In August, the Knizhniki publishing house publishes the novel The Disappearance of Joseph Mengele by the famous French journalist Olivier Guez about the fate of one of the most elusive villains of the 20th century. For almost thirty years, Joseph Mengele, the Angel of Death, who conducted cruel experiments on the prisoners of Auschwitz, lived as if nothing had happened in Buenos Aires, deftly evading the police, Mossad agents and journalists from different countries. In his literary investigation, based on historical documents, Guez recounts Mengele's life after his escape from Europe. This masterfully written romanticized version of Mengele's biography offers a fresh take on the concept of "the banality of evil".
Novye Izvestia publishes an excerpt from this book (translated from French by Dmitry Savosin):
The hall of the Tinguely Museum in Basel is immersed in twilight. The atmosphere of a massacre, an abandoned torture chamber. The monstrous altar in the shape of a hippopotamus skull is surrounded by sculptures-mechanisms - they are assembled from animal skeletons, wood and charred logs, metal parts, materials twisted by fire, discovered by Jean Tinguely in the charred ruins of a farm burned by a lightning strike - it is not far from that Swiss village where his workshop is located. Among the calcined remains is the skeleton of a monstrous maize harvesting machine manufactured by Mengele.
These sculptures-mechanisms set in motion under the black sun. Wheels, pulleys, chains, nuts squeak, screech, the sorting platform staggers. Steel jaws open, gaping, floating human and animal skulls fall out onto the platform between the drive belts, and their shadows crawl along the walls - in the form of monstrous syringes, executioners' axes, saws, hammers, scythes and gallows. A piercing waltz - while jazz is playing in the rest of the halls, and green, blue, light reflections of the Rhine waters are reflected in the glass doors. The visitor is locked in an iron world, he is swallowed by sculptures-mechanisms. They are about to hit him, shred him, already pulling tentacles to grab and spit him out onto the platform. Tinguely, shocked by the image of death and Nazi concentration camps, created the composition "Mengele - the dance of death".
In the summer and fall of 1944, such a dance of death in Auschwitz had to be performed by a Hungarian forensic expert. Miklos Nisli worked in the Sonderkommando, he was among those doomed who had to cut the hair of the prisoners condemned to death and pull the gold teeth from the corpses, poisoned in the gas chambers, before they were thrown into the furnace. The Jew Nisli was Mengele's scalpel. According to his instructions, he sawed up the skulls, opened the chest, made longitudinal incisions of the heart bags and, incomprehensibly how he escaped hell himself, kept a diary and wrote about this unprecedented and terrifying nightmare in the book "The Doctor from Auschwitz", published in Hungary in the very first post-war years, and in France published in 1961.
“Mengele is tireless in the performance of his duties. He spends long hours either completely devoting himself to work, or standing at the Jewish platform, where four or five trains daily, packed with deportees from Hungary, arrive. His hand is thrown firmly in only one direction: to the left. Entire trains go to gas chambers or ovens...
He considers sending hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chamber a patriotic duty".
In the experimental barrack of the gypsy camp “all medical research that the human body can tolerate is carried out on dwarfs and twins. Blood samples, spinal cord punctures, blood transfusions for twins, endless grueling and depressing research on the living. " For a comparative study of organs, “the twins must die at the same time. And so they die in one of the barracks of Auschwitz, in department B, at the hands of Dr. Mengele".
He gives them chloroform injections right into their hearts. The seized organs with the stamp "Military materials urgently" are sent to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin - under the direction of Professor von Verschuer.
"Mengele is considered to be one of the greatest luminaries of German medicine... And the work that he does in the dissection room serves the progress of German medical science".
When an epidemic of scarlet fever broke out in the barracks occupied by Hungarian Jews, "Mengele ordered to take everyone in trucks directly to the crematorium".
Nisley is bewitched by the gallows aura of her tormentor. “In a good mood, his cruelty is invisible due to the cheerful expression on his face. So much cynicism is amazing, even in a concentration camp... Dr. Mengele is a magical name... Everyone in the camp is not so afraid of anyone as he is. One has only to say his name, as everyone shakes".
Nisley describes his maniacal zeal in the dissection hall of the crematorium until the fall of 1944, when Germany had already lost the war: “Dr. Mengele, as always, appears around seventeen... For hours he is here, next to me, among microscopes, samples and test tubes, or for the same hours he stands at the dissecting table in a blood-soaked blouse, with bloody hands, peering and examining, as if possessed ... Several days ago I was sitting next to him in his study, at the table. We were leafing through the already filled files on the twins, when he suddenly noticed a whitish greasy speck on the light blue cover of one folder. Dr. Mengele threw a condemning glance at me and said with the utmost seriousness: "How can you so carelessly handle these folders, which I filled out with such love!"
Neasley's daily life is sheer madness. “The flaming reflections of bonfires and whirlwinds of smoke from the stoves of four crematoria reach here. The air is saturated with the smells of burnt meat and burnt hair. The walls seem to reflect the screams of death and the crackle of point-blank shots. This is where Dr. Mengele comes to relax after every autopsy and every such fireworks display. Here he spends his free time and in this atmosphere of horror with cold madness, with my help, he opens the corpses of hundreds of innocent people sent to death. The bacteria multiply in an electric oven and are fed with fresh human meat. Dr. Mengele spends many hours at the microscope, looking for the origins of the phenomenon of twins, still unexplained and unsolved".
One day, a hunchback father and his lame son, two Jews from the Lodz ghetto, are taken out of a newly arrived train. As soon as Mengele looks at them, he immediately orders them to be incapacitated and sends them to crematorium number one - to investigate Nisley. The Hungarian doctor makes them all the tests and orders them to bring a sauté of beef meat with a side dish of pasta - he writes that this is their "last communion." The SS men take them away, tell them to undress and shoot them at close range on the orders of Mengele. Then the corpses are brought back to Nisley, who "was so seized by the throat with disgust" that he entrusts the autopsy to his accomplices.
“Later, in the evening, having managed to send at least ten thousand people to their deaths, Dr. Mengele appears. He listens with great interest to my report on the observations made both on the still living and after the autopsy of both injured victims. “These bodies should not be cremated,” he says. “They should be prepared and the skeletons must be transported to Berlin, to the Anthropological Museum. What kind of systems do you know for the complete cleaning o thef skeletons?", - he asks me".
Nisley suggests putting the corpses in quicklime - it absorbs soft tissue in two weeks - or boiling them in boiling water until the flesh falls off the bones. Then the corpses must be placed in a bath with essential oil, it will dissolve the last pieces of fat and leave the skeleton white, dry and odorless. Mengele orders him to use the fastest way - boiling. Ovens are being prepared. Iron barrels are put on an open fire, and in this cauldron the corpses of a hunchback and a lame man, father and son, quiet Jews from Lodz are boiled.
“It's been almost five hours”, - Neasley writes. “I noticed that the soft tissues were already easily detaching from the bones. I ordered to put out the fire, but leave the iron barrels in the same place where they stood in order to let them cool down".
The crematorium is closed that day. Stoves are repaired by prisoners-masons. One of Nisli's assistants runs to him in panic: "Doctor, the Poles are eating meat from barrels". “I rush headlong there. Four prisoners, all in striped robes, stand near the vats, dead from fear... Completely starving, they were looking in the yard for at least some food and accidentally came across these cauldrons, left unattended for a few moments. They thought it was meat for the Sonderkommando and she cooks it... The Poles froze with horror when they got to know what kind of flesh they ate".