Josef Mengele, aka the “Angel of Death,” is notorious for his medical experiments performed at the equally notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. His mission was to use medical science to create the Third Reich’s dream of a master race, and his victims were the Jews and other minorities populating the camp.
Despite his horrific work under the Nazi regime, Mengele’s most enduring legacy may lie on another continent. Many believe the doctor achieved one of his goals in an isolated Brazilian village called Candido Godoi.
The town has the highest observed twin birth rate at 10% and most of those twins have blonde hair and blue eyes. Many insist that’s no genetic accident, including Argentine historian Jorge Camarasa in his book Mengele: the Angel of Death in South America.
According to the Telegraph, Mengele managed to evade punishment for his war crimes by moving from one South American nation to another until his death in 1979. Camarasa, an expert in the Nazi migration to asylum in South America, has managed to piece together Mengele’s later years, employing testimony from Candido Godoi villagers.
“There is testimony that he attended women, followed their pregnancies, treated them with new types of drugs and preparations, that he talked of artificial insemination in human beings,” Camarasa said. “And that he continued working with animals, proclaiming that he was capable of getting cows to produce male twins.”
Residents, many of whom remember the well-mannered German fondly, say that Mengele moved to the area of southern Brazil in the 1960s, posing as a veterinarian and soon offering medical treatment to women, roughly around the twinning rate seemed to skyrocket. The narrative fits neatly with Mengele’s bizarre fascinations.
During his tenure at Auschwitz, Mengele always favored twins in his experiments. Guards were instructed to bring any twins discovered among the prisoners directly to him so he could begin experimenting. He believed in their genetic quirks lay the secret to increasing the Aryan birth rate and create the Nazi’s idea of a master race.
Anencia Flores da Silva, a former mayor and town doctor, was one of the first to investigate the town’s unusual twinning rate. From interviewing townspeople, he noticed one name that persistently recurred in the townspeople’s stories — a doctor calling himself Rudolf Weiss.
“In the testimonies we collected we came across women who were treated by him, he appeared to be some sort of rural medic who went from house to house,” Flores da Silva said. “He attended women who had varicose veins and gave them a potion which he carried in a bottle, or tablets which he brought with him. Sometimes he carried out dental work, and everyone remembers he used to take blood.”
Although Camarasa is certain in his assertions that Mengele used the now-famous Brazilian twin town to carry out his life’s work, the hypothesis is still often contested. According to the New York Times, Ursula Matte, a Brazilian geneticist, said a series of DNA tests reveals a common gene among the people of Candido Godoi, one that appears more commonly in mothers who bear twins. Her findings, she said, disprove any involvement from Mengele.