BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The Brazilian pathologist Daniel Romero Muñoz came up with an interesting idea in order to help medical students at the University of São Paulo to learn forensic science. The pathologist was part of the team of researchers that identified the skeleton of Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor, in 1985.
Josef Mengele is also known as the “angel of death” of the Nazis. He was a doctor during World War II and is renown for having conducted human experiments on the Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz, including children. He fled Europe when the war ended and went into exile in Brazil. He died in 1979 and his skeleton was exhumed in 1985, when the team of researchers Muñoz was a part of identified his body.
The identification was confirmed after a DNA analysis in 1992 and was the result of several attempts made by the United States, West Germany and Israel to track down Mengele, who succeeded to escape and not be found four decades after the war ended. His remains spent more than 30 years in São Paulo’s Legal Medical Institute, since his family refused to have them repatriated in Germany.
Eventually, Muñoz, who is now a lecturer at the medical school, recognized the potential these bones have to be used in research only much later. It is not only his history that makes Mengele’s bones perfect for studying, but also his traces in the military and the health problems that bothered him during his years in exile.
For example, Mengele’s bones showed a fracture in the left pelvis. This is linked to information from his army record that states how he fractures his pelvis in a motorcycle accident in Auschwitz. The trace that proved vital in identifying the skeleton was a small hole in the left cheekbone, evidence of Mengele’s prolonged case of sinusitis. Mengele’s dental abscesses are also visible if students look closely. These were reported to have been treated with a razor blade.
However, Holocaust survivors who are alive to this day are still recovering from the ordeals Mengele subjected them to. A few of the gruesome experiments included the injection of dye into babies’ eyes or the starving of babies in order to see how long they can survive.
The researchers and professors at São Paulo University hope that, by having Mengele’s bones as learning material, students will not only find out more about forensic science but also about the terrible effects Nazi experiments had on people.
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