The Twins of Brazil: Nazi Work?

The Twins of Brazil: Nazi Work?

A small town in rural Brazil has a birth rate of twins which is 1,000% above the global average.  This small farming community was founded as a German settlement around 1900, but became famous in the 1990s when word of its astonishingly high rate of twins hit the global scene.

According to a National Geographic special, Candido Godoi is currently home to 44 pairs of twins to only 81 families.  In other words, more than half the families in the town have a pair of twins.  Could it be the work of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele?

While at Auschwitz, Mengele had been fascinated by twins.  He ordered twins to be separated from the rest of the incoming prisoners, and housed in a separate barracks.  Mengele, dubbed the "Angel of Death," performed numerous barbaric experiments on twins, including dissecting them while still alive without anesthetic, and sewing together non-twin children in the hopes of creating a conjoined twin. 

According to some reports, Mengele was attempting to unlock the secret to fertility so that he could spread the Aryan race that much more quickly. 

Ten days before Auschwitz was liberated by the Allies in WWII, Josef Mengele fled to Buenos Aires, in neighboring Argentina.  He may also have stayed at the ranch of a Nazi sympathizer, which was only 40 miles from Candido Godoi.

There are many reports of Mengele sightings in and around Candido Godoi.  Reports of a traveling German doctor who gave pregnant women "potions," drove around in a windowless van (how very "Silence of the Lambs") and who paid pregnant women to give him a sample of their blood.

Other stories have Mengele posing as a vet.  In some cases, he is said to have traveled the countryside offering cattle ranchers injections for their cattle which would make them bear twins.

Was Mengele continuing his studies?  Did Mengele unlock the secrets of twins, and test this secret at Candido Godoi?  Or were the twins of Candido Godoi already a known phenomenon, one which drew Mengele's curiosity?

Many locals believe that the town's source of spring water is the cause of the twin phenomenon.  They point to the twins that are born by other species, even plants - twin ears of corn, twin calves, twin potatoes. 

The twins, understandably, find all this Nazi speculation distasteful and offensive.  Candido Godoi, as a German and Polish settlement, faced a lot of anti-Axis prejudice during and after WWII.  The idea that they are the result of an escaped Nazi doctor's rogue experiments is horrifying.

The mechanism by which people and animals have twins is still poorly understood.  The hormone IGF is linked to twinning.  This hormone can either be invoked with an injection of growth hormone, or it can be a genetic factor. 

Recent studies place the blame for Candido Godoi's twins in the hands of a limited genetic pool.  The town descends from only eight original families.  A small gene pool can cause genetic quirks to become unusually common, in a phenomenon called the "founder effect."

Meanwhile, Mengele's own diaries were recently released.  According to a researcher who studied them, they contain no mention of medical experiments or the twins of Candido Godoi .  In the words of the researcher, they contain only "the ramblings of a depressed, lonely man."

Mengele died a free man in 1979, when he drowned while swimming off a Brazilian beach. 

Photo credit: Flickr/Eduardo Amorim