The Shmooze

Mengele: Handsome Psychopath in 'The German Doctor'

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

In documentaries and live testimonials, survivors of Dr. Joseph Mengele’s “Right [life]-Left [death]” selection at Auschwitz, remember him as exceptionally handsome.

And so is Spanish actor Alex Brendemuhl, who eerily and seductively portrays the toxic physician in Lucia Puenzo’s film “The German Doctor.” An uncanny Mengele Dopplelganger, Brendemuhl — a Spanish actor working in Germany — had to learn Argentinean Spanish and finesse Mengele’s German articulation.

Meeting Puenzo, — author of the book on which the film is based — what struck me was how young (37), tall and beautiful she is. She said: “I need to say that the German community…helped us make this film. All the actors speak [German] by phonetics.”

Did they know who Mengele was? “I remember in secondary school we knew who Mengele was, what happened during the war [but] I could not remember one fiction film about the subject in Argentina.”

Karen Leon
Lucia Puenzo

Were members of the German community that helped with the film descendants of the earlier [Nazi] Germans? “No! No!” she was adamant. “These are Germans who had no connection at all…something very delicate for them. There is the misconception that every German in Argentina has to have a Nazi background…. They want to defend the idea that it was not all of them.”

Why did she name the little girl— on whom Brendemuhl/Mengele experiments with growth hormones— “Lilith”? Puenzo mused: “I know everything that goes around the name, but strangely, when I began to write the novel, that’s the name that appeared. I tried to change it but it came back as Lilith…. certain characters are born with a name.”

Was Lilith supposed to be Jewish? “No! No! …but she is a victim.” And the Israeli woman, Nora, who suspects the doctor’s identity? “She is based on a real live character…. She was a volunteer from the Mossad…They all say she was murdered…. [that] people from the Israeli embassy took her body [from the lake].

Was she influenced by “The Boys from Brazil” in which Gregory Peck portrays Mengele? Puento responded: “I saw the film several times…a very strange film…. what I don’t like about that film is the idea of the stereotype…from the moment I wrote the novel — and film — I did not want to stereotype this man as a monster who had the word written across his forehead — but a very complex psychopathic personality….

“For me, most horrifying was that when all these men {Nazis] began to be found in Argentina —  forty years after being such a monster — people said [of Mengele] ‘He was such a lovely man, such a good citizen!’”

Has it been seen in Germany? The film has been released in 35 countries,” she replied. “It’s been seen by Germans, but has not been released in Germany.”

Currently playing at Lincoln Center Cinemas and IFC Centers. Go see this eerily fascinating film.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: mengele, lucia puenzo, holocaust, jewish, argentina

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.