We knew that while he was hiding out in Brazil he would get big dental abscesses and infections with swelling in his face and that some years later he had had a root canal done. During his first few years in Brazil he had been afraid to go to the dentist because he was afraid of being discovered.
So, since he was a physician, he would lance the abscesses with a razor blade and drain the abscess himself. So basically he had an infected tooth for several years before he had a root canal done, and because this infection was not treated properly for so long, it worked its way into the sinus and eventually leaked or drained out to the face through the perforation or hole in the part of the cheekbone covering the maxillary sinus.
By the way, there was a scar on the face that matched the hole in the skull that they didn’t notice either. I said, “Hey, this is where the tract that the infection was draining through chronically over the years broke through the skin.”
Once we established by microscopic examination that the hole in the skull was connected to the infected maxillary sinus, the officials in the Office of Special Investigations [of Nazi war criminals] at the Department of Justice had me come up to the Smithsonian to make a presentation of the evidence.
I showed them the results of the study and explained the whole thing. The findings were accepted as valid by all the specialists. Then came the end game. The people from the Department of Justice said to me, “Look, in the meantime, we have studied Mengele’s diaries that were found in the house in Santo Amaro.
They have been authenticated by handwriting specialists who have confirmed that they were written in Mengele’s hand. In the diary, Mengele made several notations about going to a dentist to have a root canal done. Obviously, there must be some dental x‐rays from that root canal somewhere in Brazil. “Would you be able to find them dental air compressor?”
We all knew that if we could find the dental x‐rays, we could do the standard, legally valid forensic comparison and definitive identification. I agreed to try. When I returned to Sao Paulo, the first thing I did was to go to the Brazilian Federal Police. The diary was written in a crude, informal code, so it wasn’t totally clear to any of us who that dentist might be. But I gave the information to the Brazilian police. They came back within two or three weeks and said, “We can’t find him.”
Then the Justice Department asked me if I would look into it further on my own, since the Brazilian Federal Police wasn’t able or willing to do it. I then undertook a detailed investigation mobile dental unit. I broke the code of the diary. With that and with various other bits of information eventually I found the two dentists who had treated him, one the specialist who had done the root canal and the other the general practitioner who had made the referral. Then I found the x‐rays in the files of the general dentist. With these x‐rays in hand, the forensic dentist from New York who was a member of the original team returned to Sao Paulo and the final identification was done.
This created an international problem that perhaps would be of interest to talk about here. But just to finish the dental part, there were a number of people who could not accept this evidence, even though medically it was beyond any argument dental vacuum forming machine.
Five years or so later, the DNA tests which had come into use by then were done and authenticated the findings. They validated what I had done. At that point, the German government finally accepted the identification. (The Department of Justice had accepted the finding immediately upon completion of my investigation in 1986.)
The government of Israel has not said anything publicly one way or the other to this day. I should add, however, that the chief coroner of the Mossad came over to Sao Paulo in late 1986 and went over my work with a fine tooth comb. Afterwards he came to my office and told me outright that, based on his own review, he was convinced that everything I had done had been absolutely correct and that there was no question in his mind about the validity of the identification…Why Is The Dentist So Expensive? for more information.