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Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz Hardcover – April, 1991

75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mengele was in charge of the "selection process" at the death camp Auschwitz, but he was also a genetic scientist with a special interest in twins. During the war he subjected some 3000 twins, mostly young, to experiments of unspeakable horror. Only 160 of them were alive when the Russians liberated Auschwitz in 1945. The authors have interviewed several of the surviving twins and here present their stories, including details of their postwar lives. One especially disturbing aspect of the book is the fact that some of the victims remember Mengele as a charming father-substitute in whom they yearned to place their trust. There are glimpses of Mengele joking with the children, taking them on outings, hugging them. One survivor insists he was gentle; another flatly states that he "loved little children." Woven skillfully into the narrative is a formal and engrossing biography of Mengele himself, his family background, his wartime career, his escape to South America, his years in hiding. None of the surviving twins believes that the remains found in Brazil in 1985 are those of the death-camp doctor; according to the authors, they are certain that Mengele has succeeded in "tricking the world yet another time." An important addition to the literature of the Holocaust. Lagnado is a freelance writer, Dekel is the widow of an Auschwitz twin. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-- A horrifying yet spellbinding account. Although Mengele was a mediocre doctor, he was encouraged in his pursuit of "genetic research" to create a "master Aryan race" with the concentration camp at Auschwitz providing an ample supply of specimens for his unscientific, poorly documented experiments. Twins were his fixation, and this book interviews some of the estimated 100 survivors from an initial sample of 3000 young people. The fascination of this book is that it follows the lives of both Mengele and the twins in their readjustment to life away from the camps. This gripping tale is extremely readable and well documented, offering another facet to the human tragedy of the Holocaust.
- Pam Spencer, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688096956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688096953
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Matt Jachyra on February 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Well-written book, easy to read. Actually one of the better ones about subject of Mengele and Auschwitz. No lengthy boring descriptions or statistical speculations. Just good writing mixed with moving quotes of survived victims. I've read many books about Mengele and all of them were dry and filled with assumptions. This book states simple facts supported by eyewitness accounts. A lot of times I had to put this book away to digest all the evil that was done to those poor children. Reading "Children of the Flames" is like being on the emotional roller coaster. This book will grab you by your heart and deeply move you. There are not enough words to describe the pain and suffering that happened. Very accurate account. If I could read only one book about Mengele this would be the one.
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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on June 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
Both my parents served in the armed forces overseas during World War II, and it was through them, as a young adult, I heard of the "children of the flames" and the horrors of the concentration camps. When the book was first published, it caught my attention for that very reason. "Children of the Flames" is not an easy book to read simply because of the subject matter. However, the authors have managed to relate the story in a way that tells of the evil acts committed but in as diplomatic a manner as possible. The attrocities are almost too bloodcurdling to conceive. For me, it was impossible to read "Children of the Flames" in one sitting, especially the interviews which actually describe life and the experiments at Auschwitz.
This is the story of Josef Mengele and his "children of Auschwitz". Selecting primarily twins (or others who caught his eye) from the multitudes of Jews headed for the gas chambers, Mengele used these innocent children to satisfy his own perverse needs, all in the name of research, as human guinea pigs for his own horrendous experiments. The book is based upon interviews with survivors of Mengele's twins, and the reader will quickly discover, there are few survivors. The interviews tell the life of survivors before capture, during their time at Auschwitz and after their release. Almost all victims have had a lifetime of horrific, unending nightmares except those who cannot remember. Those who cannot remember, and there are few, are perhaps blessed with the body's unique defence system to block out that which is too unbearable and too painful to remember.
It has been over fifty years since the Holocaust, but it will forever remain a part of our history.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Interweaving quotes from twin-survivors about their stories both during and after Auschwitz with Dr. Mengele's own biography, the authors have created a truly compelling narrative. Their central thesis -- that Mengele's obsession with twins derived from the fact that in personality he was a "twin" with angelic and sadistic sides -- is a fascinating one. Moreover, the authors are skillful in presenting anecdotes about the twin's lives that contrast with or even mirror times in Dr. Mengele's own life: i.e., the twins are desperate to leave Europe for Israel after the war; Mengele is desperate to leave Europe for South America; the twins live in broken health; Mengele becomes a hypochondriac. Thus, there is always a rich subtext to simple "stories" about the twins' lives.
Moreover, there is nothing gruesome about the book; it avoids detailed accounts of the substance of the experiments, but simply makes the point that the countless procedures performed had no medical value, and were not understood by the twins themselves.
Truly excellent and original.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Rosemary Amey on November 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
A fascinating account of Nazi "scientist" and "doctor" Josef Mengele, who cheerfully "selected" thousands of Jews, Gypsies, and other people for quick death (gas chambers) or slow death (by exhaustion, malnutrition, and the filthy conditions) at Auschwitz, and who performed pseudoscientific "experiments" on many human prisoners, especially twin children. Delving into Mengele's past, as an endearing child known as "Beppo", and his life after the war (unrepetant to the end) the authors have created a fascinating portrait of this complex, twisted man. Juxtaposed with Mengele's story are the stories of the few twins who survived the experiments at Auschwitz. I found it especially poignant to see the contrast between Mengele's relatively easy life after the war--he used his family's wealth to start a successful business in South America and hobnobbed with other members of the South American Nazi "elite", and the lives of the twins after the war--most of them lost their families and lived in severe poverty, as well as being haunted throughout their lives by the horrors they suffered at Auschwitz. Highly recommended.
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57 of 68 people found the following review helpful By K. L Sadler VINE VOICE on January 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book confused me at first, I am afraid. It took me a while to figure out what the authors were doing in jumping from information about Mengele at particular times in his life, to the words (spoken or written) of the children who suffered so much under his hands (also at that particular point in their lives). By the middle of the book, I figured out the author's use of comparison between Mengele and the children's groups to illustrate the great differences between the children growing up as adults and overcoming their past/dealing with it, while Mengele dwindled into the nothing that he really was in South America.
Of course, I'd heard or read some things about Mengele, but it was in the process of reading information about bioethics that I was introduced to this book, and decided I should read it for background on some work I'm doing, as per science and medicine and those least able to protect themselves against unethical practitioners of these 'arts'. The book does not dwell on the horrors that Mengele practiced on these children, and also on dwarves and giants and any other 'misfits' he was interested in. What information there is in the book (it was in story form, rather than professional paper format with numbers marking footnotes or endnotes...but there was additional information at the back of the book based on pages), indicates that Mengele was less of a scientist or a doctor, and more of a technician. His ideas for the experiments were quite often not his own, and he was extremely sloppy in keeping records that even had Germany won the war, would have provided genetic information of use to anyone else. I doubt sincerely any other scientist/physician could have copied his work and gotten the same results...and this is an absolute law in science now.
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