Von Verschuer Director and Mengele Former Postdoc Now Guest and Collaborator in the Berlin Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology

In October 1942 von Verschuer became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology in Berlin-Dahlem, and so successor of his teacher Eugen Fischer. Among the scientists who came with him from Frankfurt to Berlin was Dr Ayres de Azevedo, a Portuguese post-doc. Azevedo had come to vanVerschuer' s lab in Frankfurt in July 1941. He stayed with von Verschuer in Berlin until August 1943. He analysed the sera of twins for differences in their blood groups. The bottom line of his research was that identical twins had identical blood groups (14). In other words, blood group analysis was the best possible technique to determine whether twins were identical or not. Azevedo published his findings in the July/August 1944 issue of Der Erbarzt. He did not indicate where the twins came from. It makes sense to assume that some if not all of them were Gypsies. Gypsies had been analysed before by various members of von Verschuer's and Fischer's institutes. Almost all German Gypsies were transferred to Auschwitz in the spring of 1943.

In January 1943 Verschuer's former post-doc from Frankfurt University, Josef Mengele, came to his Berlin institute as a guest. As an SS-officer, he was still formally Assistent at Frankfurt University where he had worked with von Verschuer. So his salary was paid by Frankfurt University. As von Verschuer wrote to his friend de Rudder, a paediatrician at Frankfurt University, he planned to give Mengele a post-doc position in his new institute later, after the war (15). Mengele had been successful as a researcher. Between 1937 and 1940 he published three research papers, a meeting report and several book reviews (16). He had joined the SS in 1938. He was drafted in 1940 and in 1941 was sent to the Russian front. In June 1942 he was wounded in the region of Stalingrad, but was lucky enough to be flown out. In January 1943 he was sent to Berlin to do office work and to recover. There he joined, as a guest scholar, the KWI for Anthropology, where his teacher, von Verschuer had just become director. So Mengele's name appears on the birthday list of the Berlin Institute (Fig. 1).

During these months in Berlin, Mengele was offered. the position of camp doctor in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, as an alternative to going back to the front. It is reasonable to

Mengele Documents
Fig. 1. Birthday list. Professors, post-docs, and guests of the institute and the employees of the entire institute and of the department of human genetics. Nachlass von Verschuer, Universitatsarchiv Munster.

assume that he discussed this opportunity with von Verschuer. Both must have realised that Mengele would become involved there, in one way or another, in what was officially termed either the 'total' or the 'final solution of the Jewish. question' (die Gesamtlosung oder Endlosung der Judenfrage). Reading the articles and the text book of von Verschuer, Mengele must have come to the conclusion that his teacher was all for it. In fact Dr Hans Munch, the only SS-MD in Auschwitz who had not participated in selections, said, after the war, that Mengele, when they had dinner together in Auschwitz, argued exactly as von Verschuer had in writing, about the scientific necessity of the gassings in Auschwitz. They were part of the total solution of the Jewish problem, for which there was no other solution (17).

And what opportunities and possibilities there were for anthropological, genetic research in Auschwitz! On May 30, 1943 Mengele started to work as camp doctor in Auschwitz.

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