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Brazil Body Mengele’s, Son Asserts : He Has ‘No Doubt’ Corpse Is Nazi’s; Israelis Skeptical

Times Staff Writer

The son of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele broke the family’s long years of silence about the fugitive’s whereabouts Tuesday and declared that the body exhumed last week by Brazilian authorities is that of his father.

“I have no doubt the body exhumed at the cemetery in Embu, Brazil, on June 6, 1985, is the remains of my father, Josef Mengele,” the son, Rolf, said in a written statement released here.

“I am sure that the forensic tests will confirm this shortly,” the statement added. “The family is prepared to give further information.”

Although brief and lacking detail, the statement appeared to take one of the most intensive, prolonged manhunts of the post-World War II era one step closer to conclusion.

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Those who have spent years tracking Mengele, called the “Angel of Death” because of his role in the murder of 300,000 to 400,000 Jewish prisoners at the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, have long said they would attach major significance to any statement by the Mengele family.

Leading Nazi hunters, including Simon Wiesenthal and the Paris-based couple Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, have consistently pointed to the family’s silence as proof that the notorious former Auschwitz camp physician was still alive. They argued that the family would immediately announce Mengele’s death to free themselves from persistent public inquiry and police investigation.

However, in his statement Tuesday, Mengele’s son indicated that the family had remained silent “out of consideration for the people who were in contact with my father for the past 30 years.”

Israeli Disbelief

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Israelis involved in investigating Nazi war crimes said Tuesday in Tel Aviv that they do not believe Rolf Mengele’s statement, the Associated Press reported.

“This is just a very elegant way to move away from public interest in a matter which is not too pleasant for them (the family),” said Gideon Hausner, director of the Yad Vashem memorial to Holocaust victims and the lawyer who prosecuted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1964.

“If the family knew for a number of years that their father was not alive, and they did not announce it until now, this casts a heavy doubt on the veracity of what they say.”

Menachem Russek, head of the Israeli police unit investigating Nazi criminals, said, “Mengele just might be under a little pressure because of the reward we are offering, and he might even distrust his own people. So, his son may now be announcing his death to take the heat off.”

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$3.5 Million Reward

Israel has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of Mengele. West Germany and private groups in the United States also have posted rewards for his capture, and the total amount of rewards is $3.5 million.

Acting on evidence uncovered in the last two weeks, both West German investigators and Brazilian police now believe that Mengele most likely died in a swimming accident more than six years ago while living near Sao Paulo under the alias of Wolfgang Gerhard.

The remains of the man buried as Gerhard were recovered from a Brazilian cemetery last Thursday and forensic tests are being conducted in an attempt to positively identify them as Mengele’s.

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Wolfram Bossert, the man in whose home investigators now believe Mengele may have spent the final years of his life, has told reporters in Sao Paulo that after the drowning accident in February, 1979, the Mengele family had agreed on silence to protect those who had sheltered him.

Bossert, 59, and his wife Liselotte, 57, have said that Mengele lived in a house they own in Eldorado Paulista, a suburb of Sao Paulo, from 1975 until his death.

Visited Brazil

In his statement Tuesday, Mengele’s son confirmed a West German press report that he had visited Brazil after his father’s death. “I myself went to the place in Brazil in 1979 to confirm the circumstances of his death,” the statement said.

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Speaking for other members of the Mengele family, Rolf Mengele’s statement concluded, “All victims and their relatives have my and their deepest sympathy.”

In Frankfurt, the public prosecutor’s office said Mengele’s son, through an attorney, had provided a more extensive statement, with the request that it be kept secret until today.

The Mengele family’s fear of publicity was clearly apparent in the bizarre manner in which the son’s statement was made public.

It was issued to two news agency reporters by Jen Hackenjos, the son of a second marriage by Mengele’s first wife, Irene. He met the two reporters at his apartment here after other reporters were given a different address.

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At the house in another part of the city where most journalists waited, Hackenjos’ wife, Sabine, and a family acquaintance who identified himself as Herbert Bauermeister arrived to elaborate briefly on the statement issued only to the reporters’ two colleagues elsewhere.

“We hope that finally all doubt about the death of Josef Mengele can be set aside with the statement of his only son,” Sabine Hackenjos said. Bauermeister said the family will make public additional information about Mengele, but he was unable to say when that might be.

Sabine Hackenjos said she assumes that information to be released today by the Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office will include “very personal things” such as bone breaks, illnesses, and dental records of the Nazi war criminal.

Bone fractures are of key concern in the case because Brazilian investigators have said there appears to be an abnormality that could be an old fracture in the pelvis of the exhumed skeleton; Mengele is believed to have broken his hip in 1944.

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Obviously nervous and ill at ease, Sabine Hackenjos indicated that Rolf Mengele had not made his statement in person partly because of his concern for the safety of his family and himself. “They are afraid,” she said. She said the family has received a number of death threats since the case had regained prominence in recent days.

Hackenjos stressed that she and her husband, a 28-year-old Munich architect, had never met Mengele.

Two new witnesses say they met Mengele in Brazil. Page 15.


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