Forensic Anthropology and Story of Two Anthropologists- Dr. Clyde Snow & Dr. Josef Mengele

“Bones make good witnesses. Although they speak softly, they never lie and they never forget”

-Dr.Clyde Snow

Josef Mengele  was physician in German army during Second World War. Mengele received doctorates in anthropology and medicine from Munich University.

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When Mengele was posted at Auschwitz concentration camp, he used it as an opportunity to continue his anthropological studies and research on heredity using Jewish prisoners for his experiments.

One of the objectives of experiments was to prove supremacy of heredity over environment and to prove superiority of Aryan race. The experiments had no regard for the health or safety of the victims. Many died during these experiments. To study heredity he performed lot of experiments of twins.

Experiments performed by Mengele on twins included unnecessary amputation of limbs, intentionally infecting one twin with typhus or other diseases, and transfusing the blood of one twin into the other, sewing twins together back to back, injecting chemicals into eyes of subjects etc. after an experiment was over, the twins were sometimes killed and their bodies dissected.

Post war, Josef was declared war criminal, but he managed to escape to Argentina with the help of Nazi sympathisers. Israeli and German authorities were unable to have him arrested. With help of money send by his wife and son from Germany he managed to lead a comfortable life in South America.

Sometime in 1985 after receiving tip from German police, a skeleton was dug from cemetery in Sao Paulo and Brazilian police claimed that it was of Josef. But records showed that man buried in 1979 was Wolfgang Gerhard.

Was Wolfgand Gerhard actually Josef Mengele? Was name change just to avoid identification?

A team of experts was send to Brazil from US, consisting of Dr. Snow. Clyde Snow was a well-known U.S. forensic anthropologist, who obtained Ph.D. in Anthropology from Arizona University.


“There are 206 bones and 32 teeth in the human body…and each has a story to tell.”

-Dr.Clyde Snow

Dr. Snow studied the skull, bones, teeth, hair etc. He then did skull photo super imposition and finally reached conclusion that skull belonged to Josef Mengele. Dr. Snow and his team conducted exhaustive studies consisting of matching hair samples; study of bones, study of teeth based on dental records etc. and confirmed that skeleton was of Josef.


Later in 1992 Professor Jeffreys used reverse paternity testing: he used blood specimens from Mengele’s wife and son to reconstitute Mengele’s DNA pattern. The remains were confirmed to be those of Mengele.

Mengele’s health had been steadily deteriorating since 1972, and he had a stroke in 1976. He had high blood pressure and an ear infection that had an impact on his balance. In 1979 he suffered another stroke while swimming and drowned.

Mengele was buried in Embu das Artes cemetery at Sao Paluo under the name “Wolfgang Gerhard”, whose identification card he had been using since 1971.



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