The West German prosecutor in charge of tracking down Josef Mengele said today that the global manhunt will continue until absolute proof is established that the remains found in a Brazilian grave last week are those of the Nazi war criminal.
Hans Eberhard Klein, the Frankfurt prosecutor who has handled the case for the past 11 years, said a personal statement released Tuesday by Rolf Mengele affirming his father's death more than six years ago was not sufficient to verify that the Auschwitz death camp doctor was no longer alive.
"Only when we have certain proof -- and I stress certain proof -- that the corpse found in Embu is identical with Josef Mengele will we be able to say: 'Mengele is dead,' " Klein said at a press conference today.
"So far, we do not have such proof," he said.
Klein welcomed the Mengele family's offer to provide more information and to assist in the identification of the remains exhumed last week at a graveyard near Sao Paulo. But he said the family has not yet disclosed to him any further information that would help the inquiry.
U.S. Justice Department officials arrived in Frankfurt today to exchange data and information concerning Mengele with the West German authorities. Israeli investigators also have cooperated with the United States and West Germany in the intensified search for Mengele in recent months.
Brazilian authorities meanwhile are conducting forensic tests to determine if the man buried six years ago under the name of Wolfgang Gerhard actually was the most wanted Nazi fugitive.
[In Sao Paulo, authorities said handwriting on notes believed to have been made in Brazil by the man buried as Gerhard matches that on a wartime German document executed by Mengele, Reuter reported. Federal police chief Romeu Tuma described the document, from the collection of a Brazilian citizen of Polish-Jewish origin, as a good copy of Mengele's application to join the Waffen-SS during World War II.]
No criminal charges would be brought against the family for withholding information or supplying financial support to Mengele, Klein said.
Hans Sedlmeier, the former employe of the Mengele family's farm machinery business who allegedly delivered money to the Nazi doctor, is still under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. A police search of his home uncovered letters that led investigators to the grave at Embu.
However, Klein said that if the remains in Brazil turn out to be those of Mengele, legal proceedings against Sedlmeier would be dropped because the five-year statute of limitations for such an offense would have expired.
In his statement, Rolf Mengele said he had "no doubt" that the corpse retrieved from the cemetery near Sao Paulo was that of his father. He said he went to Brazil in 1979 to confirm the circumstances of his father's death but remained silent "out of consideration for the people who were in contact with my father for the past 30 years."
But the son produced no new evidence or information that would help prove that Mengele died in a swimming accident near Sao Paulo six years ago, as relatives and acquaintances have claimed.
Klein confirmed today that Mengele had fractured his pelvis in a motorcycle accident in 1944. Initial examination of the remains in Brazil revealed signs of a broken hip.
Klein said conclusive results from the scrutiny of the bones and teeth were not expected until next week.
The Frankfurt prosecutor, perhaps worried about a hoax, has remained cautious in his comments about the possibility that Mengele's remains have been found. He has refused to say more than that there is "a degree of probability" that the remains dug up in Brazil last week may be those of Mengele.
Until the latest evidence emerged, Klein contended that Mengele still was believed to be alive and hiding in Paraguay under the protection of President Alfredo Stroessner's Government.