Senate Unit Told That Continuing Publicity is Best Means to Spur U.s., World Action to Apprehend Men
Menu JTA Search

Senate Unit Told That Continuing Publicity is Best Means to Spur U.s., World Action to Apprehend Men

Download PDF for this date

A Senate subcommittee was repeatedly told today that continuing publicity is the best means of spurring U.S. and international action to apprehend Dr. Josef Mengele the notorious “angel of death” of Auschwitz.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Pa.), chairman of the Juvenile Justice Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said there is evidence that the U.S. Army had Mengele in its custody after World War II and the subcommittee wanted to know why he was not tried and why he has not been arrested since. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D.Ohio) was the only other subcommittee member who participated in today’s hearing.

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) said publicity of the Mengele case has already helped bring confirmation that Mengele was held by the U.S. Army in 1945 in the Idar-Oberstein prison camp in U.S.-occupied Germany.

He said that as a result of the news of the legal action taken by Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and himself to receive information from the U.S. Army on Mengele, two persons who were stationed as privates at the prison camp have come forward to say that Mengele was there at the time.


One of them, Walter Kempthorne, said he came upon guards with a man and the guards said,” This here’s Mengele, the bastard that sterilized 3,000 women at Auschwitz.” D’Amato said the second person, Richard Schwarz, a Washington lawyer, told him this morning that when he was at the camp he was told that one of the inmates was the “sterilization doctor” who had “sterilized 6,000 women.”

Specter said that if anyone else has information they should write to him in care of the subcommittee.

Meanwhile, Hier testified that the latest evidence on Mengele, who he believes is still alive, was in 1982 when the West Germans arrested two persons on drug smuggling charges. One of them, Ricardo Riefenstahf, who had been associated with the Asuncion University in Paraguay, claimed to have been a roommate of Mengele at the time. This information was given by a person who had formerly lived in Paraguay to a leader of the San Francisco Jewish community, according to Hier.

D’Amato said there is “no doubt this monster Mengele is alive.” He said Mengele, who entered Paraguay in 1951 and was naturalized as a citizen in 1959, may have fled to Canada in 1962 for a short time, after Israeli intelligence had tracked him down. He said that at that time, a Joseph Menke was in Canada and it is believed this may have been Mengele. (See related story, P. 4.)

D’Amato said that Mengele was in the international drug trade in Paraguay under the name Enrique Wohlman from 1972-79. He said that in 1980, friends in Paraguay received Christmas cards from Mengele from Portugal.


D’Amato and Hier said that the army had provided six of the seven documents requested and would release the other when they received permission from a foreign government. This was confirmed by Lt. Gen. William Odum, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence.

D’Amato said he expected to receive other documents from another government agency which he did not name. The subcommittee received a letter from Sen. Carl Levin (D. Mich.) asking that it help him get the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to release information it had on Mengele.

Odum, meanwhile, came under fire from Specter and Metzenbaum for not having sought further information on the Mengele case on his own initiative. Specter refused to accept his excuse that he would cooperate, when asked, with the Justice Department’s Office for Special Investigation (OSI) which is conducting an investigation into the Mengele case.

The OSI refused to send a witness to the hearing. While this was criticized by Specter, Allan Ryan, the former OSI director who conducted the Justice Department’s probe into the U.S. involvement with Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, said he agreed with the OSI because the OSI investigation should be kept confidential until completed.

Odum was especially criticized when he said he had no information about one of the released documents in which Ben Gorby, a special agent of the 970th Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), wrote in 1947 to the commanding officer of the 430th CIC detachment in Vienna stating that he had learned that Mengele had been arrested in Vienna and in the U.S. zone of Germany. Gorby asked that Mengele be interrogated about the fate of approximately 20 Jewish children removed by him at Auschwitz.

Odum said it has been difficult to locate either Gorby or the commanding officer of the CIC in Vienna at that time. But Hier later testified that he has interviewed Gorby in Israel and has the names in Los Angeles of the CIC commander and other top officers.

Ryan stressed that any investigation should not only include the U.S. but all countries, especially in Europe and South America.


The subcommittee also heard testimony from Mark Berkowitz, who along with his sister, was one of the Jewish twins Mengele experimented on, and Emest Michel, executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Greater New York, who testified that as a young inmate of Auschwitz, he helped carry eight women to Mengele for experiments.

Berkowitz, who saw his mother being taken to the gas chamber, said she urged him then not to hate. He said he was speaking out not from hatred but for the thousands of soldiers who died fighting against the Nazis. “What did they die for, so that this man could live and be free?” he declared. “For the sake of future generations, for my grandson, and for the little babies I saw marched every day to the gas chambers, help bring Mengele to justice.”

Metzenbaum said it is critical that Mengele, who is 73, be brought to justice before he dies.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund