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The quote in question is making the rounds now in quite heavy circulation as 'quite fitting' — and as internet 'nice quotes' usually go, it is unsourced.

If sourced at all, the references point to Wikiquote. That page lists as its source "As quoted in 'Surfing the Tao: A Revolution of Free Will (2004) by Angela V. Michaels".

A book title that does not inspire any confidence. That book also isn't available to me nor have I found a way to search its contents in any way. Except for the rather dubious description:

This is the heart wrenching story of a little girl who braves her mother's anger, rejection and abuse during her formative years. It is a story of America's shame–the dirty secret of child abuse that hides in homes all over the country.

Josef Mengele is perhaps the most notorious German concentration camp 'doctor'. As a German speaking nazi, this quote should be retrievable in German language, as a supposedly "original".

Of course it isn't that easy. No translated paraphrase I could think of shows up in any search. Even German language quote aggregators seem to only to list the English version, not even any direct or indirect (re-)translation.

One twitter post from 2014 renders a German version as

Je mehr wir euch antun, desto weniger werdet ihr glauben können, dass wir es tatsächlich durchführen

A version almost singular in search results, if not for this one horror movie set-report from 2009.

A gBook search shows a similar picture: even the seemingly higher quality books that contain this quote do not show any reference for it. Being a lousy researcher that may all be my fault. But the constant lack of any references for that quote just amplifies suspicions.

One problem that is illustrated here may be that quite simply not everything is 'on the net'. Another problem is the obvious censorship on topics like these that search engines now embrace.

The earliest usage of this phrase I could dig up was found in 'darker areas' of the net, in an American right-wing militia newsletter, and used in context to attack the ACLU (link removed from google results, available upon request). It is dated from 1997 and also doesn't give a reference to locate and evaluate the source.

Is that a genuine quote made by Mengele, or is it a made up quote?

Did Josef Mengele really say:

"The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it"?

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  • Who would be the subject of this statement? The general population or the jews? Any context? – Sebastian Jun 1 at 7:46
  • @Sebastian Don't know, presumably the kids he experimented on, not necessarily Jews. Usually the quote is given without any context (of origin). – LangLаngС Jun 1 at 8:40
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Slightly restricted 'Yes'.

It seems to be a genuine quote. At least not a so overly recent American invented quote, made up on the net, as the initial searches suggested, but quite a bit older at least.

The source seems to be a Holocaust survivor, Mark Berkowitz, on whom Mengele experimented on.

Caveats: this is attested only orally by one of the then young inmates. Not per se untrustworthy, but the media I found it attested in is decidedly of the yellow press kind:

Nur wenige Überlebende hatten einen so engen Kontakt zum Todesengel wie Marc Berkowitz (53), der heute als pensionierter Möbelverkäufer in New York lebt. Mit seiner Mutter und seiner Zwillingsschwester Francesca kam der zwölfjährige Marc im März 1944 nach Auschwitz.

Mengele war ein großer Lügenerzähler. Bevor die Experimente mit uns begannen, tätowierte er mir meine Nummer persönlich ein. Ganz sanft meinte er:

„Du bist ein kleiner Junge. Fürchte dich nicht. Wir machen das aus Sicherheitsgründen. Für den Fall, daß ihr Leute verloren geht. Immer, wenn du dir diese Nummer anschaust, wirst du an mich denken."

Mengele wußte viel über die Juden und sprach sogar etwas Jiddisch. Wenn er uns strafte, lächelte er. Er sagte:

„Je mehr wir euch antun, desto weniger scheint ihr zu glauben, daß wir das machen.*

Als die Experimente dann anfingen, erzählte er uns, daß die Schmerzen nur vorübergehend sind. Daß uns die Versuche helfen würden , in dieser Umgebung zu überleben. Wenn ein Kind sich wehrte, regte er sich furchtbar auf und schrie:

„Wir können uns nicht leisten, Zeit zu verlieren!"

Er trampelte auf dem Fußboden herum und gab unverständliche Laute von sich.

Translation:

Few survivors had such close contact with the Angel of Death as Marc Berkowitz (53), who now lives in New York as a retired furniture salesman. With his mother and twin sister Francesca, twelve-year-old Marc came to Auschwitz in March 1944.

Mengele was a great storyteller. Before the experiments began with us, he tattooed my number on me personally. Very gently he said:

"You are a little boy. Do not be afraid. We are doing this for safety reasons. In case you people get lost. Whenever you look at this number, you will think of me."

Mengele knew a lot about the Jews and even spoke some Yiddish. When he punished us, he smiled. He said:

"The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe that we are doing this."

When the experiments began, he told us that the pain was only temporary. That the experiments would help us survive in this environment. When a child resisted, he would get terribly upset and shout:

"We can't afford to waste time!"

He trampled on the floor and made unintelligible sounds.

— in: Bunte Exclusiv: "So viele halfen ihm. Auschwitz. Die Toten wurden betrauert. Die Täter wurden gejagt. Josef Mengele verschwand. Wie? Sein Sohn berichtet.", Bunte, [scan undated, but age clues and fixed points in time littered through article point towards 1985] (p17–32, announced to be continued in next issue, quote in info-box "Er lebt, trotz Mengele" about Berkowitz, p26). Scan found in: — "Werner Tom Angress Collection 1904-1994", Leo Baeck Institute Archives, p93. (p 103 on archive.org)

Remaining problems with this quote: The paper it is published in is known for quite extreme unreliability. Like: just inventing interviews, or changing the content. And plagiarism. Berkowitz lived in New York and probably indeed told this story in English. But it is unknown whom he told it. It seems unlikely as it is not specially indicated in that paper that the German magazine sent an interviewer, a real and exclusive one, over to just fill in that box of tidbits. So where the magazine got hold of the testimonial remains unclear.

'Funnily' enough, the marginal info box seems indeed to be plagiarized from English, the following being apparently 'the source':
— Stefan Kanfer, Peter Carlson: "The Life and Crimes of a Nazi Doctor. Josef Mengele Was the Chief Physician of Auschwitz Who Conducted Unholy Medical Experiments and Earned the Name 'Angel of Death', People, Vol. 23 No. 25, June 24, 1985. (archive.org)

Since 1985 is also the year of the Mengele Mock Trial with Berkowitz then a prominent interviewee and organizer around that event, it seems reasonable that this quote came as it is to prominence then. Earlier attestations would still be helpful. Since a survivor of the twin experiments transmitted the words to an English speaking audience, a direct German version might be still worthwhile.

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  • 1
    Good question and good answer. – dgo Jun 2 at 19:17

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