An auctioneer of historic documents said Tuesday that he had sold a journal written by Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi Holocaust's "Angel of Death," to the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor, the Hartford Courant reported.
According to the report, Bill Panagopulos of Alexander Autographs wrote in an e-mail that he had sold the 180-page journal for an undisclosed sum Tuesday "to an East Coast Jewish philanthropist who wishes to remain anonymous."
"He is the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor who personally encountered Mengele at Auschwitz," Panagopulos wrote. "He intends to donate the manuscript to a museum devoted to the Holocaust."
Dated June 1960, when the death camp doctor was in South America, the handwritten entries range from descriptions of native animals and plants to blunt statements on the need to sterilize people with "deficient genes."
"The real problem is to define when human life is worth living and when it has to be eradicated," Mengele reportedly wrote.
The Hartford Courant said some Jewish and Holocaust survivor organizations called the sale of such a document disgraceful.
The newspaper, based in Stamford, Connecticut said the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants labeled the auction house offering "a cynical act of exploitation aimed at profiting from the writings of one of the most heinous Nazi criminals."
"I personally believe that these things should not be sold or publicized," Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the New York City-based World Jewish Congress, was quoted by the Courant as saying Tuesday. "It unfortunately adds a glory or a glamour to these people and encourages people with right-wing sympathies to admire them."
Panagopulos said that he was sickened by the journal, but that it has historic value. If no money can be made from such documents, he said, many would be lost. "If it has no value, people throw it in the garbage," he said.
'Manuscript is going where it belongs'
According to the report, Panagopulos said the bound notebook is mostly Mengele's philosophical meanderings about topics such as genetic purity and the staining of superior bloodlines by "morons" and "idiots".
The SS physician, born in 1911, went to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in April 1943. He was among the medical officers who divided arriving inmates into two groups: slave laborers and those immediately sent to the gas chambers.
Mengele also experimented with human subjects at the camp.
After the war, Mengele spent a few years working on a farm in Bavaria, then fled to South America, where he lived in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. He died in 1979.
Asked for an opinion on the authenticity of the notebook held by the Stamford auction house, the Washington, D.C., Holocaust museum released a statement Tuesday saying that the institution "does not know if the diary, purportedly a post-war work, is authentic. There is a history of forgeries and alleged 'diaries' by Nazis."
"Whatever its origins," the statement continues, "nothing can hide Mengele's real legacy as a perpetrator in the brutal murder of more than one million Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the unspeakable cruelty he inflicted upon the victims of his 'medical experiments.'"
Panagopulos told the The Hartford Courant that the provenance of the Mengele journal is solid, and that the handwriting matches the Nazi doctor's known writing. He would not name the owner. He said he has pledged a portion of the sale proceeds to the museum.
"I am overjoyed," Panagopulos told the newspaper, "that the manuscript is going where it belongs, where it will be available to historians and scholars."
To read excerpts from the Mengele journal, visit the Alexander Autographs website at www.alexautographs.com and under "auctions" click on "archives," which brings up a search page.