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Eichmann's top aide presumed dead in Syria, Nazi hunter says

Updated: 2014-12-03 07:44
By Reuters (China Daily)

One of the world's most wanted war criminals, the reputed top lieutenant of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann, is presumed to have died at least four years ago in Syria, where he lived under government protection, according to a leading Nazi hunter.

Alois Brunner, an Austrian SS officer, was found responsible for the World War II deportation of 125,500 European Jews to Nazi death camps.

He escaped at the end of the war from Germany to Egypt and arrived in Syria in 1954, said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office.

Brunner lived in Damascus under an alias and was employed by the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, father of the country's current ruler, as a terrorism and security expert, Zuroff said on Monday.

Brunner was reportedly seen alive as late as 2003 at a Damascus hotel, but a German intelligence source told the Wiesenthal Center four years ago that he had since died and was buried in Syria, Zuroff said.

Although never brought to justice, Brunner was tried in France in 1954 and sentenced to death in his absence for crimes against humanity. He lost several fingers and an eye in two letter-bomb assassination attempts that were attributed to Israeli agents.

Zuroff said the Wiesenthal Center was never able to forensically verify Brunner's death, but had hoped to obtain corroborating information before announcing it, an effort stymied by Syria's civil war. Were he alive, Brunner would now be 102, Zuroff said.

The Nazi-hunting center decided this year to remove Brunner from its roster of fugitive war criminals on its website, www.operationlastchance.org, Zuroff said.

He added that he went public in recent days with details of Brunner's presumed death when asked about him during an interview with Britain's Sunday Express newspaper.

"He was a notorious, fanatical anti-Semite," Zuroff said, citing a 1985 German magazine interview in which Brunner was asked if he had any regrets, and was quoted as saying he regretted he hadn't murdered more Jews.

Zuroff described Brunner as the last of the top-tier Nazi operatives responsible for planning and carrying out the genocide of European Jews "in a broad sense, as opposed to people involved in the murder of Jews in one specific place or operation."

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