A mon­ster in the fam­ily

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QUES­TION The in­fa­mous ‘An­gel of Death’ Josef Men­gele came from a fam­ily who owned a firm pro­duc­ing agri­cul­tural equip­ment. Does this com­pany still ex­ist? IN 1871, An­dreas Eisen­lauer set up an agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery re­pair work­shop in Guenzburg, at the con­flu­ence of the Guenz and Danube rivers, in Bavaria.

By the start of the 20th cen­tury, he had be­gun pro­duc­ing thresh­ing ma­chines but, in 1907, the com­pany was taken over by Karl Men­gele (1884-1959). Around this time, Karl mar­ried Wal­burga Hup­fauer.

When Karl went to fight in World War I, Wal­burga ran the busi­ness with a rod of iron and, when Karl came back from the war, he took full ad­van­tage of a peace­time hike in pro­duc­tion to be­come the third­largest com­pany of its kind in Ger­many.

Karl and Wal­burga had three sons: Josef, born on March 16, 1911, and twins Karl and Alois, born on Jan­uary 30, 1914.

As the el­dest son, Josef was ex­pected to take over the firm, but de­clined, partly through am­bi­tion and partly, ac­cord­ing to his bi­og­ra­phers, over dis­taste of his par­ents’ ‘cold­ness’.

In­stead, at 19, he went to study medicine at Mu­nich Univer­sity. Later, of course, he be­came the camp doc­tor at Auschwitz.

Men­gele Sr joined the Nazi Party, a con­nec­tion that kept the Men­gele fam­ily in busi­ness and al­lowed it to pros­per, and the com­pany re­mained suc­cess­ful af­ter World War II. When Karl and Alois joined the firm, it was re­named Karl Men­gele and Sons.

Karl died from a heart at­tack in 1949 and, in a strat­egy thought to have been de­vised by Karl Sr to keep the Men­gele share­hold­ing within the firm, his widow Martha moved to Uruguay and in 1958 mar­ried Josef, who had fled there af­ter the war.

Karl Men­gele and Sons went from strength to strength. In 1947, it be­gan pro­duc­ing ma­chine tools, in­creas­ing its sales as its work­force grew to al­most 2,000. Its 1958 ma­nure spreader, the Dop­pel-Trumpf, was its most suc­cess­ful prod­uct and led to a dou­bling of turnover in that year alone.

Karl Sr died in 1959, and Alois took over run­ning the firm. He in­tro­duced loader wag­ons to its port­fo­lio as it be­came one of the world’s lead­ing agri­cul­tural man­u­fac­tur­ers, op­er­at­ing four fac­to­ries.

When Alois died in 1974, his son Di­eter took over and was joined by Josef Men­gele’s nephew and step­son Karl-Heinz in 1985. (Hav­ing es­caped jus­tice by mov­ing to Paraguay and then Brazil, Josef died in 1979 when he suf­fered a stroke while swim­ming and drowned.) Af­ter a de­cline in prices and lack of de­mand at the end of the Eight­ies, the Men­ge­les sold the busi­ness to the Bidell com­pany in 1991.

Bohnacker AG took over Men­gele Agrartech­nik in 2003 and, in May 2009, the com­pany en­tered into a part­ner­ship with Dutch agri­cul­tural ma­chine man­u­fac­turer Lely, which even­tu­ally took over the firm in May 2010. It still op­er­ates to­day un­der the name Men­gele Agrartech­nik.

Jeremy Poul­son, Ex­eter, De­von. QUES­TION Why do chloro­phyll and haemoglobin mol­e­cules look so sim­i­lar? CHLORO­PHYLL is a mol­e­cule of car­bon, oxy­gen, hy­dro­gen and nitro­gen atoms ar­ranged in a con­fig­u­ra­tion known as a por­phyrin ring. The por­phyrin ring is a pla­nar group of four con­nected rings, each of which con­tains a nitro­gen atom that faces the cen­tre of the ring clus­ter.

These four ni­tro­gens pro­vide for the in­ser­tion of a metal ion, which, in the case of chloro­phyll, is mag­ne­sium. This one atom of mag­ne­sium is cru­cial for plants to be able to take en­ergy from sun­light and trans­form it into plant fuel. It also gives chloro­phyll, thus plants, a green colour.

Haemoglobin is a pro­tein mol­e­cule found in red blood cells (ery­thro­cytes). Haemoglobin is a far larger mol­e­cule than chloro­phyll, but em­bed­ded in this mol­e­cule are four heme groups C34H32FeN4O4.

Each is a por­phyrin ring with a sim­i­lar struc­ture to that of chloro­phyll. How­ever, the metal ion held within the cage is iron. This iron mol­e­cule binds with oxy­gen and fa­cil­i­tates the trans­port of oxy­gen around the body. It also gives blood its red colour. The ver­sa­til­ity of the por­phyrin ring, its molec­u­lar sim­plic­ity, func­tion­al­ity and its ubiq­uity in na­ture sug­gest that it evolved a very long time ago.

At that time, life’s chem­istry was less elab­o­rate than it is now, and one mol­e­cule may have per­formed many func­tions. Later, that por­phyrin ring be­came em­bed­ded in larger or­ganic com­pounds called pro­teins, which, them­selves, be­came in­creas­ingly var­ied with time and evo­lu­tion.

Dr Ken War­ren, Glas­gow. QUES­TION I un­der­stand that there are at least ten Ham­mer films that were scripted, but never made. What were they? THE num­ber of films scripted by Ham­mer, but never made, ex­ceeds those men­tioned in the ear­lier an­swer.

For ex­am­ple, The Karn­stein Tril­ogy of The Vam­pire Lovers, Lust For A Vam­pire and Twins Of Evil was to have been rounded off by a fourth, Vam­pire Vir­gins.

It con­cerned a pair of 19th- cen­tury vam­pire hun­ters stalk­ing the Karn­stein clan, but was shelved in favour of Cap­tain Kronos: Vam­pire Hunter.

In the early Sev­en­ties, an am­bi­tious pro­duc­tion called Drac­ula Walks The Night was mooted. It was in­tended to be­gin with Drac­ula’s ori­gins as Vlad the Im­paler, then move for­ward to 1885 when Van Hels­ing was to join forces with Sher­lock Holmes to bat­tle the vam­pire in the streets of Lon­don.

Bud­getary re­stric­tions scaled the pro­duc­tion down to Drac­ula AD 1972, the first of two con­tem­po­rary Drac­ula ad­ven­tures. There would have been a third, The In­sa­tiable Thirst Of Drac­ula, but Christo­pher Lee re­fused to don the fangs any fur­ther.

Brian Hayles’s 1974 BBC ra­dio play Lord Drac­ula in­spired an­other am­bi­tious project, Vlad The Im­paler, which Ham­mer hoped would star Richard Har­ris as the real-life war­lord who be­comes the vam­pire Count. The project failed to get off the ground, though the cen­tral idea even­tu­ally formed the pro­logue of Francis Ford Cop­pola’s Drac­ula.

An­other film worth men­tion­ing is Zep­pelin Vs Ptero­dactyls, a lost world movie set dur­ing World War I and com­mis­sioned to make up for Ham­mer fail­ing to get the re­make rights to King Kong. Given that it was orig­i­nally ti­tled Raiders Of The Stone Cir­cle, it might even have proved to be the fore­run­ner to the In­di­ana Jones films! Barry McCann, Spooky Isles, spooky­isles.com, Black­pool.

IS THERE a ques­tion to which you have al­ways wanted to know the an­swer? Or do you know the an­swer to a ques­tion raised here? Send your ques­tions and an­swers to: Charles Legge, An­swers To Cor­re­spon­dents, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, Lon­don, W8 5TT. You can also fax them to 01952 780111 or you can email them to charles. [email protected]­ly­mail.co.uk. A selec­tion will be pub­lished but we are not able to en­ter into in­di­vid­ual cor­re­spon­dence.

Young Nazi: Josef Men­gele in 1942

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