Are there bad twins?

Twins in other cultures

Dizygoti twins: The number varies by region

For every 1,000 births, there are an average of three to four identical twin births. Regardless of whether a woman lives in Cape Town or in Buxtehude. The probability of having dizygoti twins, however, varies depending on the area.

In east, south, and southeast Asia, out of 1,000 births, around six to nine are dizygoti twin births. There are similarly low twin rates in Latin American countries. In Europe, the USA and India, nine to 16 twin births per 1000 births are common. For a long time, Nigeria was the country with the highest rate of twins, with 18 twins per 1,000 births.

However, a study that extensively analyzed the frequency of twin births in developing and emerging countries showed that the high twin rate does not only apply to Nigeria, but to Central Africa in general. "An area with high twin rates of more than 18 per 1000 births runs from Guinea in the west along the Atlantic coast to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Tanzania, Mozambique and the Comoros."

The study also found that there are more than 25 twin cases for every 1,000 births in Benin. "All of this suggests that there is a genetic component that increases the likelihood of dizygoti twins," says US twin researcher Nancy Segal.

Today researchers know: Anyone who has a sister or mother who gave birth to dizygotic twins is twice as likely to have twins themselves.

Yoruba: Twins are a cult here

The Yoruba tribe currently holds the record for witnessing twins. 45 twins are born here for every 1000 births. Most of the ethnic group lives in southwest Nigeria and neighboring Benin. The Yoruba believe in reincarnation: the soul of a deceased person could return in the next generation but one in the body of a newborn.

Long ago, twins were viewed as bad - sometimes they were even sacrificed. But today the tribesmen are convinced: Twins bring luck, health and money. That is why twins are welcomed with big celebrations.

Madagascar: Twins are considered a curse

Madagascar is told of a queen who fled a fight and forgot one of her twin children. When she sent the soldiers back to fetch the child, it was said to have been a massacre.

Even if there is no evidence for history, some tribes in Madagascar still believe that twins bring bad luck. They should see that their family dies and their village is attacked. They are also to be responsible for the failure of the uprising against the colonial rulers in 1947.

That's why twins are abandoned. In the past, twins were probably placed in front of the sheds for the Malagasy cattle. When the gate opened, the zebus trampled over the twins. Only those who survived could be kept by the family.

Even today, twins are still considered "fady" in many places in Madagascar, a taboo. In 1987 a home was set up especially for abandoned twin children in southeast Madagascar. "When we just opened the center, the neighbors complained that the wind blowing past our house would make them sick," said a United Nations Information Service official. "So we had to move to a place outside of town."

West Papua: Twins are married to each other

In the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea - West Papua - it is common for twins to be raised separately. "A twin is usually passed on to an infertile woman in a neighboring village because women cannot work in the fields while carrying two children and breastfeeding at the same time," says Alessandra Piontelli. The doctor from Italy worked for a long time as a doctor in developing countries. She has seen how twins are treated in different cultures.

She describes her impressions in the book "Twins in the World". In an interview she tells of an experience that particularly impressed her: "The separated twins in West Papua met as soon as they could walk: They played with each other. And when they were sexually mature, they were married to each other. Homosexuality was not taboo in that valley - and incest was the rule for twins. "

Gemini: Abused for Research

He was called "Doctor Auschwitz": Josef Mengele, Doctor of Philosophy and Medicine. From May 1943 he was an SS doctor in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. For him, the concentration camp was primarily a research laboratory: more twins came together here than anywhere else.

When new trains with deportees arrived, he kept an eye out for new objects to study. "He seemed mad when he was walking around on the ramp looking for twins," one inmate doctor later recalled. The twins were measured, x-rayed and photographed. Impressions were taken, of the feet and hands and of the teeth.

Mengele operated on twins without anesthesia to test whether they were equally sensitive to pain. He also deliberately infected twins with tuberculosis bacteria and other pathogens. He killed twins at the same time in order to be able to autopsy them.

Two twins find each other

Oskar and Jack: Nancy Segal will always remember these two twins. The US researcher was present when more than 130 pairs of twins grew up separately for a unique study at the University of Minnesota.

In 2012, she describes the following in the US magazine "National Geographic": Oskar and Jack were born in the British colony of Trinidad. The father was Romanian, the mother German, they separated. In 1933, when the twins were six months old and the National Socialists had just come to power in Germany, the mother went back to Germany, together with Oskar and his older sister. Jack stayed with his father.

"Oskar was raised Catholic and became a member of the Hitler Youth, while Jack grew up Jewish and later joined the Israeli army," reports the twin researcher. In 1979 they took part in the Minnesota Twin Study and then spent time together. That's when they realized how similar they were.

"What touched me most about their story: They had such different political and historical backgrounds that most people would not have bothered to get along in their place," says Nancy Segal. "When Oskar died of lung cancer in 1997, Jack was heartbroken." Segal reports on Jack and Oskar and a few other pairs of twins in her book "Born Together - Reared Apart".