JERUSALEM – In previously unseen post-World War II letters, notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele (search) describes a banal existence as a fugitive in South America, complaining about his lazy Brazilian housekeeper and documenting his weekly trips to town to eat strudel at a German bakery — one of "the small pleasures I very much enjoy."
Mengele — who met newly arrived prisoners at the Auschwitz (search) death camp, chose who went to the gas chambers and carried out horrific experiments on children, twins and dwarfs — also writes of his longing and love for Germany.
"How is the Fatherland, is it still the Fatherland?" Mengele wrote to a friend in a letter dated November 1972 — according to an excerpt from some of the letters published Friday by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, as the world marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
The letters show that Mengele, who eluded capture after the war ended and lived secretly in South America, most of the time in Brazil, until his death in 1979, died convinced of the superiority of what Nazis called the Aryan race (search).
He also never expressed regret in the letters and praised the apartheid regime that governed South Africa until 1994.
However, mostly the letters show a man, once feared as the "angel of death" at Auschwitz, concerned with his banal life.
"Once or twice a week, in the afternoon, I go into town to post a letter, to pay the electric bill, to buy something from the German bookstore and finally to eat a few pieces of strudel at the German bakery," Mengele wrote. "These are the small pleasures that I very much enjoy."
Describing his routine with his gardener, he notes in a February 1976 that "tomorrow Luis will come early."
"Then we will start to work in the garden. He weeds the lawn, rakes, moves plants, trims the creeper on the wall and anything else growing wild. The berry bushes still provide me with most of my desserts and prick my fingers with their gentle thorns," he wrote.
Mengele, who was responsible for the deaths of 400,000 prisoners at Auschwitz, writes with self-pity and complains about his lazy Brazilian housekeeper whom he cynically calls his "pearl."
"Sometimes she comes only after I have made myself breakfast, sometimes she doesn't even come," he wrote. "So I want to find a new pearl. My current one is off sick too often I feel like I am my own housekeeper ... Maybe one day I will find the real pearl."
The Mengele letters, some handwritten and some typed, came from files of Brazil's federal police which investigated Mengele after his death in 1979.
The Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo obtained the documents in November, but published only some of the documents. Yediot published additional material.
The first published papers detailing Mengele's life were printed in 1985 in the German weekly magazine Bunte, coming from family documents supplied by Mengele's son, Rolf Mengele.
Those excerpts portrayed a bitter fugitive in constant fear of apprehension, plagued by nightmares and sleeplessness, but defiant about Germany's murderous Nazi period.
About 6 million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany. About 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, died at Auschwitz from gassing, starvation, exhaustion, beatings and disease.
Other victims included Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.
At Auschwitz, Mengele was responsible for what came to be known as "selection," choosing who was fit for slave labor and who was to die in the gas chambers. He was also fascinated by twins on whom he experimented.
"He would tell little children to sit on his lap and tell them to call him 'uncle,' 'uncle Mengele' and sometimes give them a sweet — and in the same tone of voice that he said 'I'm uncle Mengele,' he would tell the officials to give them a lethal injection," Martha Weiss, a survivor of his experimental ward, told the Associated Press recently.