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Alois Brunner (born April 8, 1912, reports of death contested) is an Austrianmarker Nazi war criminal. Brunner was Adolf Eichmann's assistant, and Eichmann referred to Brunner as his "best man." As commander of the Drancy internment campmarker outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, Alois Brunner is held responsible for sending some 140,000 European Jews to the gas chambers. Nearly 24,000 of them were deported from the Drancy camp. He was condemned in absentia in Francemarker in 1954 to a life sentence for crimes against humanity. 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 Syriamarker, where the government has so far rebuffed international efforts to locate or apprehend him.

Until 1945

Born in Nádkútmarker, Vasmarker, Hungarymarker (now Rohrbrunn, Burgenlandmarker, Austriamarker).

Brunner was a trouble-shooter for the Schutzstaffelmarker (SS) and held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) when he organized deportations to Nazi concentration camps from Vichy France and Slovakiamarker. Through his role in these deportations, he is considered guilty of the mass murder of tens of thousands of Jews.

Brunner was commander of a train of Jews deported from Viennamarker to Rigamarker in February, 1942. En route Brunner shot and killed the well-known financier Sigmund Bosel, who, although ill, had been hauled out of the hospital in Vienna and placed on the train. According to historian Gertrude Schneider, who as a young girl was deported to Riga on the same train,:

He was personally sent by Adolf Eichmann in 1944 to Slovakia to oversee the deportation of Jews. From early 1944 until January 1945, over one million Jews were transported to Auschwitzmarker. Before being named commander of Drancy internment campmarker near Paris, Alois Brunner deported 43,000 Jews from Viennamarker and 46,000 from Salonikamarker. In the last days of the Third Reich he managed to deport another 13,500 from Slovakia .

After the war and escape to Syria

In an interview with the German magazine Bunte, in 1985, Brunner describes how he escaped capture by the Allies immediately after the Second World War. The identity of Brunner was apparently mixed up with that of another SS member, Anton Brunner, who was thereby executed for war crimes, instead of Alois. Brunner, like Josef Mengele, lacked the SS blood-type tattoo, which prevented him from being detected in an Allied prison camp. Anton Brunner, who also worked in Vienna deporting Jews, was confused after the war with Alois Brunner, even by historians such as Gerald Reitlinger.

Claiming that he "received official documents under a false name from American authorities," Brunner professed he found work as a driver for the United States Army in the period after the war. It has also been alleged that Brunner found a working relationship after the War with the Organisation Gehlen.

He then fled Germanymarker only in 1954, on a fake Red Crossmarker passport, first to Romemarker, then Egyptmarker where he worked as a weapons dealer, and then to Syriamarker, where he took the pseudonym of Dr. Georg Fischer. In Syria, he was allegedly hired as a "government advisor" — with some suggesting he was advising the Syrian dictatorship on torture and repression techniques, some dating from his time as an SSmarker torturer. He also allegedly trained Kurdish rebels to operate against Turkey, and shipped arms to Algerian rebels, during its war of independence with Francemarker. Syria has constantly refused entry to French investigators as well as to Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld who spent nearly 15 years bringing the case to court in France. Simon Wiesenthal also unsuccessfully tried to trace him.

In his 1980s interview by the German magazine Bunte, Brunner declared that his sole regret was not having murdered more Jews. In a 1987 telephone interview to the Chicago Sun Times, he stated: "The Jews deserved to die. They were garbage, I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again..."

Survives assassination attempt

Brunner lost an eye and several fingers on his left hand from letter bombs sent to him in 1961 and in 1980 by Israelmarker's intelligence service, Mossad. In December 1999, rumours surfaced saying that he had died in 1996 and had been buried in a cemetery in Damascusmarker. However, German journalists visiting Syria said Brunner was living at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus. According to The Guardian, he was last seen alive by reliable witnesses in 1992, and by journalists in 1996.

Convictions in absentia

Germany and other countries have unsuccessfully requested his extradition. He was twice sentenced to death in absentia in the 1950s; one of those convictions was in France in 1954. In August 1987 an Interpolmarker "red notice" was issued for him. In 1995 German State prosecutors in Cologne and Frankfurtmarker posted a €333,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

On March 2, 2001, he was found guilty in absentia by a French court for crimes against humanity, including the arrest and deportation of 345 orphans from the Paris region (which had not been judged in the earlier trials) and was sentenced to life imprisonment. According to Serge Klarsfeld, the trial was largely symbolic - an effort to honour the memories of victims such as Celestine Ajzykowicz, 11, Jean Bender, four, and Alain Blumberg, a two-week-old baby kicked to death by an SS guard. Klarsfeld's own father, arrested in 1943, was one of Brunner's victims.

Recent attempts to locate

In 2004, for an episode titled "Hunting Nazis", the television series Unsolved History used facial recognition software to compare Alois Brunner's official SS photograph with a recent photo of "Georg Fischer", and came up with a match of 8.1 points out of 10, which they claimed was, despite the elapse of over 50 years in aging, equivalent to a match with 95% certainty.

Brazilianmarker police are said to be investigating whether a suspect living in the country under an assumed name is actually Alois Brunner. Dep.-Cmdr. Asher Ben-Artzi, the head of Israel's Interpolmarker and Foreign Liaison Section, passed on a Brazilian request for Brunner's fingerprints to Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centermarker in Jerusalem, but Efraim Zuroff could not find any.

In July 2007, the Austrian Justice Ministry declared that they would pay €50,000 for information leading to his arrest and extradition to Austria. Alois Brunner is believed to be living in Syriamarker. A team of Israelis who have successfully hunted down many Nazi war criminals all over the world list him as their second most wanted man, and since the first may have already died, he could very well be their most wanted Nazi war criminal, and if found alive by them, will be brought back to Israel to face charges of crimes against humanity, mass murder, and membership of an illegal party. In March 2009, the Simon Wiesenthal Center admitted that the possibility of Brunner still being alive was "slim".

See also



Notes

  1. Biography at the Jewish Virtual Library
  2. " Most Wanted Nazis", Bridget Johnson, About.com
  3. Schneider, Gertrude, Journey into terror: story of the Riga Ghetto, (2d Ed.) Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2001, at pages 54 and 167, ISBN 0275970507
  4. Alois Brunner : La Haine Irreductible by Didier Epelbaum, January 1990
  5. French court strikes blow against fugitive Nazi, The Guardian, March 3, 2001
  6. Int'l hunt on for top Nazi fugitive, The Jerusalem Post, December 28, 2005
  7. Warrant of Apprehension, Austrian Justice Ministry
  8. The hunt for the last Nazis, BBC, 23 March 2009


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