Der Mengele Totentanz, Tinguelymuseum Basel. Foto/Photo: TES.

The theme of the Mengele  Dance of Death (Mengele-Totentanz) has a long tradition in this part of Europe dating back to the 15th century.

It reached its early climax around the mid-1430s. It had a multiple message. It reminded of the transience of life and the equality of all in death.

On 24 August 1986, a farm in Neyruz near Fribourg burned down. The house stood in the immediate vicinity of the studio of Jean Tinguely (1925-1991). This event inspired the artist to create a work, Mengele’s Dance of Death.

The artist reported that he had retrieved from the rubble parts of a maize press machine from the Mengele factory. Josef Mengele (1911-1979) was a doctor, the Angel of Death, in Auschwitz.

Tinguely was inspired by the Mengele company to name the whole ensemble. He removed the pieces from the farm because the large amount of burnt hay had given them a macabre appearance of destruction.

The centre of the 18-piece sculpture group is the high altar in the chapel-like space, made up of the parts of the Mengele company’s corn press. The work has been on display at the Tinguely Museum in Basel since 2017.