Two articles appear below.

1. Dr Bergman argues that "Mengele's zeal in implementing the Holocaust was based squarely on orthodox...19th century Darwinism."

2. John Williams responds: "Mengele was a fanatical devotee of Hitler, who rejected evolution and...held the traditional Christian creationist belief in the fixity of species...[and] had Darwin's books banned or censored..."

Darwin's Disciple, Dr. Josef Mengele

Jerry Bergman

(Investigator 136, 2011 January)

The scientist who presided over the race program at Auschwitz was Dr. Josef Mengele (March 16, 1911 – February 7, 1979).

He today symbolizes the worst of the Nazi Germany criminals for his grossly barbaric, and often lethal, medical experiments on prisoners. In the name of science he not only committed acts of unspeakable barbarism on young, innocent, weak and often sick humans, but totally escaped formal punishment for his hideous crimes (Schmittroth and Rosteck, 1998, p. 311).

Josef Mengele was a highly respected and published researcher. He earned a Ph.D. from the prestigious University of Munich in evolutionary biology and an M.D. from the University of Frankfurt where he also worked on proving the evolution of humans, his chief interest (Astor, 1985). While still in his residency for his medical degree, Mengele was influenced by medical geneticist Professor Otmar von Verschuer who claimed that "Hitler is the first statesman who has come to recognize the importance of hereditary biological and race hygiene and make it a leading principle" of government policy (quoted in Astor, 1985, p. 23). The phrase "Race hygiene" is a kinder, less objectionable term for the applied racism today known as eugenics. Mengele soon became a devoted disciple of Hitler and Darwin.

Posner and Ware added that when Mengele was in college, one of his major interests was anthropology and paleontology, specifically genetics and evolution, subjects that Hitler and "a growing number of German academics found so attractive." These views coincided with the development of the "scientific conclusion" by leading academics that "some human beings afflicted by disorders were unfit to reproduce, even to live.... His [Mengele's] consummate ambition was to succeed in this fashionable new field of evolutionary research" (1986, p. 9, emphasis mine). Reared in a conservative Catholic family, college took care of that. His new religion was Darwinism.

Von Verschuer and others who advocated incorporating Darwinism into government social policy concluded that "specialists of race hygiene are happy to have witnessed that the work normally associated with the scientific laboratories or the academic study room has extended into the life of our people" (as quoted in Astor, 1985, p. 23).  These ideas had a profound influence on Mengele – the man who later was responsible for helping Hitler to implement Nazi Holocaust policy in one of the largest German death camps, Auschwitz.  

Mengele's zeal in implementing the Holocaust was based squarely on orthodox mainline 19th century Darwinism, and not on sadistic or psychopathic impulsiveness as is often alleged (Posner and Ware, 1986).  Mengele's biographer concluded that racial purity and the contaminant threat of Jews became gospel in lower and higher education. When Mengele began his college studies at the University of Munich, anti-Semitism had already sprouted in the sciences. The impressionable young man....soaked up writings like those of a German oriental scholar, Paul de Lagarde, who despised "those who out of humanity defend these Jews, or who are too cowardly to trample these usurious vermin to death.... With trichinae and bacilli one does not negotiate, nor are trichinae and bacilli to be educated. They are exterminated as quickly and thoroughly as possible" (Astor, 1985, p. 21).  

Hitler and the Nazis attempted to provide a wide variety of justifications to convince the public to go along with Nazi racist policies (Weikart, 2004). The metaphor of Jews and other "inferior races" which included all non-Aryan races, as "diseased organisms" such as bacteria was far more useful for converting the public to accept the Nazi racists policies than esoteric scientific theories such as Darwinian eugenics. At the heart of Nazi racism, though, was Darwinian eugenics (Weikart, 2009).


Mengele's young mind was corrupted by a combination of the political climate in Nazi Germany and the fact that his deep interest in genetics and evolution happened to coincide with the developing concept that some human beings afflicted by disorders were unfit to reproduce, even to live. Perhaps the real catalyst in this lethal brew was that Mengele, first at Munich and later at Frankfurt, studied under the leading exponents of this "unworthy life" theory. His consummate ambition was to succeed in this fashionable new field of evolutionary research (Posner and Ware, 1986, p. 9).

Unfortunately, he succeeded all too well, but in ways that the world now regards as one of the worst tragedies in human history. And the evolutionary ideas that Mengele so anxiously absorbed in his university in studies were precisely the ones that would propel him down the road to Auschwitz. His apprenticeship as a mass murderer formally began not on the selection lines of the concentration camp but in the classrooms of the University of Munich (Lagnado and Dekel, 1991, p. 42).

Lifton, in his extensive study of Nazi doctors, wrote that he (Lifton) "began and ended" his study of Nazi crimes with Mengele (1986). Indeed, very few men are as closely associated with the Holocaust in the public's mind as is Professor Josef Mengele, MD, Ph.D.


Astor, Gerald. 1985. The last Nazi: The life and Times of Joseph Mengele. Donald Fine Co., New York.

Lagnado, Lucette Matalon and Sheila Cohn Dekel.  1991.  Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Lifton, Robert Jay. 1986. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books.

Posner, G.L. and J. Ware. 1986. Mengele. McGraw Hill Book Company, New York.

Schmittroth, Linda and Mary Kay Rosteck. 1998. People of the Holocaust. Detroit, MI: Gale.

Weikart, Richard. 2004.  From Darwin to Hitler. New York. Palgrave Macmillan.

______. 2009.  Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.


(Investigator 140, 2011 September)

"It is a rare and special good fortune for a theoretical science to flourish at a time when the prevailing ideology welcomes it, and its findings can immediately serve the policy of the state…" (Prof Eugen Fischer, March, 1943)

"I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection." (Charles Darwin)

"Everything will end up in catastrophe if natural selection is altered to the point that gifted people are overwhelmed by morons." (Josef Mengele)

John H Williams

In #136 Jerry Bergman outlined Josef Mengele’s crimes at Auschwitz, and attempted to associate his experiments with the scientific work of Charles Darwin. This theme has long been part of Answers in Genesis’ Young Earth Creationist evolution-denial. Intelligent Design (ID) too has been actively promoting the absurd implication that a ‘hodge-podge’ of beliefs has led to social Darwinism, eugenics, Mengele’s experiments and the Holocaust.

Creationists like Bergman deny that evolution has occurred, despite the overwhelming evidence that it has. Their strategy is to indirectly attack Darwin's work, as in From Darwin to Hitler, written by Richard Weikart, a Senior Fellow of ID’s The Discovery Institute. In his book’s acknowledgements, Weikart wrote, "Many thanks…to the Center for Science and Culture (a misleadingly named section of The Discovery Institute) which provided crucial funding…" Team Creationism/ID is slick, relentless and extremely well funded, and Darwin and "Darwinism" are its targets.

Darwin apparently left a "deadly legacy": "No Darwin, no Hitler"! The 'trick' is to manipulate words like evolution, Darwinism and "survival of the fittest" with the aim of denigrating and undermining Darwin and, by association, evolution. We’re told that Hitler was a keen believer in evolution, often using that word, entwicklung, and if there’d been no Darwin (Wallace too?) there’d not have been the "intellectual framework" for the Holocaust. What nonsense! However, one has to admire Weikart and Bergman for their industry and persistence: nobody does it better, but their ID- enhanced articles and books require close scrutiny and challenge.

This misrepresentation of Darwinian science was a key part of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008), described in the New York Times as a "conspiracy theory rant masquerading as an investigative inquiry". The Anti-Defamation League described it so: "using the Holocaust to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivialises the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry". Clearly, if one tries to make an anti-evolution case, one would need to keep it simplistic and selective, steering away from as many "complex factors" as possible, as exemplified in Bergman’s article.

In The Descent of Man (1871) Darwin wrote "At some future period…the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races", a line quote-mined by creationists, who fail to give its context, in which "Darwin was reporting on and criticising the extermination of people by colonial powers, rather than promoting it" (Hector Avalos, 2008). Ben Stein, in Expelled, offered this Darwin quote, "Hardly is anyone so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed…", but without this: "…Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reasons without deterioration of the noblest part of our nature." The creationist canard that Darwin advocated eugenics is shown here to be wrong.

Bergman titled his article "Darwin’s Disciple". If Mengele were truly a disciple, ‘one who follows a teacher or school of thought’, he was a lethally wayward one! Mengele was not "devoted" to Darwin’s scientific teachings, though it’s clear that social Darwinism strongly appealed to him, as it did to Hitler and his henchmen. This does not show that he found inspiration in Darwin’s writings or thought of his own ideas and practices as Darwinian! Mengele was as "devoted" to Darwin’s science as he was to his Hippocratic Oath. His doctoral thesis (1935) gives a strong insight into his mindset as well as the ‘scientific’ context within which he operated: Racial Morphological Research on the Lower Jaw Section of Four Racial Groups!

Mengele was a fanatical devotee of Hitler, who rejected evolution and natural selection, since he (Hitler) held the traditional Christian creationist belief in the fixity of species ("a fox remains a fox, the goose remains a goose"). Hitler had Darwin’s books banned or censored: The List of Banned Books 1932-1939 proscribed "writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism."

Hitler never once referred to Darwin or Natural Selection; he never mentioned evolution, in the true Darwinian sense, in any of the editions of Mein Kampf or elsewhere. Mengele and many other Nazis completely misunderstood Darwin’s key ideas, hugely accentuating survival of the fittest (actually best fit), when the weak give way to the strong, an immutable ‘law of nature’. As cited by Robert Lifton, "The regime…rejected much of Darwinism, since evolutionary theory is more or less democratic in its assumption of a common beginning for all races, it is therefore at odds with the Nazi principle of inherent Aryan racial virtue." So much for Hitler’s apparent adherence to entwicklung!

The Führer was influenced by Ernst Rudin, who espoused a primitive and violent Spartan eugenics, in which young boys were bathed in wine then left overnight to see who survived. A prevalent idea was that genius and talent were uncommon, and over time, in Mengele’s words, "everything will end up in catastrophe if natural selection is altered to the point that gifted people are overwhelmed by morons", which starkly reveals his fundamental misunderstanding of natural selection.

Bergman’s article has three mentions of the word Darwinism, but the reader must guess its meaning. We assume that he assumes that we understand it to mean the evolution of species over time through common descent by means of natural selection. However, what the Nazi racial ‘science’ policies led to, as embraced by Mengele’s mentor, Prof von Verschuer, was clearly artificial selection, a practice traditionally used in animal husbandry, which long pre-dated Darwin who took pains to become knowledgeable in that field.

We are asked to accept that an undefined process, "Darwinism", was Mengele’s "new religion". Yet we’re told of Mengele’s admiration for the work of the racist oriental scholar Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891) for whom Jews were "trichinae, bacilli, to be exterminated as quickly and thoroughly as possible"; and that his mind was corrupted by a combination of forces and beliefs within the toxic socio-political climate in which he grew up, leading to the ‘un-Darwinian’ idea that certain ‘unworthy humans’ were unfit to reproduce, or even to live.

Darwinian eugenics was, according to Bergman, "the heart of Nazi racism". If he believes that the practice of eugenics was advocated by Darwin it ought to have been referred to with quotations, but, tellingly, it wasn’t. Bergman needed to explain the manner in which social Darwinism, a misapplied ‘sink or swim’ ‘entwicklung’, infused Nazi ideology, but there is not one use of that term in his article!

A definition of social Darwinism is that individuals or groups achieve advantage over others as a result of genetic or biological superiority. In the Nazi biocracy, medical imagery referring to Germany’s post-WW1 chaos and demoralisation was pervasive. Hitler called it "an illness", the diagnosis was racial, and the ‘cure’ became the removal of the Jews, who’d "provoked a world war", and who’d made the superior Aryan race "sick’’. The "high priests", Hitler, Goering, Heydrich and Himmler, called the tune. In the latter’s view, "a plant-breeding specialist…when he wants…a new strain from a well-tried species that has been exhausted by too much cross-breeding, first goes over the field to cull the unwanted plants".

The Nazis appropriated language and ideas from genetics, anthropology and medicine (especially the germ theory of disease) as propaganda tools in their goal of promoting a perverted ideology of racial purity. S J Gould, in his Mismeasure of Man (1981 and 1996) outlined the crude biological determinism adopted by governments practising eugenics in North America, much admired and later duplicated by the Nazis. (The movement drew strong support from Christian organisations such as the Uniting Methodist, the Presbyterian and Episcopalian Churches: the Uniting Church has only recently apologised for its role).

The dirty work was left to doctors who were called upon to implement ‘scientific’ racism. The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (1934) led to the sterilisation of those who would "contaminate the German gene pool" — the deaf, blind, deformed, feeble-minded, alcoholics, epileptics and schizophrenics. Later these and other ‘unworthy plants’ were ‘culled’.

 Lifton emphasises that "the clear rulers were Hitler and his gang of ill-educated thugs, not biological theorists and certainly not doctors." Mengele was an opportunistic enthusiast, while many of his peers hated their role. Here’s his response to the key ethical issue:
Q: How do you reconcile your work with your Hippocratic oath as a doctor?

A: Of course I’m a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind. (R J Lifton, p 16/17, The Nazi  Doctors,1986).

This ugly analogy shows Mengele as being imbued with the unworthy life ethos, absorbed from von Verschuer, who had, with Mollison and Eugen, been involved in live medical experiments on the Hereros in the German ‘protectorate’ of SW Africa (now Namibia) in the early 20th century. Another tribe, the Christianised Namas, put up a stout resistance (1904-1907) in the face of German ethnic cleansing which was bolstered by the crude application of social Darwinist doctrines. This was deliberate genocide, infamously used at Shark Island, a "rough draft for the death camp", later streamlined for the Final Solution.

The Nazi regime borrowed much from their Namibian ‘laboratory’: the Herero (disparagingly called "Hottentots") were unmensch (non-humans). Franz von Epp, an important early supporter of Hitler, fought there as a soldier; the despised mischlinge (of mixed race) was much used there; the SA brownshirts of the 1930s still wore camouflaged uniforms once used in the Namib desert; Goering’s father, Heinrich Goering, was SW Africa’s first governor; and Hitler viewed ‘the East’ ("Germany’s California") as akin to the former colony. He referred to Ukrainians as "colonial people", marked for "clearance" and "resettlement", code words for genocide.

Germany was a latecomer (from 1871) to the imperialist ‘scramble for empire’. Following the infamous and racist Berlin Conference of 1884/5, it wreaked such havoc on the natives of SW Africa that it’s regarded as the most brutal and destructive colonial experience of people anywhere in the world. Applied social Darwinism was well to the fore, as it was one to two generations later in a criminal regime led by someone who celebrated and gloried in its barbarianism.

The essence of Darwin’s morally neutral scientific work on evolution had no direct connection with Nazi pseudo-scientific race theory, eugenics, Mengele’s experiments and what became the Holocaust. In the words of Robert Richards, a historian of Darwin and eugenics, "It can only be a tendentious and dogmatically driven assessment that would condemn Darwin for the crimes of the Nazis." (2006)


Bergman J, Eugenics and the Development of Nazi Race Policy, Investigator #80, September, 2001

Bergman J, Darwin’s Disciple, Dr Josef Mengele, Investigator #136, Jan, 2011

Hale C, Himmler’s Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find The Origin of the Aryan Race, John Wiley, Hoboken, 2003

Lifton Robert J, The Medical Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, Basic Books, New York, 1986

Olusugo D, Erichsen C, The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism, Faber & Faber, 2010

Snyder L, Hitler’s Henchmen: The Nazis Who Shaped the Third Reich, 1989

Weikert R, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany, Palgrave MacMillan, 2004