Stensager, Anders Otte: Doktor Mengele – Liv og forbrytelse (Life and crimes of Dr Mengele) (2008)

Book-Cover-Nazi-Laegen-Josef-Mengele-Anders-Otte-StensagerThis summer I have been reading Stensager’s biography on Doctor Mengele – one of the most infamous doctors experimenting on prisoners in concentrations camps during WWII. Not exactly light and pleasant reading and even worse for the prisoners who had to meet him and his compatriots.

One of Stensager’s aims in writing about Dr. Mengele and his fellow doctors at Auschwitz has been to reaffirm the reality of the Holocaust in an attempt to slow down the efforts of the revisionists to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. The reason he wrote in Danish was because he felt it important that the Danish people acknowledge their part in enabling these horrible events.

At first we find out what Mengele’s growing up years were like. He grew up in a conservative Catholic family who were pretty much like the rest of the townspeople. While at university he joined NSDAP and SS and embraced the idea of the Arian race.

The war came, he went off as a unit doctor and was eventually sent to Auschwitz where he became part of the horror that was the objectification of others. All of the camps experimented on their prisoners. Different camps had different areas of “expertise” except for Auschwitz where they did a little of everything.

One of my grandfathers was tortured by the SS during WWII – he was in the underground movement here in Norway. What happened at Auschwitz outdoes what he went through.

Child_survivors_of_Auschwitz
Jewish twins kept alive to be used in Mengele’s medical experiments. These children from Auschwitz were liberated by the Red Army in January 1945.

Mengele was most known for his twin studies, but man – those doctors were seriously disturbed.

Something happens to us when we begin seeing certain people as objects. Objectification allows us to rationalise our actions. I’m not going to repeat what the book tells of Mengele’s experiments. If you read Norwegian, Danish or Dutch you really ought to get a copy. But be prepared for people at their worst.

After WWII Mengele got away. He never took responsibility for what he did. It was always a matter of following orders or other people lying about what went on during the war. But he took notes on his experiments and they pretty much spell it out for us.

What does Stensager’s biography on Mengele’s life and crimes teach me? We must never forget what we are all capable of doing. A lot of doctors both in and out of the camps were involved with the experiments that went on and were OK with them. They were just regular people who had stopped seeing certain people as people. Instead they had become things. It could just as well have been me.

Knowing this makes it possible for me to change both myself and to stand up for those who need it. I can be part of trying to prevent something like the Holocaust from happening again.


Reviews:


Dutch version:

  • Josef Mengele, Nazi-arts: zijn leven, en misdaden (Nazilaegen Josef Mengele)
  • Overige betrokkenen: Geri de Boer
  • ISBN10: 906100635X
  • ISBN13: 9789061006350

Norwegian version:

  • Oversetter: Lars Nygaard
  • Forlag: Pax
  • ISBN10: 8253034903
  • ISBN13: 9788253034904

Danish version:

  • Forlag: Documentas
  • ISBN-10: 8770630445
  • ISBN-13:  9788770630443

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