Germany destroyed file on Eichmann’s ‘best man’ in 1990s

"There seems to have been a cover-up of a disturbing post-war chapter of German history," Wiesenthal Center's Zuroff tells 'Post'.

Auschwitz 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
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 week.
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.”
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Brunner, who 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 ’90s.
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.
In 1953, 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 Heim.
“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.”
According to 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 BND.
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 investigated.
“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.
“All those 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 concentration camps.
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 survived.
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.