Executed at Auschwitz for war crimes on April 16, 1947, Hoss was the last to die there.

        The First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire, founded by Charlemagne in 800 and dissolved by Napoleon in 1806. The Second Reich was the Bismarckian / Wilhelmine German Empire of 1871 to 1918.  The Third Reich lasted from 1933 to 1945.

     The Nazi ideology combined anti-Semitism, racial hygiene and eugenics with pan-Germanic national consolidation and territorial expansion.  Lebensraum for the Aryan master race would be obtained in the East, with the native Slavic and Jewish populations either to be deported or killed.

     Released from the Bavarian prison at Landsberg in December 1924 for his role during  the abortive Munich Putsch of November 9, 1923 Hitler reconstituted the Nazi Party and established the Schultzstaffeln as a staff security service.  Himmler became its leader in January 1929.  Despite being initially subordinate to the Sturmabteilungen under the command of Stabschef Ernst Rohm, in status SS men were to SA men as the Imperial Praetorian Guard were to the Roman legionaries. Hitler became Chancellor of the Weimar Republic on January 30, 1933.  After the Reichstag fire on February 27 Hitler, granted emergency powers by President Paul von Hindenberg, suspended the Weimar constitution.  On June 30, 1934 (the Night of the Long Knives) two Liebstandarte companies were dispatched to the SA conference being held in Bavaria to arrest and summarily execute the SA leadership - Rohm among them - based on false information disseminated by Heydrich's SD that the SA was planning to overthrow the government.  In truth Rohm only wanted the Reichswehr incorporated into his organization.  A much reduced SA (in both size and power) was subsequently headed by Victor Lutze, a Hitler loyalist. With Hindenburg's death in August Hitler combined the Offices of the Chancellorship and Presidency.  In 1938, after the dismissal of both the War Minister and the Army Chief of Staff, Hitler gained complete control of the previously semi-autonomous Wehrmacht. He was now Der Fuhrer in name and fact. 

     Discrimination against the Jews began almost immediately after Hitler's ascension to power. A law was passed in April 1933 banning them from the legal practice and civil service jobs. Similar legislation soon deprived Jews from working in other professions as well.  Germans were encouraged to boycott Jewish businesses.  The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 prohibited marriage and sexual relationships between Germans and Jews, with Rassenschande being punishable by imprisonment.  The Reich Citizenship Law that same year stripped them of theirs.

     In March 1933 Himmler became Police President of Munich and Heydrich his deputy.  That June Dachau, the KZ model for all to come, opened in the nearby medieval town for which it was named.  The professed aim of the camps was to re-educate and reclaim its inmates for the Volkgemeinschaft through hard work and discipline - "Arbeit Macht Frei" was the inscription over the entrance gates at Dachau (and later Auschwitz).  In fact each camp was a hell on earth - wanton brutality and degradation the currency.  The criteria for 'enemy of the state' suitable for internment were ever expanding, creating a slave state within the state.  Events in a 13 month period beginning March 1938 with the Anschluss, the incorporation of the Sudetenland into the Reich in October, the Kristallnacht pogrom (so named as referring to the shattered glass from Jewish shop windows) on November 10th and the occupation of rump-Czechoslovakia (Bohemia and Moravia) the following March drastically changed the scale and purpose of the KZ network.  Buchenwald, Kolumbia Haus, Ravensbrück (for women), Mauthausen (with its Stairs of Death) and others were set up to handle the influx of Austrians, Czechs, and especially Jews.

     Anti-Semitism was the core of the Nazi creed - the total eradication of European Jewry.  After the invasion of Poland in September 1939 three million Jews were expelled from the German incorporated western areas (Warthegau) into rump-Poland (the Generalgouvernement) and initially herded into ghettos in Warsaw, Cracow, Lodz and Bialystock.  By the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 'natural wastage' through disease and famine had already eliminated 500,000 of them. Prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union Hitler had issued the Kommissarbefehl, calling for 'the liquidation of all Bolsheviks, agitators, partisans, saboteurs and Jews found in occupied territory'.  The Einsatzgruppen, 3000 strong in four highly mobile units, killed between 750,000 and 1,250,000 Jews in the area from  the Gulf of Finland to the Black Sea between June 1941 and October 1944.  Jews were rounded up in the village or town square, brought to a secluded location with a large ditch previously dug then lined up one row after another at its edge and shot. When full the mass grave was covered over with dirt. The SS leadership became concerned about the psychological effects the killing of women and children had on their executioners, and determined a more impersonal alternative  must be developed.  By the winter of 1942 gassing had become a standard practice in the Judenreservate of the Generalgouvernement, with a pilot gas chamber plant at Chelmno. After the Wannsee Conference for Die Endlosung (replacing the Madagascar Plan for Jewish resettlement) in Berlin on January 20, 1942, gas chamber complexes opened at Belcez, Sobibor, and Treblinka.  Zyklon B (crystallized prussic acid used for industrial pest control) soon replaced carbon monoxide at all the KZs.  Cruelty to the Jews and mockery of their religion were the aims for each KZ.  At Belcez the doors of the gas chamber were draped with synagogue curtains bearing the Hebrew inscription "This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous shall enter", and the way to the death compound was signposted "To the Jewish State".  The path leading to the gas chamber at Sobibor was called Himmelstrasse (Road to Heaven). At Treblinka an inmate appointed 'shit master'  who, dressed in rabbinical garb and given both alarm clock and whip, was made to enforce a time limit at using the latrine for those infected with dysentery.  At an Arbeitslager outside the village of Stary Dzikow in the Generalgouvernement, the commandant SS Obersturmfuhrer Oskar Dirlewanger would have naked Jewish girls whipped and then injected with strychnine so he and his officers could watch their death convulsions for entertainment.  At the KZ that became universally known as the Factory of Death,  guards would order prisoners to put rats in their trousers (tightly bound at the ankles) and stand at attention - if they could not they were whipped. They were made to walk on planks several feet off the ground and if they fell were set upon by guard dogs.  Bottles were shot off their heads as target practice, but sometimes the SS men aimed lower. SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Robert Mulka engaged in 'rabbit hunts' - he would knock off a prisoner's cap, order the man to pick it up and when he went to do so Mulka would shoot him for attempting to escape.

     The town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in German), located in the province of Upper Silesia, was part of the Warthegau. Auschwitz I Stammlager was constructed on the site of a former army barracks to originally hold Polish political prisoners, who began arriving in May 1940. By November 1941 almost 11,000 were imprisoned there.  Block 11 was a prison within a prison where punishment was meted out  for infractions (including having a jacket button missing or an improperly cleaned food bowl).  A preferred method was hanging a prisoner from the wrists behind his back (strappado), dislocating the shoulders. Another favorite was the 'Boger Swing' (named after SS Unterstrumfuhrer Wilhelm Boger), handcuffing an inmate's  wrists in front of his knees, passing a rod between the elbows and knees with each end placed on a table, and whipping his bare buttocks and the soles of the feet (bastinado) as the prisoner swung in a half somersault.  If the screaming got too loud a gas mask was sometimes put over his head.  Standing cells allowed for inmates to be lowered into where they could not sit or lay down, having to stand in the excrement of previous inhabitants.  Dark cells were for those condemned to death, locked within and given neither food nor water - usually dying of asphyxiation first. The initial group exterminations took place in Block 11 by gassing with Zyklon B, but the building proved unsuitable for mass murder.  The execution site was moved to Crematorium 1 which operated until July 1943 - some 60,000 people died here.

    Construction of Auschwitz II - Birkenau (2 miles northwest of Stammlager - the name comes from the birch trees in the area) began in October 1941, was first intended to house 50,000 Soviet POWs.  After the decision made at Wannsee  Birkenau was reconstituted as both a labor and extermination camp.  The first gas chamber was the little Red House (Bunker 1), a brick cottage converted for lethal use by removing everything inside and bricking up the windows, made operational by March 1942. Sonderkommandos carted the dead to open air burning pits. The little White House (Bunker 2) was soon ready as well.  These structures were used until early 1943, when it was decided to greatly increase the gassing capacity at Birkenau.  Crematorium II had been designed as a mortuary with ground level incinerators and morgues in the basement, but now the latter was converted into a gas chamber with ventilation equipment installed.  Crematoria III, IV, and V were also built that spring, and all four (with 46 ovens) were in production by June.  Bunker 2 was reactivated in the spring and summer of 1944 to accommodate the arrival of 430,000 Hungarian Jews, killed in 56 days with 9,000 during one 24 hour period.

     Monowice (Monowitz in German), a town 4 1/2 miles east of Stammlager, was the site chosen by the chemicals manufacturer I.G. Farben for their plant to develop synthetic fuel and rubber (called buna) as the region was rich in coal, lime, and water - essential ingredients for the process. Known as both Auschwitz III and Monowitz-Buna, it was expected to go into production in 1943 but shortages in labor and raw materials caused continual delays.  Approximately 35,000 prisoners from Stammlager worked on its construction with some 25,000 dying from malnutrition, disease and exhaustion.  The complex was almost complete when it was overrun by Red Army troops. After the war it was dismantled and brought to the Soviet Union.

     Auschwitz I, II, and III and its 45 satellite camps occupied 15 square miles between the Vistula and Sola rivers.  Rudolf Hoss, except for a six month period in 1943-1944 when he served as KZ Deputy Inspector in Berlin, was the Lagerkommandant from April 1940 to January 1945.

     SS Obergruppenfuhrer Oswald Pohl was the chief of the WVHA, a financial empire founded on KZ labor.  Under his direction businesses including arms production, textile manufacture and food and beverage processing generated the Schwarze Ordnung a revenue of 50 million Reichsmark ($20 million in 1940 U.S. dollars) annually.  In the last year of the war Pohl's slave army numbered 600,000 with 250,000 toiling in privately owned factories (such as those for Krupp, Siemens-Schuckert, AEG Telefunken and Bayer) 170,000 in state run (Armament Minister Albert) Speer enterprises, 130,000 in agriculture and service industries with the rest on construction sites.  The daily rate paid to the SS for this service was four Reichmarks for a skilled worker, three for an unskilled and one and a half  for a child.  Their life expectancy was factored to be nine months in the cost analysis. Many Polish and Soviet Ostarbeiter women became pregnant when raped by German workers and overseers. The newborn were taken to a Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte, some for Lebensborn but most for extermination.

     Most Auschwitz inmates had to work 12 hours a day with a hot drink in the morning, a bowl of thin gruel for lunch and a piece of bread for dinner. Special laborers (such as Sonderkommandos) were given more food, as were the subjects chosen for medical experimentation. 

     There was a need for a convenient method to achieve the  mass sterilization of conquered people.  Dr. Carl Clauberg developed a chemical irritant that produced severe inflammation in the female reproductive organs and blocked the Fallopian tubes.  Several hundred women in Block 10 Stammlager were subjected to this.  Those who did not die as a result were executed so autopsies could be performed on all.  Dr. Horst Schumanm at Birkenau exposed both ovaries and testes to high doses of radiation, often producing burns and festering sores on the abdomen, groin and buttocks of the victims, with many dying from complications.  Schumann decided this was an unsatisfactory means and advocated for surgical castration as an effective alternative.

     Dr. Johann Paul Kremer did research on the changes to organs - in particular liver atrophy - caused by starvation.  At Block 28 Stammlager he chose candidates from the Muselmanen for his study, conducting a final comprehensive personal and medical interview with each as they lay on autopsy tables awaiting a lethal injection.  Drs. Friedrich Entress, Helmut Vetter and Edward Wirths conducted clinical trials on the efficacy of new medications for commissions paid by the  pharmaceutical companies.  These preparations were often given to prisoners intentionally contaminated with the diseases the drugs were developed to cure.

     Josef Mengele was the eldest of three surviving sons (with brothers Karl Jr. and Alois) born to Karl and Walburga (Hupfauer) Mengele of Gunzberg, a town in Swabian Bavaria on the banks of the Danube.  His father was the owner of a foundry that manufactured farm equipment for milling, wood sawing and straw cutting.  He grew up in a devoutly Catholic and increasingly prosperous household.  By the 1920's the Karl Mengele company was the third largest threshing production business in Germany and Gunzberg's biggest employer.  Mengele enrolled at Munich University in 1930 to study philosophy and medicine, also taking courses in anthropology and paleontology.  He regularly attended lectures by Dr. Ernest Rudin, who was one of the architects of the compulsory sterilization law enacted in July 1933.  The Law of the Protection of Hereditary Health established the conditions that qualified for this procedure, including feeblemindedness, schizophrenia, manic depression, epilepsy, physical deformities and alcoholism.  This was the start of a series of escalating and genocidal programs culminating in Die Endlosung.  Later the T-4 Program, named for Berlin Chancellery Tiergarten 4 which directed it, established a new bureaucracy with a mandate to 'take executive measures against those defined as life unworthy of living'. Physicians were responsible for making this determination, selecting the unfit.  Hitler's order for the murder of the handicapped was backdated to September 1, 1939 to take on the appearance of a wartime measure.  In 1931 Mengele joined the youth wing of the Stahlhelm.  He was transferred to the Sturmabteilung in January 1934 after Hitler ordered its absorption of the Stahlhelm, but resigned that October to devote all his time to his education.  He studied heredity and racial hygiene and was awarded a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1935. Mengele passed his state medical examination in 1936 and began his residency in a Leipzig clinic. During this time he met Irene Schoenbein, whom he married on July 28,1939.  Because her grandfather was thought to be illegitimate and suspicion remained the real father might be Jewish, Mengele failed to qualify for a place in the Sippenbuch. His own racial profile classification by the SS put him in the Ostisch category, meaning his predominant features were of Eastern origin.  The couple had a son, born on his father's birthday in 1944, whom they named Rolf.  On January 1, 1937 Mengele joined the staff of Professor Otmar Freiheer (Baron in Dutch) von Verschuer, one of Europe's foremost geneticists who specialized in twins research, at the Frankfurt University's Third Reich Institute for Heredity, Biology and Racial Purity.  The professor became his mentor. Mengele joined the Nazi Party in May 1937 and the SS in May 1938.  He was awarded his M.D. from Frankfurt in July 1938.  He received his military training with the Gebirgsjager and in June 1940 volunteered to  join the Waffen-SS.  That November Mengele was assigned to the Genealogical Section of the SS-Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt for the Generalgouvernement in Posen, where teams of doctors examined the racial suitability of those who would inhabit the forthcoming occupied territories.  Mengele was posted to the Ukraine in June 1941 where he first experienced combat and was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class.  He joined the medical corps of the 5th SS Panzer 'Viking' Division in January 1942. Mengele won the Iron Cross First Class and the Verwundetenabzeichen Third Class during the Battle of Rostov in Russia that July for rescuing two wounded soldiers from a burning tank under enemy fire. Toward the end of the year after his recovery he was transferred to the Berlin headquarters of the SS-Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt.  Mengele learned  about Auschwitz, with its vast amount of 'human material' available for experimentation, and petitioned for an assignment there. With the assistance of von Verschuer, now director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity Teaching and Genetics, Mengele secured a position at the KZ in May 1943.  Wirths, SS-Standortarzt at Auschwitz, appointed Mengele the senior physician of the women’s sub-camp at Birkenau. He was promoted to First Physician of Birkenau in 1944.    

     In 1981 the West German Prosecutor's Office, believing Mengele was still alive, drew up 78 indictments against him based on sworn testimony given in the 1970's from surviving victims, inmate physicians and orderlies, and his own SS staff. (Nota bene: as Mengele was never brought to trial, these allegations never stood the test of cross-examination.) On May 25, 1943 he had 1035 Gypsies suspected of typhus sent to the gas chamber.  Later that year a severe outbreak of the disease occurred in the women's camp. Mengele's solution was to clear one block of 600 women by sending them to be gassed.  The block was cleaned and bathtubs were put between this block and the next, where the women from that one were first disinfected in the tubs and then moved to the first block.  This procedure was repeated for the remaining blocks.  His technique for eradicating typhus was cited in Dr. Wirth's recommendation of February 1944 that Mengele be awarded the Kriegsverdienstkreuz.  One of Mengele's interests was to see if the pigmentation of eyes could be changed by the injection of dyes. Men, women and children were subjected to this, often resulting in painful infection or blindness.  Upon test conclusion the subjects were killed and their eyes and other organs sent to von Verschuer in Berlin, the packages marked 'War Materials - Urgent'.  Those with heterochromia iridum (different colored eyes) received his special attention.  His experiments covered a wide range of disciplines from bacteriology to bone marrow transplants, but their principle purpose was for the creation of multiple births with genetically engineered Aryan characteristics. Mengele wanted to establish which attributes and disabilities were inherited genetically and which were acquired by lifestyle and environment.  He thought this could be achieved by the study of Zwillingen, with one in each pair serving as the control.  In the last six months of 1944, 250 pairs of twins were experimented on.  They were housed in Block 14 Camp F at Birkenau, provided with good food and hygienic conditions to promote improved health.  Here he was known as Der Gute Onkel by the children, bringing them nice clothes, toys, candy and chocolate. Mengele would often play with them in the kindergarten he had specially built. After this initial period they were brought to the men's hospital in Block 15 Camp 2BF for the start of 'in vivo' experimentation.  Precise measurements of the circumference of the head, distance between the ears, distance from nose to ear and other external features were taken.  The twins were then made to strip and anatomically examined for hours, down to the minutest detail. Torture came next - needless amputations without anesthetics, spinal punctures, typhus injections, wounds deliberately made and infected (to see how each twin was affected), blood supplies of different pairs of twins interchanged without regard to compatibility, and  twin sisters forced to have sex with twin boys to see if they could reproduce twins.  He tried to create a pair of conjoined twins by surgically grafting two boys back to back and then monitored the progression of the resulting gangrene until both succumbed of it. When one twin died he would have the other killed immediately, often by chloroform injected into the heart, for comparative autopsies.  The Deutsche Farschungsgemeinschaft funded genetics research at Auschwitz, and a grant secured by von Verschuer funded the construction of a pathology laboratory Mengele had built into Crematorium 2 for the dissection of his victims.  Mengele had a great interest in dwarfs as well.  His most treasured were the seven members of the Romanian Jewish Ovitz family, a troupe of traveling performers.  That two of them were also Zwillingen delighted him further.  Mengele once had them paraded naked in front of a rapt audience of 2000 SS men including a senior VIP, possibly Himmler himself. Miraculously all seven survived Auschwitz. Mengele treated a group of Roma (Gypsy) children suffering from noma, an ulcerative condition of the face and mouth caused by a bacterial infection often the result of malnutrition.  This disease, widespread in the Zigeunerfamilienlager, was previously unknown in the KZ. First he had many of the afflicted put to death for pathology studies.  For those receiving medical care, once recovered they were sent off to be gassed.  All inmates in the Zigeunerfamilienlager were liquidated on August 2, 1944. He once supervised the successful delivery of a difficult birth by a Jewish inmate and then had both mother and baby killed. He performed electrical tests on eight young women to learn the limits of their endurance.  They were strapped down on gurneys and connected by wires to a generator. After the screaming finally stopped, two were dead and five comatose.  Mengele was observed calmly discussing the results with colleagues. When he spotted a hunchbacked father with his clubfooted son on the Judenrampe he had them given a hearty meal, measured, executed and dissected.  The bodies were then boiled, flesh stripped from the bones, the skeletons bleached in gasoline and when dry packaged and shipped to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.  It was reported Mengele had 300 children under five years old, arriving from an orphanage in the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk , burned alive in an open pit.  On Yom Kippur 1944 Mengele made 2000 Jewish boys assemble in Birkenau's soccer field and pass underneath a plank nailed to the goalposts. About half who could do so without their heads touching the board were taken away to the gas chamber.  He explained that on the Day of Atonement Jews recite a prayer describing the Lord as a shepherd who passes his flock under a rod.  Toward the end of 1944, because of a food shortage, Mengele ordered the liquidation of the 40,000 women in Camp C Birkenau, which was carried out over ten days.  One of his final experiments was recorded on December 5, for which he used 16 female dwarfs. Five survived.  Mengele often derisively referred to his inmate patients as Die Skelette.

     By January 1945 Crematoria I had been converted into an air raid shelter and the ones at Birkenau destroyed as the Russians approached.  The SS staff burned most documents in an attempt to remove evidence of what took place there. Some prisoners at Birkenau was force marched to Stammlager (those who couldn't keep up were shot) but most were sent west by rail to Germany with many ending up at Bergen-Belsen, which was liberated by the British in April.

     On January 17, 1945 Mengele left Auschwitz, salvaging those records of his work he could in two boxes, being driven off to the sound of the not so distant Soviet artillery.

     Soviet troops entered Stammlager on January 27, 1945 and found 7500 survivors.  They were supposed to be killed as Himmler had ordered no KZ prisoner was to fall into enemy hands, but were overlooked by their SS guards in the rush to escape capture and retribution.

Der Todesengel (The Angel of Death), ​​​Die Endlosung der Judenfrage (The Final Solution of the Jewish Question)Der Fuhrer (The Leader), Reich (Realm), Putsch (Coup), Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers' Party, NSDAP, Nazi Party), Reichswehr (Army - Wehrmacht after 1935), Sturmabteilungen (SA, Storm-Troops, Brown-Shirts), Schutzstaffeln (SS, Protective Squads), Sicherheitsdienst (SD, Intelligence Service), Konzentrationlager (KZ, Concentration Camp), Totenkopfverbande ​(Death's Head Units - SS assigned to the KZs), Kriminalpolizei (Kripo, Criminal Investigation Department), Lagerkommandant​ (Camp Commander), Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo, Secret State Police), Leibstandarte (Hitler's Bodyguard), Waffen SS (Verfugungstruppe before 1940, Military Branch), Einsatzgruppen (Special Action Groups), Stabschef (Chief of Staff), Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA, Reich Security Main Office - a merging of SD, Gestapo, and Kripo in 1939), Judenrein (Cleared of Jews), Reichsfuhrer (Field Marshal), Obergruppenfuhrer (General), Obersturmbannfuhrer (Lieutenant Colonel), Sturmbannfuhrer(Major), Hauptsturmfuhrer (Captain), Unsere Ehre Heisst Treue (Our Honor Is Named Loyalty - SS motto, engraved on the uniform belt buckle), Anschluss (Austrian Annexation), Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), Volkgemeinschaft (German Folk Community), Treuelied (Song of Faithfulness, SS Anthem), Inspektion der Konzenstrationlager (CCI, Concentration Camp Inspectorate), Gauleiter (Regional Leader), Lebensborn (Fountain of Life, SS Adoption Society), Judenangelegenheiten (Jewish Matters), Judenreservate (Jewish Reserve), Generalgouvernement (German zone of occupation in central Poland), Kommissarbefehl (Commissars Order), Sonderkommando (Special Detail - KZ inmates who disposed of the gas chamber victims), Muselman (Moslem - slang term used by KZ inmates describing those severely emaciated. exhausted and apathetic about their impending death), Schwarze Ordnung (Black Order, SS), Wirtschafts und Verwaltungs Hauptamt (WVHA, Economic and Adminstrative Main Office),  Obersturmfuhrer (First Lieutenant), Ostarbeiter (Eastern Worker), Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte (Foreign Children Nurseries), Judenrampe (Jewish ramp), Untersturmfuhrer (Second Lieutenant), Stammlager (Main Camp),Vernichtungslager (Extermination Camp), Arbeitslager (Labor Camp), Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free), SS-Standortarzt (Chief SS Doctor), Blutgruppentätowierung (Blood type tattoo - worn by most members of the Waffen-SS, usually on the underside of the left arm near the arm pit), Sieg Heil (Hail Victory), Sippenbuch (Kindred Book - placement in, for those who could prove pure Aryan ancestry going back to at least 1750, was the ultimate accolade of racial purity), Rassenschande (Race Defilement), Der Gute Onkel (The Good Uncle), Verwundetenabzeichen ​(Wound Badge), Zwillinge (Twins), Kriegsverdienstkreuz (War Service Medal), Deutsche Farschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council), Zigeunerfamilienlager (Gypsy Family Camp), Selektionen (Selections), Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten (Steel Helmet, Federation of the Front Soldier - a right wing veterans' organization not affiliated with the Nazi Party), Lebensraum (Living Space), SS-Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt (SS-Race and Resettlement Main Office), Gebirgslager (Mountain Infantry), Die Skelette (The Skeletons)

SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Josef Mengele M.D. Ph.D. March 16, 1911 - February 7, 1979

      Mengele was transferred to the Gross-Rosen KZ in Silesia Poland, arriving there on January 27, but that camp was evacuated on February 18 to avoid the advancing Red Army.  He then joined a retreating Wehrmacht unit, exchanging his SS uniform for an army officer's, and worked in its field hospital.  This group was pushed westward through the Sudetenland and into Saxony.  On May 8 Germany unconditionally surrendered.  One of 10,000 German soldiers, Mengele was taken prisoner by American forces on June 15.  Brought to a POW camp in Bavaria and known by his real name, he was not discovered to be an SS man because he never received the Blutgruppentätowierung when he had first joined.  No check was made to see if he was listed in the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects (CROWCASS) compiled by the Allied High Command or the United Nations War Crimes Commission.  Mengele was released from custody in September and went to Munich to stay with a pharmacist he had served with in the Viking Division.  Using the alias of Fritz Hollmann, Mengele was hired as a laborer on a farm owned by Georg and Maria Fischer at Mangolding on October 30.  He would walk to nearby Rosenheim to meet with Irene on occasion (the Mengele family maintained the fiction to the American authorities they had no contact with him and assumed he was dead).  Mengele followed the Nuremburg Trial of 1945-6 (where he was publicly named for the first time) and the Doctors Trial of 1946-7 with keen interest and growing apprehension.  The family business, now Karl Mengele and Sons, was booming in this reconstruction period of postwar Germany with wheelbarrows for building sites the biggest seller.  Its prosperity was essential to Mengele, for he had concluded there was no future for him in Europe and to seek sanctuary in South America.  He left the Fischer farm in August 1948 and returned to the Gunzburg region, camping in the forest.  He wanted Irene and Rolf to join him in Argentina, but she refused.  His flight of escape, arranged and financed by his family through SS contacts in their town, began in April 1949.  He traveled to Innsbruck Austria and crossed the Brenner Pass through the Alps.  Once in Italy he went to Vitipeno, then to Bolzano in May and finally to Genoa.  After being detained by police there for three weeks, Fritz Hollmann remained behind while Helmut Gregor boarded the North King, sailing for Buenos Aires in mid-July.

Der Fuhrer, author of Mein Kampf, fired a bullet into his right temple on April 30, 1945 in the underground bunker at the Berlin Chancellery when Soviet troops were only a few blocks away.  His body was carried upstairs and outside to the garden, soaked with gasoline, then burned. The envisioned Thousand Year Reich lasted only a dozen, due in large measure to the Red Tsar at a cost of 25 million of his own soldiers and subjects. To twist Tennyson, evil and evil braided be.

The Ovitz Family

The Auschwitz II - Birkenau Vernichtungslager rail spur

Stammlager children showing their tattoos to Soviet liberators.  Their fates were no longer for Mengele to decide.

SS Obergruppenfuhrer Theodor 'Papa' Eicke

1st Lagerkommandante of Dachua then 1st Chief of CCI - he was the architect of the the KZ system.  When later commanding the Waffen SS Totenkopf division in Russia he was shot down over enemy lines on February 26, 1943 during a reconnaissance flight.

The Germans did not have a monopoly on barbarous medical experimentation. Their Axis partner Imperial Japan operated Unit 731 in the Pingfang district of Harbin Manchukuo  (northwest China) under the directorship of Surgeon General Shiro Ishii from 1935 to 1945.  Chinese, Russian, Mongolian, Korean and Allied POW victims were subject to unspeakable atrocities under the guise of biological and chemical research.


I.G. Farben plant at Auschwitz III - Monowitz Arbeitslager

Shoes in Canada, the name given to the building in which all gas chamber victims' clothes and other possessions were stored for sorting and subsequent shipment to the Reich.  The female prisoners who worked in this area were better fed and allowed to keep their hair.  As a result of still looking like women they were often raped by the SS guards.

The entrance gate of Auschwitz I - Stammlager

SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Adolf Eichmann  

Head of IV B 4 of the RSHA, the special subsection for Judenangelegenheiten, he managed the logistics of the mass deportation of Jews to the KZs. Eichmann escaped Europe after the war but was kidnapped in Argentina by Israeli Mossad agents in May 1960 and brought to Jerusalem for trial. He was hanged on June 1, 1962.

SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich - Chief of RSHA, he was the No. 2 SS man at the time of his assassination on June 4, 1942 in Prague (being appointed Gauleiter of Bohemia and Moravia in September 1941) by Czech patriots.  Five days later the nearby village of Lidice was razed, males over 15 years of age shot, women and children (not Aryan enough to be consigned to Lebensborn homes) dispatched to the Chelmno KZ for extermination.

 Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler 

Mengele is the officer in the soft cap on the far right.  His duties included making the selektionen for the new arrivals - quick death and disposal in gas chamber and oven to the left (Links) or slow death through forced labor, beatings and starvation to the right (Rechts) - on the Judenrampe when a transport train (sometimes up to five a day) arrived.  About 75% to 90% of each group were murdered immediately.  Mengele was said to be only one of two doctors who could perform this sober (the other was Fritz Klein, a virulent anti-Semite ever since his fiancee was seduced by a Jew during his undergraduate days) and often attended when not his turn, always looking for suitable subjects for his experiments.

Prisoners were told to disrobe as they were to be given a disinfecting shower.  Canisters of Zyklon B, consisting of hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid) pellets and originally developed as an industrial pesticide, were poured from the roof through a trap door in the ceiling of the gas chamber by a SS guard wearing a gas mask and protective gloves.                      

     The estimated casualities at Auschwitz were - hundreds of Jehovah Witnesses and homosexuals, 15,000 Soviets, 21,000 Gypsies, 71,000 Poles and between 1.0 and 1.3 million Jews (about one fifth of them children).

     The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum  was the source of some of the information on the medical experiments conducted there, as presented on the Jewish Virtual Library  website.

          Dr. Tobias Brocher, a Menninger Foundation psychoanalyst who studied Mengele's behavior, concluded he exhibited the narcissistic component of sadism, but not sadism itself.  He didn't take pleasure inflicting pain on others but rather in the power to decide between life and death for them.

While under British military custody Himmler committed suicide on May 23, 1945 by biting on a cyanide pill hidden in his mouth.  His corpse was buried at an unmarked location near Luneberg in Lower Saxony.

Einsatzgruppen 1941 Judenrein 

Die Endlosung der Judenfrage

A glossary of Deutsch (German) terms . . .

Sonderkommandos, also wearing gas masks, dragged the bodies out of the death chamber. Eye glasses, jewelry and hair were removed from the corpses, and any dental work extracted so the gold could be melted down. They brought the bodies  to the crematorium for incineration.  The ashes were used as fertilizer.

SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoss Auschwitz Lagerkommandant  

Der Todesengel