The twins from Brazil

Remember the movie The Boys From Brazil? Yeah, it wasn't great. For the uninitiated, it's about a sinister plot by surviving Nazis - including Josef Mengele - to clone Hitler. An interesting idea, but a bit clumsly in execution. Nobody wants to see Atticus Finch (aka Gregory Peck) play a monster. While not the pinnacle of cinematic achievement, the film does have one thing going for it: Heywood Gould's script, and Ira Levin's novel before it, may have accidentally been based on a true story.

Josef Mengele was an evil bastard who conducted horrendous experiments on the inmates of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The procedures were allegedly in support of his research into heredity, but were really a study in monstrous cruelty. He was particularly interested in identical twins, keeping a private barracks full of them to support his depraved studies.

Mengele survived the war, and late escaped to South America were he died in 1979. It was thought that his 'medical' research ended in Auschwitz. But at least one historian has found evidence that Mengele never gave up trying to bio-engineer a master race.

In his book Mengele: the Angel of Death in South America, Jorge Camarasa alleges that a small German settlement in Brazil was the unwitting participant in Mengele's schemes. The town, Candido Godoi, has a spectacularly high incidence of twins- approximately 1 out of every 5 pregnancies, as opposed to the normal rate of 1 out of 80. And many of the twins are - surprise! - blond and blue-eyed.

Camarasa claims that Mengele, posing as a vet, made numerous visits to the small town during the 1960s. Over time, he convinced the local women to let hime 'assist' with their pregnancies. Says Camarasa:

"I think Candido Godoi may have been Mengele's laboratory, where he finally managed to fulfil his dreams of creating a master race of blond haired, blue eyed Aryans. There is testimony that he attended women, followed their pregnancies, treated them with new types of drugs and preparations, that he talked of artificial insemination in human beings, and that he continued working with animals, proclaiming that he was capable of getting cows to produce male twins."

Bizarre. If all of this is true, then it paints the sophistication of Mengele's research in a whole new light. It may not be a plot to clone Hitler, but this little wrinkle in the saga of the so-called "Angel of Death" is still fascinating. And after all, truth is always stranger than fiction.