atlantic Ocean beach in Brazil in 1979. The body was exhumed from a cemetery in Brazil in 1985.

Although forensic tests in 1985 showed the remains were probably those of Mengele, the genetic test appeared to end speculation that Mengele could still be alive.

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Mengele was the Auschwitz concentration camp doctor from 1943 to 1945, where he conducted brutal pseudo-medical experiments on prisoners. He was also responsible for selecting which of the millions of Jews and other Nazi victims brought to the camp were spared for slave-labor and which were sent to the gas chambers -- thus earning him the name 'angel of death.'

Several million Jews were killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the final years of Nazi rule and historians estimate about 6 million Jews in total were murdered in Nazi death camps during the Third Reich.

Mengele escaped from Germany in 1945 and lived in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay prior to his death.

The Frankfurt state prosecutor's office said the genetic fingerprint was the final link in a long chain of evidence identifying Mengele and that the files kept on the search for Mengele for over 30 years would be closed.

'The result of the test leads to the conclusion without any doubt that this was the body of Mengele,' said a statement released by the Israeli Justice Ministry Wednesday.

Although experts from Germany, Brazil and the United States agreed in 1989 that the body was that of Mengele, Israeli officials had demanded a more positive identification.

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An Israeli-based group of survivors of Mengele's medical experiments had said that until the remains were clearly identified, reported sightings of Mengele could not be discounted.

In New York, Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Los Angeles-based Nazi-hunting group, said it was now up to the U.S. Justice Department 'to move swiftly to release its long-delayed report on the Mengele case.'

Cooper said the department could answer whether Mengele was ever in U.S. custody following World War II, as many have alleged. 'His victims deserve nothing less than the whole truth,' Cooper said.

Last week, The Washington Post quoted sources saying the genetic testing had confirmed Mengele's identity, and added the breakthrough became possible within the past two months, after Mengele's son Rolf reversed his refusal to give blood samples for a DNA match test.

According to the Post report, government sources said the Mengele family granted prosecutor Hans Eberhard Klein's request only after German authorities threatened to exhume the bodies of other Mengele relatives.

The Post said geneticist Alec Jeffreys examined two bones from the Brazilian cemetery. While an upper arm bone yielded no DNA, tests on an upper leg bone produced enough to map out Mengele's genetic composition.

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