Even his death escaped detection – for a while
By the mid-70s Mengele’s health was in decline and he suffered from high blood pressure, leading to at least one stroke while in residence in Eldorado. In 1977 he visited friends in the Brazilian resort town of Bertioga.
While swimming in February 1979, Mengele suffered a stroke which caused immediate paralysis, leading to his death by drowning. Still using the identity of Wolfgang Gerhard, he was buried under that name.
Privately funded efforts such as those conducted by Simon Wiesenthal continued to search for the fugitive and supposed “sightings” of the living Mengele were reported all over the world. A reward of $100,000 for Mengele’s capture was offered in 1982, and the Israeli’s staged a mock trial of the Nazi doctor in 1985, which made his crimes again international news. In 1985, after research by the United States, Israeli, and West German experts and the help of uncounted private investigators, Mengele’s burial place, and false identity were revealed. Not until 1992 would DNA testing confirm the identity of Auschwitz’s Angel of Death.
Josef Mengele eluded pursuit for 34 years. To read of his unspeakable crimes, for which he never showed regret or remorse, is to realize the depths of depravity to which one man can sink. As one of history’s ironies, Mengele’s skeletal remains are in the possession of the medical school of the University of Sao Paulo, where they are used for medical training. They are deemed particularly useful in matching skeletal remains to the existing medical record for a given individual in forensic science courses.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading