Today’s story begins in Brazil. In the southernmost state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, lies a small town called Candido Godói.
At first, it looks like an ordinary town in the south of Brazil, but what makes this town unique is the ratio of dwellers being twins. The town has just under 7,000 inhabitants, most of whom are of German descent. After the end of World War II, they drifted across the sea to settle here. According to statistics, the birth rate of twins in Candido Godói is a staggering 20 percent. This means that 1 in 5 childbirths will likely end with twins. In comparison, the world’s birth ratio of twins is 1 in 89. The twin birth rate in Candido Godói caught the attention of experts and scholars alike.
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What is the reason for Candido Godói’s high twin birth rate?
After studying the genetics of the inhabitants, their living environment, and the local drinking water, they were still unable to find a reasonable explanation. An Argentinian historian Jorge Camarasa theorized the “twin town” could be linked to a past ethnographic experiment carried out by Nazi medic Josef Mengele. He suggests that after the end of World War II the infamous Reich doctor Mengele fled to Brazil and spent years conducting human experiments in this town. The suspected purpose of this experiment was to create a superhuman race so the Nazis could dominate the world. So what happened back then, and could this possibly be the explanation for Candido Godói’s high twin birth rate?
The Fountain of Life project
In 1933, Hitler came to power and became Germany’s leader who started World War II; like a forging wave, the Germans occupied 14 countries in Europe between 1939 and 1941. In 1935, Himmler, the second-in-command of the Nazi Party, set up “The Fountain of Life” (Lebensborn) project. The aim was to produce a superior race in accordance with Hitler’s theory of racial eugenics to clean the root and eliminate inferior races.
Hitler and Himmler promoted their idea that there were superior and inferior races, and that the Germanic people were the purest, most noble race. Jews and Slavs were inferior. For them, it was logical that a non-superior race should make “room” for the superior ones.
At the time, the influence of social Darwinism was prevalent. Darwin’s ideas of survival of the fittest and natural selection were well recognized by the world in explaining the development of human society. This competition for survival is the motivation for the evolution of society. For Hitler and Himmler, natural selection was a slow process, and they believed human intervention was necessary to produce a “super race,” hence, the launch of the “Fountain of Life” project.
Hitler and Himmler advocated that this fertility project was for the sake of Germany and its goal of developing a better future for mankind. Caught up in the Nazi’s avidity for the betterment of mankind, women volunteered themselves and their children to fertility camps. The “Fountain of Life” experimental camp selected and recruited pregnant women from the general public. The children were left in the camp to be educated. If the mother was unable to raise her children, they were sent to upper-class Nazi families.
“The Fountain of Life” experimental camp became popular for single mothers, however, it wasn’t for all. They had to pass a strict screening test where the basic criterion was racial purity. Candidates were to have no Jews in their family for at least three generations.
This chart shows the screening criteria at the time, with the white dots representing Aryan blood and the black dots representing Jewish blood. The five categories from left to right are: pure German, 1/4 Jew, 1/2 Jew, 3/4 Jew, and pure Jew. Hence, pure-blood Germans were easily selected for the “Fountain of Life” project. However, there were not many volunteer females who were 100 percent German. As a result, the Nazi soldiers, otherwise known as the Schutzstaffel (SS), came up with an idea to find the noblest, purest German female.
In 1936, Hildegard Trutz, an 18-year-old tall, blonde, blue-eyed girl who had just finished her studies, was approached by the SS. The SS leader said to her: “If you don’t know what you want to do in the future, why don’t you have a child for the leader? We need someone like you to enhance our national values, and look at your wide hips and pelvis. They are good for childbirth.”
Trutz made the decision to sign up due to her admiration of the Reich and Hitler. And so, with this strategy, hundreds of beautiful blondes joined the “Fountain of Life” project, just as Trutz did. They signed a confidentiality agreement and told their families that they had embarked on a residential course organized by the state. The girls agreed to hand over their children to the state once they were born.
The young girls were to be partnered with Nazi officers on a large anonymous blind date. The girls had a week to choose their preferred officer. Once the doctor had determined the day of the girls’ ovulation, she and the officer were sent to a room. They would spend three nights together. It didn’t matter if several different girls had their eyes on the same officer. As long as the ovulation days were different, they could be partnered. After three days, the same officer would be sent to a different girl’s room. No one knew each other’s names. The purpose of this was to procreate for the nation.
Once the girls had been successfully impregnated, the officers would leave the experimental camp and return to the battlefield. This scenario makes them no different from an animal, where the breeders are the scientists and organizers of this program.
Babies were produced like a manufactured product on an assembly line. Ten months later, Trutz completed her task and gave birth to a beautiful “Aryan” baby boy and left the camp with pride. Her family would never find out that she had given birth to a child.
Only healthy babies had a chance of survival in the camp. Those who were deformed or unhealthy were immediately put to death. Some babies with no physical problems but who possessed pale-colored eyes and hair that was not the standard blonde had to go through treatments. Staff would carry out a series of treatment programs, such as shining a strong light into the children’s eyes. Himmler also personally devised a high-protein recipe in order to raise these children to be the strongest warriors of the future.
When the babies cried, the caretakers were not allowed to comfort them. They believed it was to build their strong will. Himmler set up 10 “Fountain of Life” experimental camps in Germany alone. And in the late 1930s, camps were also established in Norway, Denmark, France, and Belgium. Between 1935 and 1945, more than 8,000 “Aryan babies” were born in 36 “Fountain of Life” facilities throughout Europe. Hitler’s goal was to raise this number to 120 million by 1980.
The “Fountain of Life” project could not keep up with the ambitions of the German Nazis. Everywhere the SS went, they selected “Aryan children” who met their requirements. Some were taken straight from their mothers’ arms. For a time, it seemed that blonde hair and blue eyes were a curse in Europe. And Hitler believed that these good Aryan children had to be in the service of the Reich.
The abducted children were first medically identified by eye color and hair color. They were then sent to the “Fountain of Life” camp in Germany. There, the children would receive their final judgment of fate. After a series of tests, the children were labeled as “good,” “acceptable,” or “bad.” The “bad” children were sent to gas chambers to be executed.
In 1942, after the Germans invaded Crimea, they soon noticed a little blonde, angelic-looking boy, Alexander Litau, in the crowd. How could such a lovely child be left in Crimea? The boy was snatched from his mother’s arms. When Alexander was brought to Germany, he was forbidden to speak his native language. They told him that his parents abandoned him. Eventually, Alexander was adopted by a wealthy German family and renamed Folker Heinecke. Around 250,000 children were abducted by the Germans, and only a few survived. Some were not as lucky as Alexander.
To increase the population of “Aryan babies,” the Reich’s doctor Mengele, also known as the “Angel of Death,” carried out the twin experiment at the “Fountain of Life” project. Having two babies at once was certainly more efficient than having one.
The twin experiment
Josef Mengele’s theory was that humans are as genealogical as dogs, and if we can breed good dogs in the laboratory, we can also breed good humans. In the early 1940s, Mengele was transferred to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, which became the main battleground for his perverse “twin experiments.”
According to statistics, Mengele experimented on 1,500 twins, of which less than 100 survived. Mengele was a small, thin man with mysophobia. His hair was always immaculately combed, his dark green uniform was flat ironed, and his army boots were always shined. This perfectionism was also carried over to his experimental subjects. Any children with the slightest physical or skin blemish, or even those who had appendicitis surgery, were cruelly sent to the gas chambers.
Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister Miriam were survivors of the “twin experiment.” Born in a small village (Portz) in central Romania, the family had four children — Eva and Miriam, and two sisters. The family lived a happy and peaceful life, but when the Nazi army entered the village, the family of six, the only Jewish family, was forced to board a train to a concentration camp. As they disembarked from the train, along with countless other Jews, the SS caught a glimpse of Eva and Miriam, along with their mother who was holding them.
The officers excitedly shouted: “Look, there are twins over there!” And so Eva and Miriam were taken to the centralized human laboratory. As they were taken away, all their mother could do was beg for them to be returned. What Eva and Miriam did not know was that the day they walked into the human laboratory was the same day their parents and sisters were sent to the gas chambers.
The twin genetic experiments carried out by Mengele were designed to uncover the similarities and differences in twin inheritance, as well as to study how to increase the birth rate of twins by artificial means. Eva later recalled that during her time in the human laboratory, she and Miriam would be taken inside an empty room every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and stripped naked. Mengele would then walk in with his assistant. Every part of their bodies and every inch of their skin was examined and compared for similarities and differences and recorded. The process could take up to eight hours.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, they were sent to the laboratory for blood tests and injected with a large number of drugs. Eva fainted on more than one occasion because of the amount of blood taken. And on one occasion, after being injected with drugs, her limbs swelled and she had large red spots all over her body and a high fever. Eva was sent to the concentration camp hospital.
After examining Eva, the doctor said: “It’s a shame, she may not live more than two weeks at such a young age”. At that time, Eva’s only thought was that she could not die here, that she had to see her twin sister again. Two weeks later, the fever subsided, Eva miraculously survived, and she was once again sent back to the twin laboratory. But when she saw her sister Miriam again, Miriam had been tortured beyond recognition. Miriam sat motionless on the bed, and when Eva asked what had happened during the two weeks she was away, Miriam said: “I won’t talk about it, and you won’t want to know.”
In contrast, Eva and Miriam were one of the more fortunate of Mengele’s twin experiments, for at least they survived. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, less than 100 twins in the human laboratory had survived. Eva and Miriam were rescued by the advancing Soviet army and moved to Israel. Eva married an American in 1960 and immigrated to the U.S., while her twin sister Miriam lived in Israel and later married and started a family.
When Miriam gave birth to her first child, her kidneys became infected and all antibiotics failed. And in 1963, when Miriam was pregnant with her second child, her kidneys became seriously infected again. When doctors examined her kidneys, they found that they were about the size of a teenager’s. In other words, Miriam’s kidneys had stopped developing since the human experiments in the concentration camps.
After the birth of her third child, Miriam’s kidneys stopped working altogether. Without hesitation, Eva donated one of her kidneys to Miriam. She said: “I had two kidneys but only one sister left, and this decision was not difficult for me at all.” But even after receiving a kidney transplant, a few years later, Miriam was suffering from different organ failures and had to rely on medication to keep her going.
Her treating doctor wanted to find the documents from the concentration camp tests to find out exactly what drugs Miriam had been injected with, but those documents had long since disappeared. In June 1993, Miriam died, and Eva has since worked to find other survivors of the twin experiments and has traveled the world speaking about them. Eva herself passed away in July 2019 at the age of 85.
What happened to the Aryan children who were chosen as “superhumans” in the “Fountain of Life” project? After the end of World War II, the “Fountain of Life” project was put to an end. When the American army entered Germany, only a few hundred Aryan children, aged six months to six years, remained in the experimental camps.
The Nazis believed that the Norwegians were the descendants of the Vikings and had the most perfect bloodline, so the Norwegian “Fountain of Life” camp was the largest outside Germany. After the Germans withdrew, the new Norwegian government took all the grievances of the past few years out on the children and women. Countless Norwegian women had their hair shaved and were even stripped naked and paraded through the streets for having spoken to the Germans.
Many children born as a result of the “Fountain of Life” project were put in psychiatric hospitals. One local priest even suggested that the children’s skin should be washed and disinfected constantly to wash away their “Nazi smell.” Many of the children’s skin was washed to the point of ulceration.
In 2018, at the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg made an unprecedented apology on behalf of the country to the Norwegian women and people of German descent who had suffered injustice. But even that did not offset the varying degrees of trauma.
According to research, the suicide rate among children born as a result of the “Fountain of Life” project is much higher than Germans in general. It was the Nazis and the SS who deserved to be judged and punished, not these innocent children. As Paul Hansen, born under the “Fountain of Life” project, said: “I will never be free of shame. I wish my ashes could be scattered to the wind so that I would never be chosen again.”
So after the “Fountain of Life” and the twin experiments, did the Germans achieve any “impressive” scientific milestones? We return to the town of Candido Godói, the town of twins mentioned at the beginning of the story.
The inhabitants of the town were stunned by the Argentinian historian’s theory of Nazi “ethnographic experiments.” They could not believe that they were the product of “death experiments.” A team of Brazilian scientists then conducted a detailed investigation into the birth and baptism rates of all the babies born in the town throughout history.
The findings revealed that the first recorded peak in twin baptisms in the town was in 1927, and that the rate of twin births remained high for several years after that. The Nazi “angel of death” doctor Mengele was not yet operating in Brazil at the time, meaning that the town’s twin mystery was actually unrelated to the Nazi twin experiments. After all those years and the sacrifice of innocent victims, the SS still failed to create the “superhuman” race they had in mind.
According to geneticists, the most likely explanation for the high frequency of twins in Candido Godói is genetic isolation and inbreeding. This phenomenon of a large number of twin births is not unique to Cândido Godói. It has also been observed in the town of Igbo-Ora in Nigeria and the village of Kodinhi in India.