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The chief Nazi hunter of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center on Sunday dismissed as "pure fantasy" claims by a former Israeli colonel that he had participated in the execution of the notorious Nazi war criminal Dr. Aribert Heim in the United States two and a half decades ago.
The unsubstantiated claims that Heim was killed are made in Not Forgotten or Forgiven; On the trail of the last Nazi, a book by former Israel Air Force colonel Danny Baz, slated to be published in France this week. Heim, who is known as the notorious "Dr Death," is wanted for the murder of hundreds of inmates of the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, and is the second most wanted Nazi criminal in the world.
"There is ample evidence that clearly shows that Dr. Heim was alive long after he was supposedly executed," said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the center's Israel director. "In fact, there is every indication that he is still alive today, and for that reason, the search for his whereabouts continues."
Zuroff said there was a â‚¬310,000 award being offered by the German government, the Wiesenthal Center and the Austrian government for information which will lead to Heim's arrest and prosecution by the German government.
Baz asserts in his book that he was involved in the hunt by a covert American group called "The Owl," which he said found Heim in Canada and took him to the island of Santa Catalina, off the California coast near Los Angeles, where he was "tried and executed." The Austrian-born Heim, who would be 93 today, fled Germany in 1962 after Austrian police began investigating him, and has been reported living in various parts of the world, including Latin America and Europe, as recently as two years ago.
Heim is second on the list of top wanted Nazi war criminals issued by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, just behind the most wanted Nazi criminal Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's top assistant, who is thought to be in Syria if still alive.
Paris-based Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld said Sunday that the book was "a total fantasy" and "completely crazy," adding that it was likely a publicity stunt for fame or money.
He said both Heim and Brunner have already died of natural causes.
In contrast, the Wiesenthal Center's 2007 "most wanted" Nazi lists states there is "strong evidence" that Heim is still alive.
Zuroff said a â‚¬1 million bank account in his name is active in Berlin, which Heim's children could have received if they proved he is dead.
A German police task force is convinced the Heim is indeed alive even as his whereabouts are unknown, Zuroff said.