Brazilian authorities said today that information gathered during the past several days supports their original assertions that circumstantial evidence indicates Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele lived here from 1961 to 1979.
"We must verify the testimony, but there are no major contradictions so far," Sao Paulo police chief Romeu Tuma told reporters, as experts in forensic medicine began detailed studies of a body exhumed from a grave in a Sao Paulo suburb last Thursday.
Coroners from the Medical Legal Institute do not expect a final result of forensic tests for several days, but "there is nothing in the evidence so far that contradicts claims that this is Mengele," said forensic pathologist Wilmes Teixeira.
"The pelvis shows some abnormalities -- if we confirm this we will have made an important step forward," said Dr. Teixeira, referring to reports that Mengele had suffered a fractured pelvis while he was at Auschwitz.
Mengele, the infamous "Angel of Death" who is held responsible for the deaths of 400,000 inmates of the Auschwitz concentration camp, was believed to be living in South America until evidence surfaced last week suggesting that he may have died in Brazil in 1979. The search for the Nazi doctor took an unexpected turn Thursday, with Tuma's announcement that he was "90 percent certain" that a body exhumed near Sao Paulo was that of Mengele. He said a tip from West German prosecutors led to the discovery of the body.
Tuma said today that handwriting samples were being brought under guard from the U.S. Army's war archives in Washington and would be compared with manuscript annotations in an anthropology textbook alleged to have been Mengele's. Tuma said the result could be known within 24 hours.
He also said fingerprint data was being brought from West Germany to supplement dental records, dating from 1937 or 1938, already being analyzed.
Fingerprint identification is complicated by the fact that Brazilian police have allowed hundreds of reporters to handle books and documents that were supposedly Mengele's.
One important discrepancy in the case built by authorities here appeared to be resolved by a categoric assertion to reporters today by Gitta Stammer that she was not Jewish. Mrs. Stammer, a Hungarian-born immigrant, and her husband said they sheltered a man they believe was Mengele for 13 years.
In New York, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal was reported to have said Sunday that the Stammers were Jewish and therefore it was highly unlikely that they would have been involved with Mengele.
A nervous Mrs. Stammer made a statement to reporters that sought to explain why she had portrayed the man she said was Mengele as an irrascible, aggressive person, while a second couple who said they had sheltered him until his death described him as a calm, cultivated, intelligent man who adored children.
"He had two sides -- one was for strangers and the other when he didn't need to dissimulate," Stammer said. When someone came to visit, he was delightful, but with us if he didn't get his way, he would be aggressive. We were just the Hungarians with whom he lived. He never went into details or spoke of the war -- that was taboo."
She said, however, that Mengele had confirmed his presence at Auschwitz but said he had been evacuated from there after contracting typhoid.
In contrast, Wolfram and Liselotte Bossert's comments clearly showed they had a closer, emotional relationship with the man they believe was Mengele. "A few days after he drowned Liselotte called me up and said, 'The old boy's dead,' " Stammer said. "She was crying a lot.
"We were happy that it was over -- those weren't happy years for us. He took over our lives and was authoritarian with our children. We just wanted to forget."
She said that there had been various confrontations and that the couple had been kept waiting for years with promises that Mengele would be taken away, perhaps to Libya or Egypt.
She said that with the intervention of Wolfgang Gerhard, the Austrian whose identity Mengele was said to have assumed later, a man named Hans had come from West Germany on two occasions from the Mengele family firm. He brought two payments of $2,000 and $5,000, she said. She added she and her husband had been warned against disclosing Mengele's identity.
By contrast, Wolfram Bossert said that he admired what he saw as the alleged Mengele's good points and said that he was emotionally unable to denounce Mengele to authorities.
Police chief Tuma confirmed that he was investigating a third name, Saurer, mentioned by West German authorities in their initial request for cooperation with Brazil.
Mrs. Stammer confirmed that she had known the Saurers, who were also Hungarians and had lived in the same neighborhood as the Bosserts. She thought Mrs. Saurer had died and her husband had gone to Germany.
Tuma said that he had also questioned the local coroner who in 1979 had confirmed that the man drowned at Bertioga beach was 53 years old, not 68, as Mengele would have been at the time.
The police chief also said that he also was questioning a woman dentist who claimed to have treated an elderly German of outspoken racist views as late as April 1979 -- two months after the supposed drowning. But the woman dentist has no records of such a patient, according to Tuma. He added that another dentist had come forward and could prove that he had treated a man brought to his office by Gerhard.
Another important contradiction between the two couples' assertions relates to Mengele's money, and what degree of assistance he had supposedly received from the family firm in West Germany.
Mrs. Stammer denied that she had received payments for keeping Mengele: "I never wanted any reward -- and this isn't something you get paid for, we didn't need money and my husband always had enough. We never got any money from him," she said.
"Hans came twice with dollars and gave them all to the doctor. When he needed cash, he'd give $50 to my husband to change."
She indicated that Mengele lived with the Stammers for 13 years, starting in 1961, in part because the family in Germany was indifferent to his plight. "Gerhard told us there wasn't much hope for money and he didn't know what to do with him. The family's hands were tied and they couldn't interfere." She said Gerhard's promise that friends would take Mengele to Egypt or Libya was empty. "I don't think they wanted to help him."
By contrast, Wolfram Bossert spoke of deliveries of medical books and company promotional pocket knives from the firm in Germany. Rolf Mengele had also paid two visits, according to Bossert.
Following Mr. Bossert's comments in an interview yesterday, police chief Tuma said he was now investigating whether the Stammer farm at Caieiras had really been paid for by Mengele.
Bossert said that Hans Sedlmeier, a former employe of the Mengele firm in Guenzburg, West Germany, had once brought $10,000 from Germany and Mengele invested this to become half owner of the farm. Later he received monthly payments from Stammer after the property was sold.
Tuma also said the Stammers had a living standard much higher than what could have been sustained by Mr. Stammer's earnings declared to income tax authorities for his work as a mapping engineer.Tuma also said that Mr. Stammer's profession would not explain his overseas travel, or why Mr. Stammer is currently out of the country.
Both couples' accounts appear to indicate that no Nazi protection organization extended aid in sheltering Mengele.
"There's an organization -- that I know for a fact," said Sao Paulo's chief rabbi Henry Sobell and added that he had been in recent contact with Nazi hunters.
"The Kameradenwerk in South America is not as sophisticated in its functioning as the Odessa. It's a group of ex-Nazis who protect each other and get financial aid inside the continent."
Sobell said in an interview that he had participated indirectly in a 1978 operation headed by Tuma to infiltrate a birthday celebration for Adolf Hitler at Itatiaia attended by 30 Nazis. The operation led to an extradition request for Franz Wagner, assistant commander of the Sobibor concentration camp.
Flavio Marx, the lawyer who successfully defended Wagner against extradition requests from Austria, West Germany, Israel and Poland, said his client received no support from the supposed Kameradenwerk.