Investigators Pursue Search for Mengele Despite Family Statement
Jun. 12, 1985
FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ U.S. and West German officials said Wednesday they will continue the manhunt for Josef Mengele depite the family's assertion that the Nazi concentration camp doctor is dead.
A spokeswoman, Sabine Hackenjos, said in Munich that the Mengeles would have another statement Friday. The family manufactures farm machinery in the Bavarian town of Guenzburg, to which Mengele fled before the Russian army overran the Auschwitz concentration camp early in 1944.
Mengele's son Rolf said Tuesday he is convinced that a body exhumed in Brazil last week is that of his father, who fled to South America after World War II.
Police experts in Sao Paulo, Brazil, said Wednesday that notes seized from a house in which the Nazi war criminal may have lived and his purported application for membership in Adolf Hitler's SS Elite Guard were ''written by the same person.''
The Frankfurt prosecutor in charge of the case, Hans-Eberhard Klein, told reporters, ''As long as it is not certain that the corpse exhumed in Embu, Brazil, is Josef Mengele's, the worldwide investigation will continue.''
Howard Safir, who flew to Frankfurt on Wednesday leading a three-man team of U.S. marshals, told The Associated Press: ''Everything that has been started will continue. There still isn't any proof.''
Klein called a news conference and read a statement given him by a Frankfurt lawyer representing the Mengele family. The statement was the same issued by Rolf Mengele on Tuesday.
The prosecutor said the family lawyer, Fritz Steinacker, asked that he not release the statement until the day after it was distributed to journalists in Munich. Klein said he honored the request because it was the first time the family had cooperated in the investigation.
It said the family was ready to provide further details to authorities to prove that the remains in Brazil are of the man known as the ''Angel of Death'' for condemning or killing hundreds of thousands of people at the death camp in Poland.
As chief camp doctor, survivors later reported, Mengele regularly received incoming trains, consigning 90 percent of the arrivals to the gas chambers with a wave of his hand and ordered the rest to be put to hard labor or subjected to his ghoulish, pseudo-medical experiments.
Much of the research focused on twins and dwarfs, survivors said, as Mengele sought ways of reproducing ideal ''Aryan'' traits.
An estimated 4 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz. Nazi hunters attribute 400,000 of those deaths to Mengele.
The remains dug up in Embu, a town 17 miles from Sao Paulo, are of a man known as Wolfgang Gerhard, an Austrian, who drowned in February 1979 while swimming at a Brazilian beach resort.
Rolf Mengele said he went to Brazil to confirm the circumstances of the death.
West German authorities said a tip in the case led them to Hans Sedlmeier, a former employee of the Mengele company.
Authorities searched Sedlmeier's home in Guenzburg and found letters that led them to an Austrian couple living in Embu, who said they provided a house for the man known as Gerhard.
Klein would not speculate about why the Mengele family decided to break the long silence, and said the statement was the only document provided so far.
Asked whether the statement indicated an end to the case, he said, ''To that question I can only give a quick 'no.' This statement is in the same category as other evidence and is being checked for its worth.''
Klein said he met with the U.S. marshals, who returned to the United States after the meeting. He would not say where they had been before their arrival here.
In Sao Paulo, Decio Mota, an investigator for the Criminal Research Institute, said of the handwriting comparison: ''The texts were written by the same person, but at different periods.'' He added that ''15 points of similarity'' were found.
Mota said the copy of the SS document was supplied by Josef Nichthauser, an Auschwitz survivor who lives in Brazil.
Brazilian experts also say the pelvic bone from the Embu grave shows a hip fracture. Mengele is said to have suffered such an injury in a motorcycle accident in 1944.