Fugitive Nazi leader Alois Brunner during the Holocaust (left) and before his recent death..
(photo credit: JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY)
A senior Nazi figure centrally involved in the implementation of the Holocaust died in Syria sometime in either 2009 or 2010, the Simon Wiesenthal Center announced this week.
Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter who heads the Jewish organization’s Jerusalem office, told the British newspaper The Daily Express this week that he had reliable information regarding the death of Alois Brunner, an SS officer and assistant to Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann, who subsequently served as an adviser to the Assad regime.
Born in 1912, Brunner joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and the SS in 1938, taking over the Central Office for Jewish Emigration the next year. In 1943 he became head of the Drancy internment camp near Paris.
Brunner was personally involved in deporting 128,500 Jews to death camps, including 47,000 from Austria, 44,000 from Greece, 23,500 from France, and 14,000 from Slovakia.
He escaped to Syria by way of Egypt after the war, where he served as an adviser to the Assad regime.
“He was a notorious anti-Semite, a sadist, and a fanatic Nazi,” Zuroff told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “In Syria he worked as an adviser to Assad on torture, security, things like this, and had some connection to the treatment, mistreatment I should say, of the Syrian Jewish community.”
“Four years ago we received word from someone that we consider reliable that he had died in Syria, but we couldn’t prove it.
In other words, we couldn’t confirm the death forensically so we were waiting, hoping that there may be some possibility to confirm it and so far it hasn’t happened,” he said, explaining why the center had taken Brunner off its most-wanted list of Nazis still at large.
Given that Brunner would be 102 if alive today, it is likely that he was the last senior Nazi responsible for the Holocaust alive today, Zuroff said, explaining that “for someone to have certain prominence in this terrible thing he would have had to have been at least a certain age and unless they lived well into their hundreds they’d be dead.”
The Wiesenthal Center never made a formal announcement regarding Brunner’s reported death, and the matter came out only when The Daily Express asked about him specifically, Zuroff said.
“I explained that we took him off the most-wanted list now, because we reached the conclusion that it is almost certain that he is dead.”
The center’s source, according to Zuroff, is an “intelligence operative who worked in the Middle East for many years.”
The Syrians denied Brunner’s presence in Damascus for years until 1985, when Brunner granted an interview to the German magazine Bunte in which he denied having any regrets about deporting the Jews.
“All of them deserved to die, because they were the devil’s agents and human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again,” the fugitive Nazi asserted.
A similar situation exists regarding Aribert Heim, an SS officer who was known as Dr. Death for his role as a camp doctor at Mauthausen.
“In other words there is a lot of information that Heim died in Egypt, but we can’t confirm it forensically,” Zuroff told the Post.
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