Former Mossad Chief Discloses That Its Agents Almost Captured Mengele on Three Occasions Since 1960
Menu JTA Search

Former Mossad Chief Discloses That Its Agents Almost Captured Mengele on Three Occasions Since 1960

Download PDF for this date

The former chief of Mossad, Israel’s secret service, disclosed here yesterday that its agents almost captured Auschwitz death camp doctor Josef Mengele on three occasions since 1960, but narrowly missed him each time.

Issar Harel, who masterminded the kidnapping of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in 1960, also disclosed that Mossad agents had tracked down and assassinated known Nazi war criminals who could not be brought to Israel for trial — as Eichmann was — and that in 1959, with the government’s approval, it foiled a large scale neo-Nazi organization. He did not say where.

Harel spoke on the final day of a three-day congress of Holocaust survivors at the Yad Vashem memorial, marking the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army. The congress was devoted to testimony of Mengele’s brutal and inhumane medical experiments by Auschwitz survivors, Jewish and non-Jewish, who endured them.

The congress was opened Sunday by President Yitzhak Navon. Simone Veil, former President of the Parliament of Europe and a former Minister of Culture in France, herself an Auschwitz survivor, dedicated a monument in memory of those who died.

Navon said in his opening remarks that there is no appropriate punishment for Mengele’s crimes. His capture and trial is desired only to provide further proof of what happened for the sake of future generations, Navon explained.

The personal testimony by witnesses who lived through Mengele’s experiments was heard by a panel that included Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, Gideon Hausner, the former Israeli Attomey General who prosecuted Eichmann, and Telford Taylor, the chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

The witnesses here confirmed much of what is already well known about Mengele. He was obsessed with genetic research and his favorite “guinea pigs” were twins, persons born with inherited handicaps, such as dwarfs, infants and Jews in general.

He was also personally responsible for selecting which Auschwitz inmates would go immediately to the gas chambers, which to the slave labor battalions and which to his “clinic.” He did this, when every new transport of prisoners arrived, by “calmly gesturing” with the whip he always carried, the witnesses testified.


One witness, Vera Kriegel, told how she and her five-year-old twin sister and their mother were kept in a cage, injected with unknown drugs and forced to give blood every day. She said that once she saw, in Mengele’s pathology laboratory, an entire shelf of eye balls extracted from victims.

Another twin, Zerach Tauz, said he and his brother were subjected to minute measurements and medical examination by Mengele and his staff. Dr. Ella Lingens, a non-Jew sent to Auschwitz for helping Viennese Jews escape from the Nazis, said Mengele considered Jews a superior race and wanted to annihilate them so that the other superior race, the Germans, could dominate the world.

On the final day of the hearing, Ruth Eliaz, who has four grandchildren, described how she was forced to “murder my child” while in Mengele’s charge. The death camp doctor, known as the “Angel of Death” wanted to see how long a newborn infant could survive without feeding. Eliaz said she was restrained from breast-feeding her child, born at Auschwitz, and watched it waste away beside her day-by-day. She was told she would go to the gas chamber if she tried to feed the infant.

On the seventh day, she said “A Jewish woman doctor heard what was happening … At night she came to me with a syringe in her hand and told me to give it to my child. It was morphine. She told me that, having taken the Hippocratic Oath she could not administer the lethal dose, but I should because the baby was doomed to die within a few hours and I had a chance to live … And so I murdered my child.”

Another witness, who testified behind a curtain to preserve his anonymity, said he had one testicle cut off in the course of Mengele’s experiments. Nevertheless, he is today the father of three children. Lawyer Zvi Terlo who questioned the witnesses exclaimed, “Thank God.”

More testimony was provided by twin dwarfs whose family consisted of seven dwarfs and three normal children. They said Mengele was delighted when they were brought to him and exclaimed: “Dwarfs, twins and Jews together. Now I have work for 20 years.”


Mengele, now 73, is said to have been hiding out in South America since 1953. Harel said that in 1960, when he went to Buenos Aires at the head of the Israeli team that captured Eichmann, he took along dossiers of other Nazi war criminals. One of them reported Mengele to be living at a certain address in downtown Buenos Aires. Harel said he checked out the address to find an American family living there. Mengele had moved out only a few weeks earlier.

Mengele was spotted on at least three occasions in the next few years, once in Argentina and twice in Paraguay. But each time he was able to elude his would-be captors. Many Nazi-hunters believe Mengele is still in Paraguay, living under the protection of the rightwing military dictatorship there. Harel was critical of persons who announce they know where the death camp doctor is. The search for Mengele should be carried out quietly, he said.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund