German court rejects criticism over SS doctor hunt

Jewish human rights organization claims court's decisions are obstructing hunt for Nazi doctor.

heim 88 (photo credit:)
heim 88
(photo credit: )
A German court on Monday rejected criticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that its decisions disallowing certain telephone taps have been obstructing the hunt for former SS doctor Aribert Heim. The Jewish human rights organization on Friday said the Baden-Baden state court judge in charge of the case had disallowed German police requests on several occasions for telephone taps of Heim's relatives and an old friend who had been in contact with the fugitive. But Heinz Heister, presiding judge and spokesman for the court, said that in the case of the friend, there had been no appeal of the court's decision, and that the only time a decision disallowing "investigative measures" was challenged, the Baden-Baden court's ruling was upheld. "Investigative measures - even in the case of a person urgently suspected of many counts of murder - are held to certain boundaries by the constitution and the laws," Heister said in a statement. According to the center, Heim's horrific treatment of Mathausen prisoners warranted him the title, "Dr. Death," and his sadistic medical cruelty is likened to that of Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele. "Documents which we have obtained clearly indicate that the efforts of the German police to find Heim are being consistently hampered by Neeforth's refusal to approve routine investigations which are allowed as a matter of course by all judges in murder cases in Germany," the Wiesenthal's chief Nazi hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, said. In July of 2002, the Simon Wiesenthal Center launched Operation Last Chance to capture ex-Nazis believed to be living in hiding. The situation is made more pressing by the fact that most living Nazi war criminals, including Heim - who is turning 94 - are nearing the end of their lives and have yet to be tried for their crimes. Despite claims that Heim was dead, the Wiesenthal Center's insistence that he is living is substantiated by, among other things, activity in his bank accounts, Israeli and Spanish intelligence, and the fact that his children have yet to collect their inheritances. Heim's ability to elude capture and linger beneath the radar of Nazi hunters has been largely credited to ODESSA, an acronym for the German name of the "Organization of Former Members of the SS." Though the exact circumstances of this network are unclear, the Wiesenthal Center says it was established in 1946 to help fugitives like Heim avoid prosecution.