The $400,000 journals of the 'Angel of Death' Josef Mengele
This Thursday, July 21, a collection of journals belonging to a notorious war criminal is to go under the hammer.

The auction, at Alexander Autographs in Connecticut, is offering the private journals of Dr Josef Mengele, who is remembered for his actions at one of the worst concentration camps.

The journals track much of Mengele's life following the end of WWII, until his death in 1979 by drowning. Information was quite scarce before they were discovered. This makes them valuable as a historically significant text.

As we commented before, when a set of Mengele letters were offered at Bloomsbury, there is something very unnerving about how normal and unthreatening some aspects of the material are.

In the case of the letters, some of the writing was devoted to Mengele's affection for his wife and fretting about her minor health problems. These journals, in turn, do not look like the diary of a Nazi war criminal; some are colourful, all are homely.

Mengele diaries
More than meets the eye  - the historical Mengele diaries

Mengele's war began in 1940, when he was placed in the reserve medical corps, following which he served with the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division. He was injured, and later promoted to Captain for saving the lives of two German soldiers.

Perhaps in part because his injury had rendered him unfit for combat, Mengele was moved to Auschwitz in 1943.

After a spell picking those fit for forced labour from prisoners (the rest were killed), he became known as the Angel of Death for his cruel, grotesque and inhuman experiments, especially on twins.

The journals pick up the story from the late 1940s, though they are not simply a diary: The writings are comprised of autobiographical chapters, diaries, stories, intense philosophical introspections and debates, direct quotations of conversations, political commentary, history, and poetry.

Despite initial capture by the Americans, Mengele was released as he was neither on a wanted list nor sporting the blood group tattoos that most SS officers did.

Mengele journal page
A page from Mengele's journal

He hid out in Germany as a farmhand, where his wealthy family offered him support, but not shelter as they feared reparation demands from his victims. He saw his wife occasionally in obscure locations.

Following the war, a number of leading Nazis were executed, for example by Albert Pierrepoint, who hanged Bruno Tesch, co-inventor of the insecticide Zyklon B used in the Holocaust and 'Lord Haw-Haw', William Joyce. So naturally Mengele would not have felt safe.

In 1949 he made the decision to travel to South America, where he thought he would escape attention and could continue his 'research'. He gained assets in the country with the help of his family, but had to flee to Brazil after the authorities began looking for him.

He apparently lost all his assets in Argentina, and spent most of the rest of his life working on crafts and obsessively writing everything from political views to a childlike story. The auctioneer estimates that 95% of the material has never been published.

The journals in total are estimated at $300,000-400,000.


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