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Behind the Headlines the Hunt for Mengele

May 23, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

What are the substantial facts about Josef Mengele, the “angel of death” SS doctor of Auschwitz? The facts of his post-war years are sketchy.

Allegedly, he spent some time in 1945 as an interned patient in a British hospital in occupied Germany. He then supposedly lived openly in his family’s home in Guenzberg. The Mengele family’s wealth derives from its multinational firm that manufactures and distributes agricultural implements and heavy machinery. Reasonable assumptions are that the family in large measure supported Mengele since the war.

When accusations against him became a public problem, Mengele dropped from sight in 1949. As this correspondent reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 1983, he allegedly used the “monastery routes” to flee Europe, exiting at Genoa with false papers under the name of “Gregorio Gregori” or “Helmut Gregor,” making his way first to Franco Spain, thence to Argentina with a passport bearing his real name and photograph. (No documented evidence of this purported passage has ever been produced.)

In Argentina, Mengele supposedly practiced medicine openly in Buenos Aires and environs. On June 5, 1959, a murder warrant was issued against him by a Freiberg, West German court. Among its 17 specific accusations: “Mengele killed … a newborn baby … by throwing the infant into an open fire before the eyes of its mother.”

For more than six months, the West German Foreign Ministry — itself notoriously packed with Nazis from Hitler’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — did not circulate the extradition request based on the murder warrant to those countries where Mengele had been reported.


Mengele in the meantime was shuttling between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, according to sources. In late October of 1959, he purportedly was naturalized in Paraguay. (Some sources say the date was 1957.) Not until June 28, 1960 did Argentina itself assign the extradition requests for proceedings to get underway.

Among the few sober documents was an October 1973 report by Poland’s war crimes commission alleging that Mengele was living in Amambay province in Paraguay along the Brazilian border. Paraguay of course has been a notorious haven for Nazis since World War II.

More than half of the country’s economy is controlled by German interests. Its army was trained successively by imperial and Nazi militarists since World War I. Its dictator, General Alfredo Stroessner, an open admirer of Hitler, controls one of Latin American’s most oppressive regimes. Stroessner has to this date rebuffed all attempts to flush out Mengele, let alone honor any legal steps seeking extradition.

The following assertions were reported in the U.S. Army’s CIC (Counter-Intelligence Corps) 14 pages of documents released to the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles last December:

A 1947 CIC “informant stated that to the best of his knowledge, Dr. Mengele was arrested in the U.S. Zone of Germany …” The informant described Mengele “FNU (full name unknown) former chief medical officer in Auschwitz.” (Mengele was not the chief medical officer there.)

The concern of the CIC was to question Mengele about “the fate of 20 Jewish children removed (by Mengele) from Auschwitz in November 1944.” Nothing what###ever was indicated about a direct interest and urgency concerning Mengele himself.

A June 1962 letter from an American intelligence officer in Europe providing information on Mengele to the Canadian Embassy in Cologne, West Germany, which had been told to check out a man by name of “Joseph Menke” who had applied for a visa to Canada from Buenos Aires, Argentina. (The American information was incorrect in some parts.)

There was nothing else of substance in the CIC documents, nor were the key Canadian side of the answers present. There was nothing to justify the quick and extreme conclusions made by Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. N.Y.), and Sol Littman, the Wiesenthal Center’s Canadian representative. (See Part One.)


The CIA documents released to D’Amato do have relevant materials indicating Mengele’s deep involvement in trafficking drugs, counterfeit money and other illegal dealings.

CIA reports starting in the late 1960’s and going through the late 1970’s placed a “Dr. Henrique Wollman” as running a drug ring out of a remote farm in Paraguay near the Brazilian border. The CIA’s source was “a petty criminal” whose material was “unevaluated.” Later, the CIA “confirmed” “Wollman” as the wanted Mengele, but the “doctor” now posed as “an auto mechanic” at a location closer to the Brazilian border.

A 1979 cable requested details on the family company, Mengele & Son, hypothesizing that “it could serve as a mechanism to move or launder large sums of money as well as to cover the movement of illicit narcotics.”

These CIA reports were distributed to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), Treasury, DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), State Department and the FBI in Washington.

It is a proven fact that Nazi war criminals on the run in Latin America have financed their political networks by way of drug trafficking, counterfeit money rings and small arms brokering for sales abroad. Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo mass murderer now facing trial in France, had such operations.

Missing from this equation, however, is the demonstrated and relevant fact that the CIA itself has been one of the world’s largest dealers in the international drug trade. Extensive documentation of these CIA pursuits were released by the Church Committee of the U.S. Senate in 1975. The Committee was headed by Frank Church, then Senator from Idaho.

To this writing, the CIA documents contain the most substantial data on Mengele to 1979. Beyond the pitiably few materials in all the hoopla over these materials, there has not yet been unearthed anything except sensationalistic conjecture.

(Tomorrow: Part Three)

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