“The most frightful experiments of all were the gynaecological experiments.” Elizabeth Ovitz would later write, “…They injected things into our uterus, extracted blood, dug into us, pierced us and removed samples. It is impossible to put into words the intolerable pain that we suffered, which continued for many days after the experiments ceased.”
Even Mengele’s assistant doctors found the gynecological experiments too disturbing. Eventually, they refused to help him out of pity for the Ovitz women. Mengele finally relented; the dwarfs were his favorite subjects and he didn’t want to kill them — at least not yet. But general experimentation picked up again at full force.
“They extracted fluid from our spinal. The hair extraction began again and when we were ready to collapse, they began painful tests on the brain, nose, mouth, and hand region. All stages were fully documented with illustrations.” Elizabeth remembered. Mengele also pulled out healthy teeth and extracted bone marrow with no anesthetic.
In the Ovitz’s eyes, however, Mengele nevertheless emerged as some sort of savior.
He rescued them from death — several times — as other camp authorities insisted it was their turn to die. He’d gleefully recite a chant to them: “Over the hills and seven mountains, there my seven dwarfs do dwell.” The women even referred to Mengele as “Your Excellency,” and sang for him at request.
Mengele sometimes brought gifts to the family — toys or candy that he confiscated from deceased children at the camp. The 18-month-old son of Leah Ovitz was usually the recipient of these gifts. The child once even toddled toward the doctor, calling him “daddy.” Correcting the child, he said, “No, I’m not your father, just Uncle Mengele.”
Meanwhile, he would flirt with Freida, crooning at her, “How beautiful you look today!”
Amid the other invasive procedures, Mengele poured boiling water into their ears, followed by ice water. He put chemicals in their eyes that blinded them. There were no moral boundaries restricting Mengele’s irrelevant experimentation. They thought the pain would drive them mad.
Knowing how dwarfs delighted Hitler, the doctor filmed a “home movie” for him. Under the threat of terror, the Ovitz family sang German songs for the amusement of the Fuhrer. At the time, the family had just witnessed the gruesome deaths of two other dwarfs, their bodies boiled to remove flesh from the bone. Mengele wanted the bones displayed in a Berlin museum.
Likewise, Mengele wasn’t content to keep his favorite subjects all to himself. One special day he arrived with makeup and a hairdresser and told the family that they were going to be on stage. Any sliver of happiness that they might’ve received from performing again was soon shot down.
The Ovitz’s arrived at a strange building off the campgrounds. They walked onstage but saw only Nazi leaders in the audience. Then, Mengele barked an order to the dwarfs: strip naked.
He humiliatingly pointed to and prodded them with a billiard cue. A primary goal of his research was to prove that the race of Jews was disintegrating into deformed beings — not unlike dwarfs, he thought — to further validate killing them off.
Mengele’s stage presentation was a hit. Afterward, members of the audience wandered onstage to further prod and jab the family. Mortified, the Ovitz family lost any appetite for the refreshments offered.
Most members of the Ovitz family never truly expected to survive Auschwitz, but when the Soviets liberated the camp in early 1945, Mengele hastily grabbed his research papers and fled. All the Ovitz family members in the doctor’s “care” walked out. Authorities never captured Mengele, who died in 1979 in Brazil.
Later, Perla Ovitz, the last surviving member of the family (she died in 2001), acknowledged the horrifying details of their imprisonment — but still maintained a tiny shred of gratitude toward their captor.
“If the judges had asked me if he should be hanged, I’d have told them to let him go,” she recalled. “I was saved by the grace of the devil; God will give Mengele his due.”
Next, discover more about about Josef Mengele, the Nazi angel of death. Then, meet other human “freak show” members who gained fame yet suffered cruel fates in decades past.