Tuviah Friedman, a renowned Nazi-hunter who helped bring war criminal Adolf Eichmann to trial in Israel in 1961, expressed skepticism today that the corpse exhumed from a Brazilian cemetery last week was that of Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz concentration camp doctor known as the "Angel of Death."
"I believe that Mengele is still alive," said Friedman, pointing to a notebook of faded documents. "The Mengele family has made up this story to end the search for him."
Speaking at a news conference at the headquarters of the American Jewish Committee here, Friedman called on West Germany to release the complete file of Mengele's crimes to publicize the horrors of Auschwitz. He also urged West Germany not to allow the remains to be buried there if they are confirmed to be Mengele's.
"We will wait until the evidence of the forensic medicine comes through, but the investigation for Mengele alive must continue now," said Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, the American Jewish Committee's international relations director, who also appeared at the news conference.
Friedman's comments came as Brazilian police discounted charges that evidence involving Mengele's 18-year-stay in Brazil is part of an international hoax to halt the 30-year search for the war criminal.
Mengele is considered responsible for slaughtering 400,000 Jews at Auschwitz during World War II and performing gruesome medical experiments on twins in his attempt to perpetuate the Aryan race.
According to Friedman, the advanced state of decomposition indicates that the corpse was buried before 1979 when Mengele is said to have drowned.
"This is not the body of Mengele, because such a body would have to be in a grave for 20 years or so," Friedman said, adding that he believes that Mengele probably would not have adopted the identity of Gerhard, who was 15 years his junior.
Friedman also said reports that Mengele broke a hip before leaving Germany are false. Brazilian authorities examining the bones and teeth found in the grave are said to have detected signs of a fractured pelvis in the exhumed skeleton.
Citing a document he said was found in Mengele's SS file in Berlin, Friedman said a 1943 court report of a motorcycle accident involving Mengele contains no medical references to a broken pelvis.
Friedman and Tanenbaum noted that the evidence found in Brazil contradicts reports that placed Mengele in Paraguay. According to new accounts, he never left Brazil for more than a day at a time.
"Either the international intelligence community has been lying about Mengele's whereabouts for 18 years or this is a gigantic hoax on the international community, and especially the Jewish people," Tanenbaum said.