Otmar von Verscheur

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Otmar von Verscheur (-1969) was professor at the Kaiser William Institute of Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics, who was part of the development of Nazi race and biological ideology.

German science

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, he recommended, in 1927 the forced sterilization of the “mentally and morally subnormal.” He had belonged to a nationalist paramilitary Freikorps unit of World War I veterans, and believed in academia contributing to German “national regeneration”.[1]

He had an interest in twins, to determine if undesirable traits were inherited; this was a major focus of Mengele's experiments.

Nazi period

Ministerial correspondence

In 1937, he wrote a letter to Alfred Rosenberg, proposing the registration of Jews and half-Jews. Also in 1937, he complained to Reich Minister of Justice Franz Gurtner that his expert opinion, prepared with the assistance of Mengele, for a "race dishonor" trial regarding the marriage of a Jew and an Aryan, was rejected, and the defendant went free.[2]

Josef Mengele

He was one of Josef Mengele's teachers and directed his experiments and Auschwitz Concentration Camp.[3] According to Prof. Hans Grebe, who started an assistantship for von Verscheur in 1938, Mengele was "our chief's favorite student." Grebe denied his professor was antisemitic. [4]

Von Verschuer called Mengele as “my assistant” in paperwork throughout the war. Most of Mengele’s findings were supported and received by the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. “The directors of the Berlin-Dahlem Institute always warmly thanked Dr. Mengele for this rare and precious material".[5]


While he was briefly interned by the Allies in 1946, he was never charged with war crimes. Academically rehabilitated, over foreign protests,[6] he joined the University of Münster in 1951, where he established a genetic research centers. He retired in 1965.[1]\

He was an editorial adviser to Mankind Quarterly, the journal of the British Pioneer Foundation, formed in 1937 to encourage research on heredity, eugenics and "race betterment". [7]

In 1964, he wrote a history of the discontinued Institute.[8] Glass comments that it did not mention any connection between the Institute and scientists involved with Nazi racial policy, such as Eugen Fischer or Fritz Lenz.

The Max Planck Society, in 2001, apologized to all victims of Nazi doctors. Speaking of studies on twins, they announced, “Today it is safe to say that von Verschuer knew of the crimes being committed in Auschwitz and that he, together with some of his employees and colleagues, used them for his purposes.” Von Verschuer later became president of the Max Planck Society. ​ [9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
  2. Benno Müller-Hill (1997), Murderous science: elimination by scientific selection of Jews, Gypsies, and others in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945, Cold Spring Laboratory Press, ISBN 978-087969531, pp. 196-197
  3. Rebecca Erbelding (28 April 2008), The Historiography of Josef Mengele: Home, George Mason University
  4. Müller-Hill, pp. 163-167
  5. Muller-Hill, p. 20, quoted by Elberding
  6. Bentley Glass (October 1981), "A Hidden Chapter of German Eugenics between the Two World Wars", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 125 (5), p. 360
  7. Ros Wynne-Jones (21 April 1996), "Far-right may fund `racist' lecturer", Independent
  8. O. Freiherr von Verschuer (1964), "Das ehemalige Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut fŭr Anthropologie, mescliche Erblehre und Eugenik. Bericht ŭber die wissenschaftlice Forschung 1927-1945", Arch. Morph. Anthop.: 127-174
  9. Annette Tuffs (16 June 2001), "German research society apologises to victims of Nazis", BMJ 322(7300): 1445