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Mengele’s Son Speaks Out to Shake ‘Onerous Past’

June 26, 1985

MAINZ, West Germany (AP) _ The son of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele said Wednesday night he broke years of silence about his father to ″free myself from the onerous past, if that’s possible.″

But he felt a ″deep moral responsibility″ for his father’s deeds, Rolf Mengele said in a television interview. He expressed sympathy to victims of Nazi concentration camps.

The younger Mengele said that sense of responsibility motivated him to cooperate with police investigators ″and work to recognize the spiritual and historical sources″ of Nazism.

Mengele, 41, was appearing on West German television for the second straight night to speak of his notorious father, who is blamed for the deaths of 400,000 people in the Auschwitz camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.

His family’s first public statement on Josef Mengele in years was made June 12, when they declared that the Auschwitz doctor had died in 1979.

Rolf Mengele, interviewed during a special report on the Mengele case by the state-owned ZDF network a day after appearing on a rival telecast, said he had been saddled with ″a father on the one hand and the horrible images of Auschwitz on the other.″

Rolf, a lawyer in the Black Forest city of Freiburg, said he was tormented by this ″unsolvable conflict,″ and consequently took the recent explosion of news reports on his father’s death ″with relief.″

He said he wanted to tell his story ″to free myself from the onerous past, if that’s possible.″

Mengele said he had only learned in 1960 that his fugitive father was still living, four years after the elder Mengele was introduced as an uncle. Rolf saw his father only one more time, visiting him in hiding in Brazil in 1977, he said.

″I could not hand over my father to the police,″ said Rolf, adding that he had leaned psychologically on a West German law exempting an individual from the obligation to denounce a family member to the police.

He said that although Josef Mengele seemed like a ″strange outsider″ to him, he tried to discuss the Auschwitz past in their 1977 meeting.

Rolf said he wanted to hear his father assure him that he would rather have fought on the war front than be at Auschwitz.

″But this was not the case. I unfortunately had to conclude that he could give no sign of guilt or expression of remorse (about atrocities at Auschwitz),″ the Freiburg lawyer said.

On Thursday night, ZDF is to air a follow-up special report on the Mengele affair.

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