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Dr. Josef Mengele was a German SS officer and a physician in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. He earned doctorates in anthropology from Munich University and in medicine from Frankfurt University. He gained notoriety for being one of the SS physicians who supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who was to be killed and who was to become a forced laborer, and for performing human experiments on camp inmates, amongst whom Mengele was known as the "Angel of Death”.

In 1943, Mengele replaced another doctor who had fallen ill at the Nazi extermination camp Birkenau. On May 24, 1943, he became medical officer of Auschwitz-Birkenau's "Gypsy camp". Once Mengele's assistant rounded up 14 pairs of Roma twins during the night. Mengele placed them on his polished marble dissection table and put them to sleep. He then injected chloroform into their hearts, killing them instantly. Mengele then began dissecting and meticulously noting each and every piece of the twins' bodies. In August 1944, this camp was liquidated and all its inmates gassed.

Subsequently Mengele became Chief Medical Officer of the main infirmary camp at Birkenau. During his 21-month stay at Auschwitz, Mengele earned the sobriquet "Angel of Death" for the cruelty he visited upon prisoners. Mengele was also referred to as "the White Angel" by camp inmates because when he stood on the platform inspecting new arrivals and directing some to the right, some to the left, his white coat and white arms outstretched evoked the image of a white angel.  In one instance, he drew a line on the wall of the children's block 150 centimeters (about 5 feet) from the floor, and sent those whose heads could not reach the line to the gas chamber.  "He had a look that said 'I am the power,'" said one survivor. When it was reported that one block was infested with lice, Mengele gassed every single one of the 750 women assigned to it.

Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation. He was particularly interested in identical twins; they would be selected and placed in special barracks. Mengele took an interest in physical abnormalities discovered among the arrivals at the concentration camp. These included dwarfs, notably the Ovitz family - the children of a Romanian artist, of whom seven of the 10 members were dwarfs. Prior to their deportation, they toured in Eastern Europe as the Lilliput Troupe. Mengele often called them "my dwarf family”. 

Mengele's experiments also included attempts to change eye color by injecting chemicals into children's eyes, various amputations of limbs and other brutal surgeries. Rena Gelissen's account of her time in Auschwitz details certain experiments performed on female prisoners around October 1943. Mengele would experiment on the chosen girls, performing sterilization and shock treatments. Most of the victims died, either due to the experiments or later infections.

At Auschwitz, Mengele did a number of twin studies. After the experiment was over, these twins were usually murdered and their bodies dissected. He supervised an operation by which two Romanian children were sewn together to create conjoined twins; the hands of the children became badly infected where the veins had been resected, this also caused gangrene.  Of the 3,000 twins who were deported to Auschwitz, only 26 pairs survived.