Auschwitz 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Approximately 580 microfilms contained in the file on Alois Brunner, one of the
most wanted Nazi war criminals, were destroyed by Germany’s BND Federal
Intelligence Service in the mid-1990s, Der Spiegel reported last
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The newsweekly cited a note from a BND employee suggesting in 1994
that the BND “was to part with these documents,” and another memo in 1997 from
the same official saying that the file had been “cleared.”
was Austrian, was Adolf Eichmann’s assistant, and Eichmann referred to him as
his “best man.”
Brunner was responsible for deporting more than 128,000
Jews from around Europe to concentration camps during the Holocaust. He fled to
Syria after the war where it is believed he lived until at least the late
In 1961 and in 1980, Brunner lost an eye and the fingers of his
left hand, respectively, as a result of letter bombs that some say were sent to
him by Mossad.
In 2003, The Guardian
described him as “the world’s
highest-ranking Nazi fugitive believed still alive.”
Brunner was last
reported to be living in Syria, whose government rebuffed international efforts
to locate or apprehend him.
According to the report, former senior BND
official Volker Foertsch said in a note written in 1997 that he knew that
Brunner was a “former employee” and was living in Damascus.
Foertsch worked for the BND’s predecessor service, the Gehlen Organization,
which was set up by the CIA in 1948 and employed former German army officers for
their knowledge of the Soviet Union.
Dr. Ephraim Zuroff of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center told The Jerusalem Post
that the center had asked last year to
see the files of both Brunner and Aribert Heim, an Austrian SS doctor who
experimented on and tortured prisoners at Mauthausen concentration camp and who
also escaped arrest after the war. The Wiesenthal Center was told last week that
it could view Brunner’s file but that there was no documentation whatsoever on
“It is highly unlikely that there is or was no file on Aribert
Heim,” Zuroff told the Post.
“It is an absolute scandal. There seems to have
been a cover-up of a disturbing post-war chapter of German history, which is why
we asked the BND for the information in the first place.”
Zuroff there are now just five microfilms remaining from Brunner’s file, which
is apparently what the Wiesenthal Center was invited to view by the
In a statement to AFP, a spokesman for the BND confirmed that the
files had been destroyed in the 1990s and said that more details would be
published in the coming months.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European
Jewish Congress, said that the incident was deeply disturbing and should be
“Any attempted cover-up or destruction of vital evidence
relating to the whereabouts and actions of Alois Brunner is a slap in the face
for all those who suffered at his hands,” Kantor said.
responsible for the murder of Jews and others during the Holocaust must be
brought to justice, regardless of age or other factors. We hope that there will
be a thorough investigation of this matter.”
Brunner was a member of the
Central Office for Jewish Emigration, founded by Holocaust architect Adolf
Eichmann in 1938. It became an agency for the deportation of Jews to
According to Dr. Joel Zisenwine, head of the Yad
Vashem deportations database project, Brunner oversaw the deportation of the
majority of Jews from Vienna by late 1942, and was also sent to Berlin and
Salonika to carry out the same task. In 1943, he was made commandant of the
Drancy interment camp outside Paris, through which approximately 65,0000 Jews
were deported to either Auschwitz-Birkenau or Sobibor. Fewer than 2,000
He was personally sent by Eichmann in 1944 to Slovakia to
oversee the deportation of Jews.
“Brunner was a real devil,” said Robert
Wistrich, professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University. “He
was one of Eichmann’s most efficient hunters.
“In the 1950s, West Germany
employed many people who had served in the civil service, the judiciary and at
almost every level of society. There was no great purge of former Nazi officials
from the civil service,” said Wistrich. He said that it wouldn’t be surprising
if Brunner had served in the German intelligence agency in the 1950s.