LOS ANGELES (Feb. 18)
Josef Mengele, the notorious Auschwitz death camp doctor, was in U.S. army custody shortly after the end of World War II, according to a former American soldier who said he saw him in an army detention camp for captured Nazis on or about July 10, 1945.
Walter Kempthorne, a retired aerospace engineer, told a press conference at the Simon Wiesenthal Center here that he had a chance meeting with a Nazi prisoner while serving as a guard at the Idar-Oberstein detention camp in the U.S.-occupied sector of Germany.
He said other American soldiers told him later that the prisoner in question was “Mengele, the bastard who sterilized 3,000 women in Auschwitz.” Kempthorne said that at the time neither the name of the prisoner nor of the camp meant anything to him. “But as a 19-year-old American I was shocked at the crimes described. It’s something I could never forget,” he said.
ACCOUNT SEEMS TO CONFIRM OTHER INFORMATION
Kempthorne was accompanied at the press conference by Sens. Arlen Specter (R. Pa.) and Alfonse D’ Amato (R. NY) who are leading efforts in Congress to press the U.S. to help track down and apprehend Mengele, the most notorious Nazi war criminal still at large. The former soldier’s testimony seemed to confirm recently disclosed information that Mengele was detained by the U.S. authorities after the war and then freed.
Referring to the prisoner identified as Mengele, Kempthorne said: “While not getting a full frontal view of the man, I do recall that he apparently tried to bleach his black hair and was approximately 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, a description that matches Mengele’s appearance at that time.”
He said that the inmates of the Idar-Oberstein camp were all Nazis who were being interrogated and either released or held for trial. The camp was run by the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Corps (CIC). Kempthorne explained that his batallion was assigned to watchtower duty and was not part of the CIC.
“A few days after the incident, on July 14, Bastille Day, my unit was relieved by French troops and I had no further opportunity to come in contact” with any of the prisoners, Kempthorne said. He said he decided to come forward at this time after reading articles in the press “that the U.S. government has launched an official investigation into the Mengele case.”