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Mengele Speaks

Joe Rosenblum was born in Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Poland. When the Nazis entered his town, he evaded capture; most of his family, however, would be taken and would perish in the Holocaust. As Joe tried to elude capture, he first found shelter with a local Gentile family; then he joined up with Russian partisans. Eventually, however, he was captured by the Germans and was sent to the first of three concentration camps. Through a combination of ingenuity, resourcefulness and sheer luck, Joe managed to survive the horrors of  Majdanek, Auschwitz and Dachau, not to mention a death march at the end of the war.

In Auschwitz, Joe had to remain healthy enough to work; if he couldn't work, he would be sent to the gas chambers. He was able to find different jobs. At one point, Joe became a courier for the camp underground, and he also found work at the ramp where the transports arrived by rail in increasingly greater frequency toward the later stages of the war.

Joe was also able to find work in the hospital area where Mengele worked. His job was to clean, whether it be Mengele's boots or the hospital floor. While working there, Joe was able to overhear conversations between Mengele and other doctors assigned to work with him. Joe understood German, but he never let on that he did for fear that he would be sent instantly to the gas chambers. Read Joe Rosenblum's account of two conversations he overheard between Mengele and the other doctors who worked with Mengele in Auschwitz:

Joe Rosenblum
of Międzyrzec Podlaski, Poland

Still, two overheard conversations filled me with happiness. The first occurred when Mengele was in his office discussing politics with his three doctors. He had such discussions with them almost every morning. They all had access to daily newspapers, which they read religiously.

The suite was four approximately twelve-by-twelve-foot rooms, each with a handmade rectangular table, some wooden chairs, and a few books. Mengele would sit on one side of the table in his office, and the three young doctors would sit on the other side, sipping coffee from metal cups. The young ones leaned forward, listening intently. Mengele acted as though he were having a casual conversation among friends, discussing politics, the daily routine, whatever.

Almost every day the young ones would ask Mengele what was going on in the Fatherland. They were reading in their papers about staggering German military losses, and they were worried.

Mengele was soothing, telling them that Hitler had special plans, that he was letting the Russians think they were winning the war by letting them capture a lot of little countries, but scientists were working on new, awful weapons which would miraculously change the war's entire complexion.

They listened respectfully but were skeptical. They asked, "How come the Canadians, French, and English all are attacking us? How come we can't protect our own people?"

"We let them do a little bit of damage to us. At the end, they'll be finished.

They'll never bombard the Homeland," he said smugly. I knew from the underground messages that Britain had already bombed Germany a couple of times.

I was often around during these discussions, because Mengele still didn't think I understood German. One morning, I went in to clean Mengele's offices. The doctors and Mengele were having their usual cups of coffee and asking Mengele why the Gypsies, Masons, Slavic races, and Jews were being eliminated. One of the doctors earnestly asked Mengele, "Why are we killing Jews? They never did anything to us. They have the best engineers, artists, scientists, doctors, musicians. Germany was built with streets named after Jews."

Mengele looked over his shoulder to make sure nobody was watching or listening. Then he leaned forward in his chair and looked at the doctor who asked the question. He would address them all as Meine lieben Kinder" (My dear children). The doctors loved that. Every time Mengele called them that name, they acted almost like dogs rolling over on their back so their stomach could be scratched.

He treated them with such fatherly affection that he often didn't even let them go along when he did selections. Instead they did research, from what I could gather in the snatches of conversations I overheard. What kind of research, I never did find out. I'd heard about Mengele's experiments, but I never saw any. I heard Mengele had stopped them after he moved over to Birkenau. In any case, all I saw were autopsied corpses.


"Meine lieben Kinder," Mengele said to the three doctors. "The Jewish people, no matter where they are, they become the best in the world. Yes, you're right. They have all kinds of medicine, music, and scientific discoveries." Then he described how rich some of them were, including the Rothschilds, and how the French borrowed from the Jews so the country could fight a war. "There can't be two smart peoples in the world. We're going to win the war, so only the Aryan race will stand."


One doctor asked a question, to which Mengele replied: "My father fought in the German-Austrian war with the tsar. That was in 1914, when they started fighting, and we kept winning the war. Then the United States came in, and we started to lose the war. Now, the whole world is involved against us and we're only 90 million people."


Still, Mengele said, the Germans had some of the French and Italians on their side. "We didn't realize the Jewish people were going to fight," Mengele said, slowly, deliberately, without any passion.

"Where are they fighting?" one of the young doctors asked.

"Right here, next to the camp, there are all kinds of chemical factories. Take a look. They work right next to us in those camps, those Jewish pilots. A lot of them were shot down. Take a look. All kinds of nationalities are fighting, the English, the Indians, the Pakistanis. There are even some Jewish brigades fighting us. "


A lot of what he said just then was correct. Many times when I went out with the death wagon to pick up corpses, we would see and talk to English pilots, American pilots. We even ran into a number of Jewish pilots. Under the Germans they were being forced to build factories. They lived in the work camps surrounding Auschwitz.


Listening hard, I continued to clean the windows, wash the floors and tables, and shine boots.


"Look," Mengele said. "Even the Russians are fighting us. They've brought in Jewish pilots, nurses, and doctors. Everybody's ganging up on us. We didn't think it would happen this way."


"What will happen in this war?" one of the doctors asked Mengele.


"Meine lieben Kinder, what can I tell you? You know what the situation is now. Everything is in the open. There's nothing to hide."


Then Mengele stood up and said something that made me want to grab his neck and crush his throat, to kick his balls until they were jelly, then stomp on his face.


"Actually, we never had anything against the Jewish people. But they're smarter than we are. Hitler wanted to be smarter than the rest of the world, so we had to eliminate the Jews. In reality, they never did anything to us. They didn't even have a country of their own to fight against us. We have to eliminate them. There can only be one smart people and it's us. We're winning the war. Our Fuehrer knows what he's doing."


One of the doctors just shook his head, and Mengele proclaimed again that the Fatherland was working on the world's most destructive weapon, which would change everything overnight. The young ones just looked at him pityingly. They knew it was a lost cause. Then the talk ended. It was time for Mengele and his doctors to make their rounds, to see how quickly and efficiently Jews were being killed.


That crazy bastard, that bastard, I thought to myself. It was the beginning of 1944; I knew the end of the war was a long way off. Of course, not a syllable of any of these thoughts escaped my mouth. He would have had me gassed without hesitation.


After the conversation was over, my friend Josef asked me what had been said.


But I played dumb with him, too. We went on to clean something else.


In the second conversation that thrilled me, I happened to be cleaning in Mengele's office while the three doctors were there alone. They were discussing how the war was going, and it was going badly.


"We didn't expect the Juden all over the world to bring educated people into this fight. Pilots, boat captains, officers: all of them are fighting us," one doctor said.


"What do you expect? People have to fight for their lives. You can see how many prisoners we took in, educated people. Now they're destroying our cities and killing our people."


Another one said: "We didn't realize they had so many Jewish people in England. They're bombing and destroying our cities."


One of them looked very somber. "Well, we're getting paid back for what we did up to now. Why should they lie down and die? Look at what we're doing to the Juden."


Another one leaned forward in his chair, forehead furrowed.

"Why are we killing the Jews? What did they do to us?" he asked. "They're the smartest people in the world, and they're the richest people in the world, too. They have banks. Look at what they're doing in England. Rothschild gave them all that land to open up new air force bases. He gave up all that land to fight us. The Jew bastard wouldn't give up that land before."

I could tell what they meant. It was the same old Nazi propaganda. They were saying that the Jews control everything and are greedy, rich, and selfish, so they're getting what they deserve. But I was excited to hear how badly the Germans were losing.

Just because the Germans were in deep trouble militarily didn't mean that the way they treated us had softened. Germany was being blanketed by bombs without pause or mercy. The Nazi mythology said the master race was invincible and Germany would never be bombed. Yet the mothers, wives, girlfriends, sons, and daughters of these soldiers and doctors were being killed, maimed, driven into starvation and homelessness by repeated attacks.

The Germans had trouble grasping the problem. It was beyond anything they had been led to believe. Their world was being exploded, one bomb at a time.

Read much more about Joe Rosenblum's experiences during the Holocaust in the Museum of Family History's exhibition "Walk in My Shoes: Collected Memories of the Holocaust," or read his book in its entirety.


"Defy the Darkness: A Tale of Courage in the Shadow of Mengele" by Joe Rosenblum with David Kohn, Praeger Publishers, 2001. 


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