JERUSALEM (Jun. 23)
Isser Harel, who as former head of the Mossad was instrumental in the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in 1961, insisted here that the Auschwitz death camp doctor Josef Mengele is still alive despite the conclusions of a report issued in Brazil last week that a skeleton exhumed from a graveyard there was unquestionably that of Mengele.
There was no official government response. But a Justice Ministry spokesman said Israel was waiting to review the report of forensic experts involved in the investigation. Israel police force’s top Nazi hunter, Menachem Russak, said in Brazil that he agreed with the findings of the experts.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, meanwhile, said in a statement that they agreed with “reasonable scientific certainty” that the remains-found in the cemetery in Embu, Brazil were those of Mengele, the so-called “Angel of Death,” and chief physician at Auschwitz where he conducted inhumane medical experiments on camp inmates.
U.S. SUPPORTS REPORT
The report issued in Sao Paulo last Friday by a team of international forensic experts from the United States, Brazil and West Germany concluded that the bones exhumed from the graveyard were those of Mengele. The American delegation issued a separate report concluding that the bones were those of Mengele “within a reasonable scientific certainty.”
The U.S. Justice Department said Friday that it supports the conclusions of the international group of experts. “Based on the information available from the forensic examination, these experts have concluded that the body exhumed by Brazilian authorities is in fact Josef Mengele.
“Representatives of the United States government took part in the examination of the remains and concur in the conclusion. It is my sincere hope that this will be the final chapter in a tragic and horrible part of world history. We should never forget the horrible crimes, ” Attorney General Edwin Meese III said in a statement issued in Washington.
OVERWHELMING DATA CITED
The experts told a news conference last Friday that their evidence was not based on one test but on an overwhelming accumulation of data and the fact that all the evidence was consistent with the assumption that the body was that of Mengele. One test involved comparison photos of the exhumed skull with other pictures of the Nazi war criminal.
Furthermore, beyond the skull comparison and a comparison of other areas such as the eyes, mouth, nose and chin, there was the fact that the tests discovered that the bones were of a white male of medium build between 64 and 74 years of age. The height was that of a man in life calculated at 174 centimeters or about 5 feet, 10 inches. Mengele’s SS file listed his height as 175 centimeters. The body was also right, handed, as was Mengele.
The experts indicated that dental tests failed to provide conclusive evidence that the body was that of Mengele, although reconstruction of the jaw and teeth concluded that the body found in the grave had a wide space between the upper incisors — an unusually wide gap that was one of Mengele’s distinctive facial features.
HAREL EXPLAINS HIS REASONING
Nevertheless, Harel of the Mossad told a Voice of Israel interview this weekend that he was not convinced the exhumed body was that of Mengele and suggested that the great effort being expended to prove that Mengele was dead was a sure sign that he was still alive.
Harel asked why the Mengele family did not come forward to tell the world that the war criminal had died in 1979 when pathologists could have easily proven the dead man was in fact Mengele. He also asked why did they decide to confirm the elder Mengele’s death at this time, letting Jews and other Nazi hunters search in vain for Mengele.
The report last Friday brings to a conclusion two weeks of intense investigatory efforts and tests by experts of the body found in Embu under a grave of Wolfgang Gerhard, the identity that Mengele is said to have assumed in 1975 while living in and around Sao Paulo, sheltered for many years by two couples. Notebooks and letters said to have been Mengele’s have been found and handwriting experts last week confirmed that they were authentic. Mengele drowned at a beach near Sao Paulo on February 7, 1979 at the age of nearly 68.
Harel said in the weekend interview that he believed efforts to create an impression that Mengele had died were caused by recent reawakenings of public interest in Mengele, particularly the recent public trial in Jerusalem.
He said that stories of an international conspiracy of Nazi war criminals are a great exaggeration. They tend to live in isolation in Latin America, he said, in closely guarded homes. “You don’t need an international conspiracy to make it hard to catch them, ” he said. “A local one is sufficient.”
HOLTZMAN WARNS OTHER NAZIS ALIVE
Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman said today that she is satisfied with reports that Auschwitz death camp doctor Josef Mengele is dead, but warned that “many other Nazi war criminals are still alive both here and abroad, and the world must not last until they are brought to justice.”
Holtzman, who as a member of Congress until 1980 was instrumental in getting the Justice Department to track down Nazi war criminals living in the U.S., referred in her statement today to possibly conclusive evidence that a body exhumed in Brazil two weeks ago is the remains of Mengele who reportedly drowned in 1979.
“My initial reaction is one of relief that Josef Mengele is no longer able to enjoy freedom. I’m disappointed that the world was never able to bring him to justice,” Holtzman said.