» » Children of the Flames: Dr.Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz

Download Children of the Flames: Dr.Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz epub

by Sheila Cohn Dekel Lucette Matalon Lagnado

Download Children of the Flames: Dr.Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz epub
ISBN: 0330322575
ISBN13: 978-0330322577
Category: History
Subcategory: World
Author: Sheila Cohn Dekel Lucette Matalon Lagnado
Language: English
Publisher: Pan Books; New Ed edition (1992)
Pages: 320 pages
ePUB size: 1550 kb
FB2 size: 1680 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 431
Other Formats: rtf docx doc mobi

This book alternates between the authors’ biography of the notorious Auschwitz physician, Doctor Josef Mengele, and interviews with eighteen twins who managed to survive their encounter with him. (In the 1 ½ years that Mengele “practiced” at Auschwitz, only about one in thirty of “his twins” lived to the end of the war.)

One of the authors is among the first journalists to contact Mengele’s twins and interview them. She also organized trips back to Auschwitz for them, as described towards the end of the book.

The twins’ stories are definitely worth reading, if you can bear it.

The account of Mengele’s life is overlong, at times confusing (the authors frequently skip back and forth in time), and also a bit childishly written, in that it shows anger at odd times. For instance, when the body of Mengele is at last exhumed, the authors (who seem to doubt it really was Mengele’s body) make fun of the experts involved, saying they basked in the media attention and rushed to judgment to please reporters. I’m not saying that isn’t true, but rather than these displays of vindictiveness over petty matters distract the reader from the solemnity of the scene.
In short, I read every word of the twins’ accounts but skipped through quite a bit of the Mengele reporting.

The story that hurt me most to read was about twelve-year-old Moshe Offer and his twin brother, Tibi. Mengele’s methods were madness – he really did seem to be primarily a sadist – but he often experimented (did multiple operations, for example) on one twin and left the other alone as a sort of control. Tibi was the unfortunate twin who was operated on several times. But you couldn’t really say that Moshe was the lucky one, either. Moshe recounts how sad Tibi was when, after Mengele operated on his spine, Tibi could no longer walk. Finally, after being taken away for yet another operation, Tibi didn’t come back.

The majority of the book takes place after Auschwitz, which really helps us understand the psychological ramifications of such horrific trauma.

Right after the War, no one wants to talk about the past, even in Israel. Some of the twins really want to talk about their traumatic experiences; others refuse to talk even when asked. Some aren’t able to cry; some cry all the time, have nervous breakdowns. Almost all have nightmares for the rest of their lives. But through it all, the survivors – at least the ones interviewed for this book – still manage to move ahead, get educations, find jobs, marry, have children.

They carry the burden of their past with them all day, every day. Moshe, for example, is delighted when he has a son. But he admits, too, that he often loses his temper with his wife and children for no reason, and hits them. Then he apologizes. At his son’s bar mitzvah, he feels terribly sad – he can’t cope with the fact that his brother, Tibi, is not there.

Mengele also operated on Gypsies at Auschwitz but none of them are interviewed for the book – in fact, the authors report that, unlike the Jews, most European Gypsies pay no attention to their own Holocaust, preferring instead to live in the present.

Among the Jewish twin survivors, there is very little mention of God or of spirituality. None of the survivors seem to believe their dead loved ones still exist, or talk to them, or pray for them. One of the survivors is described as having converted to Hassidism, and some of the survivors do say that, upon revisiting Auschwitz, they finally felt close to their lost family members again. And there is a scene that recounts how, early on, while being transported in the railcars, one of the twins’ fathers opens his prayer book and is joined by others in reciting the ritual Hebrew morning prayer. But beyond that, spirituality – and the belief that they will meet their loved ones again in the next world – doesn’t seem to be a coping mechanism for any of the twins. It doesn’t even seem to be considered.

I think of this especially after having heard an interview with a Jewish atheist who said that, when he returned to a belief in God, part of his reasoning in was that there had to be a source of all the evil in the world. At the time, this struck me as strange: I had often heard the argument that the beauty of nature was an argument for belief in a benevolent creator, but never that the existence of great evil proved the existence of evil spiritual influences.

After reading about Dr. Mengele – and not making any excuses for him – I understand what the ex-atheist meant. If the Holy Spirit can speak through the mouth of a saint, why wouldn’t the Demon himself work through the hands of a moral monster like Mengele?

On the other hand, I can understand that some would consider the death camps as an argument against God. I can’t think of a worse Hell than what the mothers of those children – a few of whom survived – went through, watching their beautiful children being tortured to death. Or what Moshe Offer has (or had) to carry with him for the rest of his life.
I read this book. I loved it from a historical perspective and I hated it from the human perspective. I felt so bad for those children and babies, I felt bad for the moms and dads, I felt bad that entire generations were wiped out and it made me wonder about what makes some people so evil and inhumane. It was somewhat unnerving in view of todays political climate.
I feel it tells a story that needs to be told. People can choose to believe it or not. I believe it. My uncles were in World War 2. The uncles who came home brought their own stories.
All those who read about the Shoah are familiar with the name of Mengele, yet finding this book was something of a shock. All I originally knew was that Mengele was evil, "selected" thousands of people for death by gassing, and performed experiments on twins. It seems that, until the 1970s when the few surviving twins found each other, this was what most people knew.

"Children of the flames" is based on some fine research and is well sourced and annotated. It tells the reader of Mengele's childhood, and in parallel relates briefly the early years of each surviving twin. This is the pattern of the book. The authors noted that although the twins were ultimately "liberated" (there were, over the years, about 3000, of whom only about 100 are known to have survived), Mengele remained in their minds every day and every night all the way into adulthood. And so, because Dr Josef Mengele was a constant companion to the twins, the authors decided to write a book paralleling all their lives from childhood to old age.

We learn about Mengele's school years, his poor grades, and how he managed to get into university in spite of them. We read too of the children's education until they were scooped up by the Nazis. Mengele became very interested in the science of genetics, procuring a mentor named Dr Otmar von Verschuer who was a fervent Roman Catholic and an equally fervent Nazi (while the Nazis were in power). Verschuer mentored him in the arts (it was hardly a science, although he called it that) of racial science and taught him that it was not immoral to perform experiments on living people, particularly if they were Jewish.

Mengele somehow acquired a Doctorate, joined the war effort, was slightly injured and eventually volunteered himself as an SS officer at Auschwitz where he became the chief physician. We read about what he did there, and how he behaved under every conceivable circumstance, and we learn about each twin and what he or she was subjected to. The reader is not spared. Every detail that could be gathered has been collected and researched and written about. It is, plainly, astounding and sickening. But it is so appalling that one simply has to continue reading.

Eventually, as most people know, Mengele escaped and went to ground in South America, travelling between three South American countries with perfect freedom although the governments of these countries knew he was a man wanted for war crimes. There was no shortage of Nazis in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil after the Second World War.

The feeble attempts of the Allies to find Mengele are well documented, as are the similarly feeble attempts of Germany. It is very evident that after the Nuremberg trials (which showed well how "appalled" the Allies were), almost everyone lost the little interest there had been in tracking down those who had been responsible for the destruction of Europe's Jews and Gypsies. A few Nazi hunters did persist, but apparently none of them thought to contact his family in Germany who knew pretty well everything about his whereabouts. All very odd. Meantime, erstwhile top Nazis were finding places in the higher echelons of the "new" Germany, and the USA was doing an excellent job of recruiting Nazis into prestigious positions. Mengele's Nazi mentor, Verschuer, eventually became an honoured faculty member within a German university. The world went on... And the twins suffered physical ill health from Mengele's experiments; their mental health was precarious; their nightmares and night terrors did not stop.

Mengele's life in South America, while luxurious and easy at first, became increasingly lonely. He still managed to exert some of his old charm in public; in private he remained a vicious, domineering, moody, unpredictable bully. He is said to have drowned in the ocean in 1979 after suffering a stroke while swimming. Acquaintances swore that the body they buried was that of Josef Mengele. Even today, nobody is quite sure. Studies of the bones at no stage revealed that they were Mengele's.

I found this book very informative, well worth reading, and infinitely sad for many reasons.
Interesting book, but it focuses too much on the early lives of the victims, rather than the experiments themselves. I would have rated it higher if it was more about what actually happened during the experiments. I was looking for some answers, but this book doesn't really provide any...
I liked that the author actually sought out twin victims of Dr. Mengele and interviewed them for the book, including many, many quotes from the victims. However, half the book is a cursory glance at Mengele's life after WWII and there are better biographies of his life after the war. I wish the book dealt more with his life during the war and his experiments like it claims to.
Mengele is the kind of person you honestly never want to meet. He was a small man, but he has a big place in hell.