Mengele: Unmasking the “Angel of Death.”

Norton. Jan. 2020. 448p. ISBN 9780393609530. $30. BIOG
Marwell, former director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, worked on the Mengele case at the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations in the 1980s. Here, Marwell provides a multilayered study of the notorious physician’s career prior to and during his tenure at Auschwitz. Later chapters document his postwar life—often hiding in plain sight in South America—and, finally, investigations into Mengele’s death. It is largely assumed that “The Angel of Death’s” medical work at Auschwitz lacked any basis in empirical methods. Yet, as Marwell demonstrates, Mengele’s scholarship was disturbingly close to mainstream, and what made his activities so frightening was the lack of institutional restraint on human subjects. Although the postscript provides an example of how post-1945 research discredits almost all of Mengele’s scientific assumptions, the analysis would have benefitted from additional comparisons to science outside Germany.
VERDICT With a distinctive blend of history and political intrigue, Marwell creates a thorough account of one of the most well-known war criminals in history and the efforts to bring him to justice. A worthy addition to Holocaust scholarship.

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