THE ""LAST"" NAZI: The Life and Times of Dr. Joseph Mengele by Gerald Astor
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THE ""LAST"" NAZI: The Life and Times of Dr. Joseph Mengele

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With an elegant flip of his hand, Mengele consigned to death those new arrivals at Auschwitz too ill, too old or too young (along with their mothers) to perform slave labor. Some, however, escaped immediate death because they happened to be twins or congenitally handicapped and thus were fodder for Mengele's horrific experiments on heredity and its relationship to Hitler's theory of the Master Race. According to Astor, Mengele was no sadistic anomaly but an official operating comfortably within the mainstream of Nazi social doctrine--which blamed Jews and other ""inferior races"" for Germany's woes--but also in accordance with the sentiments of much of the German public. The first half of this book is devoted to Mengele's early life and to the horrors of Auschwitz and other concentration camps--where ""medical experiments"" were performed that make Mengele's seem almost tame. The second half concerns his escape from capture in the war's final days, his subsequent life in Germany, Italy, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil (where, in all likelihood, his life ended in a drowning accident). Astor, who spent five years researching this book, includes interviews with Mengele family members, concentration camp survivors, Nazi hunters, and some of the people who aided him when he was a fugitive. The author also seems to have perused just about every item of published material on the ""Angel of Death"" and diligently searched government archives for material on his life and whereabouts. (Several tantalizing scraps of information seem to lead to the conclusion that Mengele was briefly interned in a US prisoner-of-war camp.) In June, 1985, the ""greatest manhunt in history"" ended anticlimactically with the almost certain identification of Mengele from the remains of a man who had drowned in June, 1979, off a beach in Brazil. It therefore became imperative for Astor to complete his manuscript and rush it into print. Inevitably, this haste has resulted in a slapdash, sometimes repetitive and confusing presentation, with puzzling gaps and questions that will keep serious historians nit-picking for years to come. But if the academics may quibble, the general reader will be totally engrossed, horrified and ultimately illuminated by this densely documented chronicle of a quintessential official of the Third Reich who, to his dying day, believed that history would not only exonorate but honor him and Hitler for what they had done to defend the ""indisputable traditional values"" of Germany and mankind.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1985
Publisher: Donald Fine