Twins and Angel of Death

Twins and Angel of Death

When a person thinks about genocide they tend to just think of the mass murder by the government not the other things that happened during the genocides. During the Second World War there were camps across Europe that were run by Nazi Germany. The camps ranged from work camps to extermination camps. Within many of the extermination camps there were other things that happened besides just immediately killing the prisoners. Each of the concentration camps had what they referred to as medical blocks where they would house the sick or in other cases use it in a more “scientific” way. During the Holocaust there were some doctors that chose to use this time to be able to further their medical research in an unethical way. They used the prisoners because the doctors did not see them as people but more as unnecessary persons. This practice was used in many of the camps and some of the camps and their doctors focused on more specific types of research. One doctor in particular at Auschwitz-Birkenau known for his experiments on twins was Dr. Josef Mengele. Dr. Mengele used the camp as his own personal supply of test subjects for his horrendous experiments and no one stopped him but they instead used his research to further their own reasearch.


One of the most notorious doctors was Dr. Josef Mengele who favored experiments involving twins and children. Although he conducted a majority of his experiments were conducted in Auschwitz, he was actually the head doctor at the Birkenau which his where his records were kept. He got the mindset of studying twin from his mentor that he first studied twins with. His fascination with twins began before the Holocaust, which is shown in the picture below.


Although you cannot see Dr. Mengele’s face and the and manage you can see the twins and how he’s holding a chart that seems to be comparing their eye colors and eye shapes.

His main reason for his interest in twins and other multiples because he was trying to figure out how they could more quickly repopulate with their idea of the “perfect race”. He wanted to understand what part of the genetic make-up would lead to twins being born. There are also reports of in cases of very young twins he would keep the mother around for a little while to be able to run experiments on them as well and also to help ensure the compliance of the younger twins. Twins of the holocaust that interacted with Dr. Mengele described him as being a very charismatic man that would often give the children in the medical ward candy to help gain his trust. There are also reports of children referring to him as “uncle” because they trusted him and he became a form of a father figure to them.

The Selection Process


During the selection process Dr. Mengele would stand on the ramp watching the different transports come in. The above image shows Dr. Mengele watching the transport coming in and pointing out people that he would want for his own personal experiments and in turn with and taken back to the barracks that he would house them in. This was an important and intricate part of his entire process because it is where the entire experiment process began every time.

When a transport would arrive at the camp Dr. Mengele would immediately go and search for twins. He would go through the all the transports yelling, “Zwillinge heraus”[3], which means twins out.

After the selection process the twins were then taken back to a separate set of barracks located in either the men’s camp, the women’s camp or in the gypsy camp. And although the twins were prisoners they were given special treatment.[4] He felt confident in his ability to be able to perform his experiments because with identical twins it gave him the ability to use one as a control and one to experiment on. It seemed to him like the perfect set up concentration camp he seemed to have an unlimited supply of subject for his experiments that he could not only study while they were alive but also after they were dead.  One doctor even reported that, “Still more corpses of twins were sent to me. They delivered me four pairs from the Gypsy camp.”[5] Reports similar to this one were made more then once.


The Experiments

Once in the care of Dr. Mengele the experiments began. Many of the twins remember having the same experiences including the fact that they were all measured in every aspect and then compared to their respective twins. These twins were forced to spend hours sitting without clothes on and being poked and prodded in every aspect while Dr. Mengele attempted to figure out if there were any differences between them and to make sure that everything was accurately measured and recorded. Below is an image showing two sets of twins that were used in the experiments.


In the picture you are able to see the state of health the twins were kept in. This picture seems to have been taken for you the purpose of research and to be able to better document the different characteristics of the twins of this particular experiment. Although this picture shows the twins after they’ve been through experiments it doesn’t actually show what exact types of experiments were but with the picture you can kind of see that there are marks on their arms and that they’re very frail and also very malnourished.

There were many gruesome experiments performed on these twins including Dr. Mengele performing many transplant and removal surgeries without using any form of anesthesia. There are few surviving pictures of the actual experiments but the ones that are, are not of the experiments but instead of the after effects. It was not uncommon for the twins to become very skinny and sickly, because reports from other doctors that had worked with him stated that he would often infect the twins with various diseases and infections. There are accounts from various twins of the horror of being infected with a disease and being on the brink of death and pushing themselves to survive out of the love they had for their twin because they knew if they died their twin would be immediately be killed so they could be examined side by side. The image below shows a group of Gypsy twins and children that were tested on by Dr. Mengele.



This image clearly shows the aftereffects of the experiments that were performed on the children that are pictured above but it also shows not only the physical effects but also the emotional and mental effects you can see in their faces that they don’t have the faces of children necessarily but more like an older adult that’s seen more than they should. The picture shows children in various stages of malnutrition and also various stages of different types of disease. It also shows the sadness in their faces because of all they have been through at such a young age and also the fact that they know its not over yet and for all they know it could never end.  The children and twins that were subjected to these cruel experiments never knew what would happen next or even if they would survive till the end of the week.

Examples of some of the types of experiments that were performed on the twins and children under the care of Dr. Mengele include taking blood from one twin and internment putting it in the other twin and vice versa there are also reports of him also almost completely draining the twin of blood until they pass out and putting it in their twin to see the reaction. Another example of the type of experiments that were performed was that there was a lot of focus on the eye colors of the ideal perfect race. The twins that survived as well as those people that were present during them recall him injecting different chemicals and dyes into the eyes of the twins in order to try to change the color of their eyes. The results of the attempts to change their eye color essentially failed but also effected their eye sight in the future/

One of the more gruesome experiments that witnesses reported took place was that of which he attached a set of gypsy twins to one another.  The eye-witness reports state that he took a set of twins one which had a hump on his back and surgically attached them back to back and went as far as to fuse and sew their veins together. At the trial Vera Alexander, recalled her witness of the aftermath of the procedure. She states in her account that the cuts were dirty and were visibility infected. Her report also states that there was evidence of gangrene on their surgical sites and they were constantly crying in pain until they died.  When the twins were brought back after that surgery, the incision sites were all inflamed and full of pus and it was evident that they were infected. The link below will take you to the footage of her testimony from the trials of the Nazi Doctors.

In addition to studying the twins while they were alive if he grew tired of a particular set of twins or no longer felt the need for them or if they were too badly diseased or sick he would use a chloroform injection to their heart to kill them and then send them out for autopsy. Another thing that was very common for him was that if one twin died the other one was immediately kill in order to make sure the results of his experiments were not affected.

Throughout this entire process of performing experiments he always had autopsies performed and then the reports were then sent to the Berlin-Dalhem Institute and marked them as “Urgent War Material”.  What puzzles me about this is the fact that that the doctors at the institute did not at all question where these reports were coming from or how Dr. Mengele had access to such a large amount of twins. The fact that no one questioned but as that instead of saving the material there are reports that instead of saving the reports for future studies they instead would destroy them essentially destroying the evidence of the horrific experiments.

Throughout my research on this particular subject I learned a lot about Dr. Mengele but also about all of his experiments and the after effects of them. After liberation when the twins grew up they were faced with many difficulties not only physically and medically but also mentally and emotionally. These young children saw and lived through more horrific situations then most adults but instead of letting it consume them completely many of them when forward and spent a large portion of their life teaching about their experiences.  When people think about genocides and the holocaust most of the time they focus on the main forms of murder and not the other aspects of it.  Dr. Josef Mengele contributed to the genocide in an horrific way and said it was all in the name of medical research but what he actually did was systematically murder a large group of children because of the fact that they were twins and he did not understand why.

[1] “The Evolution of Medical Ethics.” Twin Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.


[2] Holocaust History. N.d. Photograph. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC 20024-2126. Photograph. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.


[3] Lifton, Robert J. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 1986. Print. 348.


[4] Lifton, Robert J. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 1986. Print. 348.


[5] Nyiszli, Miklós. Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account. New York: Arcade Pub, 1993. Print. 61.


[6] “Gypsy Victims of the Nazis.” Holocaust Education Trust. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.


[7] “Gypsy Victims of the Nazis.” Holocaust Education Trust. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.