‘German Doctor’ Sheds Light on Nazi Atrocities and Josef Mengele’s Life After WWII

Mark Goebel

 

“The German Doctor”

3 out of 4 stars

Rated PG

Samuel Goldwyn Films

 

 

 

Hundreds of senior Nazi officials fled to South America following WWII, including most famously Adolf Eichmann and Dr. Josef Mengele.

 

They escaped the clutches of Allied Forces and certain death by handing or life in prison and were able to easily assimilate into the large (and largely sympathetic) German populations in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

 

“The German Doctor,” an adaption by Argentine Lucia Puenzo of her own novel, “Wakolda,” tells the fictionalized story of Josef Mengale, the former German SS officer and so-called “Angel of Death” of the Auschwitz concentration camp, of his years in hiding in Argentina.

 

The film is set in 1960 in a Patagonian enclave of expatriate Germans and centers on the mutual fascination between Mengele (Àlex Brendemühl), who calls himself Helmut Gregor, and Lilith (Florencia Bado), the daughter of an Argentinian couple in whose guesthouse Helmut decides to rent a room.

 

The true identify of Gregor isn’t revealed until the end of the film, but it takes only a cursory knowledge of WWII history and Mengele for us to figure out not long into the movie who he really is.

 

It is with that knowledge that we watch uneasily as Gregor insinuates himself with the unsuspecting family in the hopes of continuing his various genetic experiments.

 

The family’s daughter, 12-year-old Lilith, narrates the film, which is a cross between a coming-of-age drama and a twist on an often-told historic documentary drama.

 

Lilith, eager to end the teasing of her Germanic-looking classmates who call her dwarf, submits herself to the Gregor’s growth hormone shots. Her fascination in the handsome German smacks of an adolescent crush, which is exploited by the knowing doctor toward his own end.

 

 

At the same time, Gregor begins treating the family’s matriarch, Eva, who is pregnant with twins—a subject Mengele was focused on during his time at Auschwitz.

 

Eventually, the father Enzo (Diego Peretti) becomes suspicious of Gregor’s intentions, as does the town’s photographer, Nora Eldoc (Elena Roger).

 

Aside from Gregor (Mengele), Nora is the only other character in the film that is real:  she’s the Israeli Mossad agent who was known to be hunting him.

 

Surprisingly, the “German Doctor” doesn’t climax with a big bang given the film’s subject matter. It ends rather as one would expect it to.

 

The film, Argentina’s selection for the foreign language category at this year’s Academy Awards, is chockfull of well-thought out Nazi symbolism and does a solid job conveying in a subtle way the unremitting perversions that were part and parcel of Mengele’s genetic experiments at Auschwitz.

 

The actors all do a superb job of playing unsuspecting, knowing, or conniving, depending on their role in the film.

 

Overall, “The German Doctor” doesn’t break new ground, but is a well-made, well-acted film covering a topic that has not been told too many times given the seemingly never-ending interest in Nazi Germany and Nazis, nor should be given the evils that were unleashed.

 

Author Bio:

Mark Goebel is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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