I was able to inspect the diary Monday, ironically written into a small children's composition book with "Zoological Workbork" printed onto one of the pages within. The doctor covered every one of the book's blank pages with vignettes of the past and present day, interspersing his thoughts on everything from art, literature, religion, modernity, German history and women's rights to predictions for the future of mankind, clearly showing a preoccupation with eugenics, natural selection and the recurring concept of loyalty.
The catalog description offered from the site of auctioneer Alexander Autographs is here, yet shows only a few pictures of diary pages and a limited representative sampling of the writing. Written in German, the memoir begins in May, 1960 when Mengele was 49, but later entries do not include dates. Aside from the first page written in pencil, the balance is written in blue ink in his distinctive script, including footnotes, corrections and annotations throughout.
The content is remarkable, particularly because it shows blow-by-blow the thought processes of the man known as "The Angel of Death" who sent tens of thousands to their death in Auschwitz, conducted bizarre experiments on live human subjects and ultimately escaped trial and execution by hiding out using a series of aliases.
Given exclusive in-depth access, it was clear to me Mengele remained committed to his belief that humans should be bred for superior genetic characteristics and the inferior should be euthanized or prevented from reproducing, but his content segues from the mundane to the philosophical to the autobiographical to the historical in a visible stream of consciousness that makes quite transparent his internal connections. Presented here are only short excepts from the the 180 pages of handwritten entries.
Marking his first year anniversary in his new home, Mengele decides "I see how right my plans have been all along and I understand now that following people's advice mostly results in irreparable nonsense. But I refuse to pass guilt onto others: "I was solely responsible for my decisions." He proclaims himself in "good spirits" offering a review of the then-popular book Dr. Zhivago, he considers the characters and their ideas of truth and beauty, launching into a polemic on natural selection: "There's only one truth and one true beauty....There's no 'good' or 'bad' in nature. There's only 'appropriate' or 'inappropriate.' However 'appropriate' things are not necessarily beautiful. Both sides receive equal chances. Nevertheless, nature provides a strainer. Things which are 'inappropriate' fall through since they do not succeed in the struggle for survival."
Continuing on natural selection, in part: "...human beings have a sense of absolute beauty even though it seems to be subjective at first. (Experiments by Lenz!)...I believe that all human beings share the same ideal of beauty. There are no racial differences to be found....the artistic endeavor is a struggle to create the best representation of the human body...absolute beauty seems to me a prerequisite for all human beings. This is how absolute beauty becomes the superior notion that unites all mankind. Let's go one step further and impose the idea of beauty on the animal world....ideal beauty for a certain species transcends racial boundaries."
Mengele compares horses bred for polo versus horses bred for pulling trucks, noting the "noble horse" has been intentionally bred by humans. In part: "whenever we observe horses critically, we almost start to believe that they recognize the quality of their own beauty...this is a beautiful area for studying animal psychology."
In the South American jungle, Mengele observes bird and other animal behaviors and monkeys in particular, writing about the first time he saw a monkey in the wild. Contrasting his experiments on primates in the lab, "I've taken many monkey carcasses out of the formol and prepared muscles and parts of the pancreas. I was familiar with the bone structures of different monkey races as a part of my studies in comparative anatomy." In another entry, he describes encounters with wild ostriches, noting how herd-like, observant and skittish they are. "They certainly don't bury their head in the sand....I assume, people find the ostrich's anatomy ideal for such behavior and simply invented this biological trait. If only the ostrich knew!"
Mengele observes the pristine state of the "virgin jungle" and the idea of "Paradise Lost" as settlers changed the landscape: "Nothing has changed for thousands of years. Like in a vision, you can see how there used to be an ocean right here, and you can feel how the waters slowly retreated and turned into gigantic rivers that still flow today...Finally, human beings arrived."
Mengele points out that cultures didn't flourish in this dense, lush Eden, however, preferring higher grounds. "The European colonial forces were the first to exploit the vast regions that still seem sleepy and ancient today. This is still the greatest accomplishment of the Spaniards and the Jesuits...The ranches are being drained through huge canals....the forest will be cultivated, and expressways will go everywhere. Maybe modern man will turn some of the areas into sanctuaries so that people can observe the many forms of nature from their cars."
In observing local villagers collecting wood for a bonfire commemorating St. John, Mengele enjoins a treatise on holiday rituals and recalls his experiences as an organizer for a German youth movement back in high school in order to give "insight into a certain stage of my personal development", beginning "...most people didn't know the deeper meaning of celebrating solstice. The youth movement restored the original meaning of solstice, which the Christian church had changed to it's own advantage. It makes no sense to honor a saint (John) through bonfires. It's simply the Christian reinterpretation of a heathen rite to celebrate the beginning of summer. There are many other examples like this one; the most famous is Christmas which was nothing more than the celebration of winter solstice. Nordic people started celebrating Christmas, as it is done today."
Mengele describes the worldwide spread of these Germanic rites into "...a procession of Christian festivities. They hoped that the origins would slowly fall into oblivion. In Germany, this trend was stopped for at least a while, thanks to the youth movement and religious re-awakening." On Candlemas, he tells of priests telling their parish "the light is Maria's present" to obscure that "...one more hour of sunlight was quite important for traditional Germanic agriculture. This is the main reason the day of light was celebrated."
Noting the impact of his generation, "Our Germanic religion was directly connected to nature in which human beings feel logically at home. The youth movement never intended to reject or doubt Christian beliefs or religious institutions....We had to remember our inner strength, and this was of utmost importance after World War I and the shameful peace that followed....We had to find the deepest sources of German strength to make our restoration possible. We could not expect other people to help us, and we couldn't rely on religion. For example, what has the Catholic Church done to amend or get rid of the Treaty of Versailles?"
"The youth movement laid the spiritual foundation for the national uprising that was to follow World War I. Later on, the youth movement became part of the great political organization, the Hitlerjugend."
Mengele then describes his tenure in June of 1928 as leader of a local youth group consisting of 60 boys and 30 girls. "The girls did their stuff by themselves and therefore they created no work for me....the girls were either older than I was, or they were my age. The girls' leader was quite older; she was 5 years my senior. We had very little contact....the age difference made romance impossible; on the other hand, relationships between boys and girls were proper, relaxed and caring."
Describing the solstice event he was charged with organizing, Mengele recalled precisely the program itinerary and selections sung, being "Flames Rise" and "No Country More Beautiful", followed by a march home. Praising the rally's effectiveness, he notes : "...it left it's impression on the population. Jumping over the fire had made our group rambunctious" but he then abruptly segues into an account of his efforts leading up to the event, in which he describes himself toiling mightily and almost single-handedly to collect the wood and deliver it to the site using a decrepit cart.
At one point, stuck at the bottom of a steep hill with no help in sight, he notes "But when you become destitute, God's help isn't far", recounting how a carriage appeared to help tow his load up the hill. "I unloaded the cart and built a beautiful pyre that burned great that evening...The fire made us so proud!...it proclaimed a small group of boys and girls were celebrating solstice...to awaken the people of our country. We wanted them to throw off the handcuffs that the Treaty of Versailles had put upon us. The fire was to liberate you from thoughts of egotism...to keep us warm, just like the love for our people and their superior culture...to destroy all disagreements among Germans."
Perhaps becoming self-aware, Mengele askes "Why am I writing all of this down in such detail? One day, when my sons will read these lines, I want them to grasp the enthusiasm we felt back then...Do you understand now why two high school kids pushed a heavy cart through your city? Did they only want to build a big fire, grab a few girls and jump over it? Oh no, boys were not interested in such things back then. We wanted to build a big fire, a reminder to everyone in Germany that the fatherland was in distress...There were many teachers who didn't at all like what we were doing....they tried to pollute our souls."
He describes how they overcame this, "Our voluntary obedience was possible only because we acknowledged that camaraderie was the highest ideal. Whoever disrespected one of our comrades didn't stay long with us."
Another section details in roughly ten paragraphs Mengele's hunt for a Yacare (crocodile) sneaking into the water supply, describing the first time he'd seen a figurine of a crocodile in a church display and his attempts to shoot the creature: "I don't really believe in 'monsters'..."
Next Mengele revisits the themes of eugenics and loyalty as he reviews another book read, The Barrings by William von Simpson, which he says "got to me", likening the death of an older character to that of his own father, but with distinctions: "My father did a better job holding on to his properties, even though they were subsequently divided into different parts."
Critiquing the writing, he continues "Gerda's behavior has no psychological explanation...there is one solution for all of their financial problems: The sick, old man should be substituted with somebody new, but nobody seems to think of that....Their political background is intriguing even though the depiction of World War II is unsatisfying. The author pays too little attention to the question of 'why' things happened." He admits the book is "enthralling" but faults the Prussian nobility for the German loss of the region and the war. "The man who wanted to complete Bismarck's work was not of their standing. They refused to follow him unconditionally and victory was lost".
Later, Mengele discusses India: "British rule in India wasn't that bad and the higher classes (Brahmans, Maharajas) weren't that noble!" Commenting on the book The Great Rain by Louis Bromfield, Mengele believes Bolshevic influence made India into a "gooey mess", adding "This is where the great sadistic problem begins that even Gandhi didn't understand. His adversary understood the dilemma well. I had a chance to work with one of them (Dr. Mitra) at the same scientific institute....the castes are not expressions of prejudice; they convey status and racial qualities within the Indian society...Brahmans are built nicely; some of them even have blue eyes. They have small, straight noses and they're in general high quality human beings. And this is because the Brahmans used the highest caste to preserve their noble blood. They are the descendants of Nordic peoples who once conquered and ruled India."
Relating Indians to the Romans and Greeks, Mengele discusses how to create an upper class: "It can only be done by selecting the best", considering the influences of life experience, schooling, and politics, as well as the unintended circumstances of violence, catastrophe and necessity. "Only the free play of powers can produce substance. We have seen this process in nature and human history alike."
Discussing cycles of class: "...this is only logical and inevitable, and results from selection according to 'performance'. A process was set into motion based on the simple and fundamental truth that human beings are not equal."
Expounding on the professional roles going back to ancient societies: "It was the same in medieval society with nobility, clergy, middle class and those who were in bondage. The class system remains intact as long as the ruling class stays strong and in numbers. The decay begins whenever the ruling class has fewer children, while the lower classes of have-nots reproduce in unlimited numbers." Mengele then comports this with the modern day "...for the first time in human history we don't have any slaves any more, and nobody is in bondage!!"
This takes Mengele back to ancient Rome, where he describes the ascent of the "proles", mixing "highly educated Greek teachers" with "merchants from Syria" and "skilled soldiers from the German forests" and then demanding political change. "When nobility, clerics and bourgeoisie neglected to engage the lower class, and when no fundamental rights were given, violence ensued....lower classes grew and grew. They fought a series of revolutions and succeeded in abolishing everybody's rights...Everywhere else on this planet everybody can try to achieve whatever his plans are. He can work in any profession, he can buy whatever he wants, he can go wherever he wants to go, and he can marry whoever he wants to marry. And sometimes, he can even say what he wants to say."
Mengele continues railing on about natural and human selection, "Maybe there will be a time when people are either unable or unwilling to wage war against eachother (?!) but mankind is doomed even without war." Believing wealth as the current determinate, Mengele expresses a view that overpopulation will eventually overcome us, unless we groom enough creative scientists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians and engineers to guarantee a basic food supply, meet our growing energy needs and find ways to "exploit the Earth in the most rational ways".
He adds "armies of specialists will substitute for slaves" in a complex future in which scientists will be in short supply. Mengele predicts there will be 5 billion people by the year 2000 (he was off by over a billion) but feared the "intelligentsia" would be greatly outnumbered.
Then he cites stats on German and US college enrollment, comparing the paths to success for the technician, the manager, the director and "Joe Shmo". Questioning why societies don't offer much incentive for scientific careers, he asks "Why do you want to be a doctor or a professor if your salary won't even guarantee a lower middle-class existence? At the same time, you'll observe the president of a cannery who knows nothing about food science but knows a lot about advertisement. This man will take cheap fruit and turn it into expensive jam which every housewife will buy. He will be richer than you could ever imagine."
Mengele observes "the number of children is reversed in relation to their parent's social status...unskilled workers have more children than highly trained workers do." This snowballs because the "foreman can make sure his son becomes an engineer if he only has one or two children. His sense of responsibility forces him to have fewer children."
He laments: "But where are we going to get these high-quality human beings if the cradles of the 'intelligentsia' remain empty? Many people thought they were able to disregard the warnings of politicians and eugenics researchers. Where their work was put into practice, their attempts were brutally destroyed. They thought that these dire necessities were irreconcilable with a liberal, democratic wordview."
Mengele states plainly that "Things that were considered trivial when we wanted to preserve our true culture are now seen as imperative to preserve civilization and food supply as a whole." Mengele feels humans must arrange for less survival, as nature once did, noting man's "humanity made him help fellow humans who were unable to cope with life. He kept them alive, and he helped decaying elements of his species to keep procreating. We now have to mobilize higher human abilities again, and we have to make sure that nature's suspended eradication will continue through human arrangements...If we don't want the physically or mentally disabled left to their natural fate, and if we want them to be a burden on society, we should at least be ethical enough to make sure that their inferior genes aren't passed on...We know all the general objections to our point of view, and we consider any kind of a discussion a waste of time."
Next, Mengele fashions a history of traditional "village idiots" who were prevented from reproducing, including females. "The female village idiot has always been a sex object" but rarely had children out of wedlock, he notes, "After the first bastard child, the female idiot experienced so many hostilities and problems that another child was out of the question."
Relating nukes to eugenics, Mengele writes "Nuclear warfare will kill worthy and unworthy life alike, and reduce survival to a mere coincidence." But he predicts "Humans will invent a weapon to counter nuclear weapons. There won't be any more wars until this weapon has been developed".
Relating globalization to eugenics, Mengele imagines "People will stop killing eachother in the name of ideology. And maybe things will be so intertwined and connected that no country on Earth can "go nuts" because it's sharing all the resources with everybody else...But this beautiful dream will only be possible if mankind has enough gifted, talented people available." Otherwise, he says, "Everything will end in a catastrophe if natural selection is altered to the point that gifted people are overwhelmed by billions of morons." He predicts 90% of humans will starve due to stupidity with 10% surviving like reptiles when the dinosaurs went extinct.
Mengele offers a "little opus" on prevention of the rise of the "idiot masses", in which every country decides on it's own measures. For Germany, he suggests required training accompanying every marriage certificate, to include counseling in health, genetics, hygiene, sexual psychology, population policy, financial burdens of child rearing, birth control and more. He recommends government subsidies for advanced degrees, and stipends dependent on the genetic qualities of the children. Mengele also requires limiting profits of merchants to support producers.
Mengele then instructs Germany to "Abandon feminist ideology; biology doesn't support equal rights. Women shouldn't be working in higher positions. Women's work has to depend on fulfilling a biological quota. Birth control can be done by sterilizing those with deficient genes. Those with good genes will be sterilized when the number of 5 children has been reached". Mengele recommends making 3-4 children "seem fashionable" and sterilization for any woman over 40 seeking an abortion, adding "Exact statistics will be required."
Though I've only covered here a portion of the material, this diary is without a doubt a fascinating primary document giving deep insight into the mental workings of an extremely controversial historical figure. Not only didn't Mengele show repentance for the eugenics policies he promoted at the Kaiser-Wilhelm institute, he seems to have become more and more obsessed in defense of them by the early 1960s.
In light of recent climate talks in Copenhagen and success in carbon-reduction goals coming through China's highly criticized family planning approaches, this newly discovered diary may add dimension to considerations of how forward-thinking societies can feasibly integrate more sustainability into human endeavors without resorting to the inhuman methods practiced by Dr. Mengele and the Third Reich.