The Mengele Letters
Handwritten Letters From Nazi SS Doctor Joseph Mengele
These pieces are on loan from the Florence and Laurence Spungen Family Foundation www.spungenfoundation.org . These documents are currently on display at CANDLES. Visit us during our normal hours to see them in person.
Both letters were sent by Nazi Doctor Josef Mengele to his wife, Irene, while he was stationed at Auschwitz. The letters offer rare insight into the life and mind of the man who has been nicknamed the “Angel of Death” and the “God of Auschwitz” for his seeming mastery over who lived and who died in the camp. These letters offer a jarring juxtaposition to what we know of Mengele and the horrific medical experiments he performed on camp prisoners, including the twin sisters Miriam Mozes Zeiger and Eva Mozes Kor, the founder of CANDLES.
“Every morning after roll call, Mengele came to our barracks for inspection. Smiling, he called us meine kinde, my children. Some of the twins liked him and called him Uncle Mengele. Not I. I was terrified of him. Even in those days I knew he did not care for us like a real doctor.”
- Eva Mozes Kor, A-7063, Surviving the Angel of Death
Letter from April 26, 1944
The medal Mengele describes, the Kriegsverdienstkreuz or War Merit Cross, was created in 1939 by Adolph Hitler to replace the non-combatant Iron Cross. The medal had two grades, 2nd class and 1st class, and was awarded with swords and without swords. The version with swords that Mengele received was awarded for service above and beyond the call of duty, though not necessarily in direct combat.
(Click to see letter translation)
My dear, sweet Butzel!
Once in a while there’s a small ray of light in my bleak daily routine in this concentration camp business. This afternoon at 4pm I was ordered to the commanding officer, and I was awarded a medal (Kriegsverdienstkreuz, second degree with swords). Even though this is not a rare honor, and even though I already possess more valuable decorations, I was touched by the acknowledgment of my work and my dedication. My work sometimes jeopardizes my own health and even my life; therefore I was very appreciative. (You can see my dear Butzele that the medals are coming in slowly one after another to stay on this hero’s chest!!) I was supposed to get it on 4.20.44, the Führer’s birthday, but I wasn’t here since I was home with you. Dr. Thilo got the same honor; we now call it the “typhus medal.”
When I came back they were already waiting for me with 3 bottles of wine and one bottle of champagne. I was with a group of nice people (Fischer, Frank, Mulsow, plus their wives), and we drank whatever we had. During our gathering I also raised a glass to Rolf and his lovely mother.
I’m doing okay so far. My work is going ahead, but I’ve decided that I want to be altogether more reclusive. Berlin doesn’t suit me. I’m feeling better now, but after the long hours on the train my legs were swollen. I will check myself into the field hospital later for a thorough examination. Berlin was quite cold. Especially nurse Emmi took good care of me. Schade used every moment of his free time to be around me. With my boss, I could talk about everything.
I have already mentioned my visit to Lambertz to you. He is still the same: He pretends to be audacious, but in reality he is just shy and inhibited. He still hasn’t found a nice girl, even though he has a casual relationship with a waitress. (Please keep this to yourself, and never, ever let him know that I told you!) I want to introduce him to Schlicks. Maybe Mrs. Schlick can introduce him to nice girls that she knows or something like that!
How are you, Butzele, and how is the boy? I hope everything is just fine. I’m sending kisses from me to both of you.
Letter from December 14, 1944
The format of the stationery, written in such a way that it can be folded to form its own envelope, is typical of the time the letter was written. The brown stamp was used to seal the letter, which resulted in it being cut into quarters when opened. Also, note the Auschwitz postmark on the red stamp. Mengele addresses his wife as “Butzele” and himself as “Butz,” which are common German terms of endearment.
(Click to see letter translation)
Frau Irene Maria Mengele
Am Stadtbach 4
SS Doctor Mengele
Concentration Camp SS Precinct
My beloved Butzele!
Your letters from November 29th, December 8th and December 9th have arrived. I thank you for them from the very bottom of my heart. In these letters you address the question of our moving, and I’m glad to see that we agree on major points that we have to consider. The date is the only thing that’s difficult. You don’t want to come for Christmas; you prefer the time after the Holidays. I don’t think that’s a good idea since the days before the holidays are really bad to start your journey. It would also mean that we’re once again not together on Christmas Eve!
Naturally, I cannot come to visit you, and I won’t be able to pick you up. I might be able to ask Wirths to send a nurse to travel with you. But I know you understand that I would like to avoid asking him. Do you really think it’s impossible for Karl to come along? Or maybe your father? If it looks like he’s being evacuated, they will have to give him a travel permit! I forwarded your wishes to our man who’s responsible for housing (Wilks). I think your requests will be met.
It’s too bad that you didn’t decide earlier, since you had planned on being here by now. But since it takes such a long time to send mail nowadays, you have to decide and act on your own. This letter will probably reach you after you started your journey. It would be awful if you weren’t able to come at all! Perhaps, and this is what I hope, you got the letter that Dr. Precht carried with him, and I hope the letter helped you to make a quick decision to come as soon as possible. Maybe my telegram could have had the same effect?! That would’ve been beautiful!
Please send my regards to everybody, and let me kiss you.
Why haven’t I heard anything about Loes? Do you know how he’s doing?