The Israel Police and the Simon Wiesenthal Center downplayed reports on Saturday that wanted Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner - Adolf Eichmann's right-hand man - was alive and living in Brazil.
On Friday Ha'aretz reported that Brazilian police were investigating suspicions that Brunner - the most-wanted Nazi war criminal believed to still be alive - was living in Salvador de Bahai.
A deputy to Eichmann, Brunner, 95, assisted in implementing the Final Solution and is held directly responsible for the deaths of at least 130,000 Jews. He is believed to have spent the last 40 years hiding out in Syria under the assumed name of Dr. Georg Fischer.
Israel Police confirmed over the weekend that they had been asked by Brazilian authorities to assist in the investigation by producing fingerprints of Brunner.
"The Brazilians got to us through Interpol and asked us for assistance," said Dep.-Cmdr. Asher Ben-Artzi, Israel Police's head of Interpol and International Operations. "I asked the Simon Wiesenthal Center for help but they didn't have fingerprints so in the end we didn't have anything to pass on to the Brazilians."
Ben-Artzi said he had no way of knowing the authenticity of the Brazilian suspicions. "We don't know what the chances are that it is him and it is basically now up to the Brazilians to find out," he said.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff - the Wiesenthal Center chief Nazi hunter and head of its Israel office - said Saturday night that the whole story was "not serious." "In my opinion, it is impossible that he is the real thing," Zuroff said. "The suspect himself was traveling under the name Brunner, which makes no sense since a criminal of that magnitude would travel under a pseudonym and not use his own name."
Zuroff said that Brunner may very well be dead or still living in Syria where he was last believed to be seen. According to Zuroff, the police asked him for Brunner's fingerprints but he told them it was unnecessary.
"Brunner lost at least three fingers and an eye in letter bombs sent to him in Syria," the Nazi hunter said. "There was no need for fingerprints."
Over the last 10 years, Zuroff said, there were reports that Brunner was dead, alive or living in Europe. Just a few years ago, police raided a private jet that took off from Dubai and landed in Vienna and was believed to be carrying Brunner. He was never found.