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Mengele’s Son Says Father Dead, Makes Statement to Prosecutor

June 12, 1985
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The son of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele said today that his father died in Brazil in 1979 and that he was informed of his death at the time.

Rolf Mengele, 41, a lawyer in Freiburg, issued that statement confirming a West German Radio report this afternoon that he had informed the State Prosecutor in Frankfurt that he knew of his father’s death six years ago.

He said he had “no doubts whatsoever” that the body exhumed at a cemetery in Enbu, near Sao Paulo, over the weekend was the remains of Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz death camp doctor who was the object of an international manhunt. According to his statement, he visited Brazil in 1979 shortly after he was informed of his father’s death.

Mengele’s son refused to meet with reporters gathered outside his office and outside the family home in Guenzburg, Bavaria where the Mengele clan owns a prosperous agricultural machinery factory. A spokesman for the family said it has always refused to discuss the elder Mengele’s activities during World War II “and will continue to do so.”


The statement issued by Rolf Mengele concluded with an expression of sympathy to “all the victims and relatives.” He did not elaborate but was presumed to be referring to the estimated 400,000 people Josef Mengele selected for the Auschwitz gas chambers, mostly Jews and the thousands of other inmates on whom he performed fatal or crippling medical experiments.

There was no explanation today as to why the Mengele family kept silent for six years if it had positive knowledge of the death of its notorious member. The remains exhumed in the Brazilian cemetery, now undergoing forensic tests to establish identity, reportedly belonged to a man who drowned in a swimming mishap in 1979 and was buried under the name Wolfgang Gerhard.

The Brazilian authorities ordered the exhumation on the basis of claims by an elderly couple of Austrian origin that Gerhard was in fact Josef Mengele, a man who had lived with them for a time. Another immigrant to Brazil, Gitta Stammer, 65, also claimed Gerhard was Mengele, a man who managed her husband’s farm for years under an assumed name. She said he admitted his identity when she confronted him with a newspaper photograph of Mengele and made threats against her children if she denounced him.

Tests being made on the exhumed remains have not yet produced conclusive evidence as to the identity of the body. Skeptics have noted however that Mengele’s alleged death, a secret for six years, was revealed only after the U.S., West Germany and Israel embarked on the first international effort to track down Mengele since the end of World War II. More than $1 million in rewards have been offered by Israel, West Germany and Jewish organizations for information leading to the capture and trial of the war criminal.

German experts have established beyond doubt that Mengele’s family in Guenzburg supported Josef Mengele financially during his long stay in South America where he found refuge shortly after World War II. The experts said the family is convinced Mengele is dead and hopes to produce evidence bearing this out in a few days.

According to the Frankfurt prosecutor, family members complied with requests from the war criminal’s associates in South America not to report his death. In letters to the family, these associates gave two reasons. One was concern for their own security and the other their desire to see Israel waste millions of dollars trying to trace a “phantom” Mengele.

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