A Connecticut auction house says it has sold the journals written by Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele. The sale is drawing criticism from a leader of Holocaust survivors who says the business was profiting off the sale of one of the worst mass murderers in history.
Alexander Autographs, of Stamford, sold the journals Thursday for nearly $300,000, said Bill Panagopulos, the company's president. Alexander officials said the Jewish buyer wants to remain anonymous and is building a private collection for a museum.
"I am outraged that Mr. Panagopulos and his outfit have profiteered off a sale of materials by one of history's greatest mass murderers designed to enrich his heirs," said Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.
Rosensaft thinks the consignor got the journals from Mengele's family. He said the journals should have been given to a historical archive for scholars.
Rosensaft said Mengele "selected" his aunt for the gas chambers in 1944, and many other relatives were killed in the Holocaust. He said his mother, who survived, saw Mengele knock a young woman to the ground, put a boot on her chest and hummed a song while keeping his foot in place until she died.
Rosensaft also criticized the auction house for selling other Nazi items, saying they could be of interest to neo-Nazis
Panagopulos said an American company was the consigner that put the journals up for sale. He said his profit would be $15,000 to $20,000 and that he would make a donation to a war memorial.
"I'm not going to the bank on the sale," he said.
Panagopulos said Rosensaft was the only one he has heard criticism from. He said Mengele's journals have historical value and that many auction houses deal with Nazi-related items and the buyers are reputable.
Mengele was one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, a doctor who conducted cruel experiments on twins and dwarves at the Auschwitz concentration camp and killed children with lethal injections. He selected prisoners who would be subjected to his experiments and sent others straight to their death in gas chambers.
His horrors earned him the title "Angel of Death."
After the war, Mengele fled Germany under an assumed name and ended up in Argentina, a popular refuge for many senior Nazi officials. After eluding capture for 34 years, Mengele drowned in Brazil in 1979.
The 3,400 pages of journal writings sold Thursday cover 1960 through 1975 when Mengele was hiding in South America. Excerpts from his diaries appeared in 1985 in the weekly German magazine Bunte, which reported Mengele was terrified of being captured and tormented by sleeplessness but remained a Nazi to the end.
In promoting the sale, Alexander said the journals were only sparingly quoted.
"Taken as a whole and carefully read and analyzed, this archive, the vast majority of which has never been published or perhaps even viewed, offers an in-depth view into the cruelest mind of the twentieth century," the auction house wrote.
The journals detail Mengele's escape from Germany through bribery and human smuggling, a stint in jail, his arrival in Argentina penniless and his life in a slum. They also cover his racist views, fascination with anatomy and what he calls the shameful peace of World War I.
The buyer spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he didn't want his private life disrupted. He described himself as the son of a Holocaust survivor who has collected 5,000 original documents related to the Holocaust and plans to open a museum at some point.
"I feel a great obligation this should be shown to the public," the buyer said.
He said in the right hands the documents can be used as a force for good to counter Holocaust deniers and to reject any philosophy that leads to discrimination.
"I don't think it's been intensely scrutinized," the buyer said of Mengele's journals. "It's going to say a lot about his state of mind."