The German Doctor presents a fictionalized and thoroughly whitewashed portrayal of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in hiding in Patagonia after the war, now plying his trade as a veterinarian. He becomes fascinated with 12 year old Lilith, unusually short for her age due to a hormone disorder (but “harmoniously proportioned”), and then meets her mother Eva, pregnant with twins. Mengele can’t resist a little experimentation on the family, as it may be another chance to prove his theories of racial purity. He insinuates himself into their family, taking rooms at the hotel they own and asking probing questions about their medical histories. He offers Eva prenatal vitamins, and growth hormones to normalize Lilith’s body. Despite Lilith’s adverse reactions to the treatments–one wonders if Mengele gave her bovine hormones instead of human–he not only insists on continuing the treatments, but doubling the dosage, citing the need to achieve more height before puberty.
Only glimpses of Mengele’s former career as Angel of Death are shown; even when Lilith discovers the notebooks with body drawings of his former subjects, Mengele explains it away by saying that in the same way some people paint or compose music about what they love, he likes to take measurements. And when he instructs a nurse to essentially starve one of the newborn twins, it’s under the guise of wanting to help the smaller of the two. I watched the film with someone unaware of Mengele’s history of unethical and gruesome experiments, and she was left with the impression that Mengele really wasn’t such a bad guy. “Look how hard he tried to help that little girl,” she reasoned. And indeed Lilith is a willing subject, hoping the bullying she endures at her German school will stop. But even Lilith becomes aware that the price one pays in pursuit of a more standardized body is to be thought of as little more than cattle.