Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times:
“During the period of the past century that I call Night,” Elie Wiesel wrote in a 2005 essay, “medicine was practiced in certain places not to heal but to harm, not to fight off death but to serve it. In the conflict between Good and Evil during the Second World War, the infamous Nazi doctors played a crucial role. They preceded the torturers and assassins in the science of organized cruelty that we call the Holocaust.”
The quintessence of that evil was embodied in Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz physician who not only sent countless men, women and children to the gas chambers, but also performed grotesque experiments on selected prisoners — especially twins, whom he eagerly sought out upon arrival.
Though the children he selected were spared immediate death, they were subjected to monstrous surgeries and deliberately infected with diseases; he injected chemicals into eyes, in an effort to change their color, and kept some of his subjects in tiny cages. Of about 1,500 pairs of twins in Mengele’s “Zoo,” fewer than 200 individuals survived the war.
Mengele’s crimes form the backdrop of Affinity Konar’s affecting new novel, “Mischling,” which takes its title from the term the Nazis used to denote people of mixed heritage.