One of the world's most wanted Nazi war criminals, Alois Brunner, is thought to have died four years ago in Syria. The Austrian SS officer deported 128,500 European Jews to Nazi deaths camps during the Second World War.
According to Efraim Zuroff, head of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, the former right-hand-man of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann is "almost certain" to have died in 2010 in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Alois Brunner, who was responsible for sending 128,500 European Jews to Nazi death camps, was a "notorious, fanatical anti-Semite," Zuroff said. When asked if he had any regrets in a 1985 German magazine interview, Brunner was quoted as saying he regretted that he hadn't murdered more Jews.
After the Second World War, Brunner, who would have now been 102, escaped prosecution by assuming a false identity. He worked for two years for the US occupation in Germany and in 1954 fled to Egypt.
From there he traveled to Syria where he enjoyed the protection of the political leadership and worked under an alias for the late Syrian President Hafez al Assad as a terrorism and security expert. Germany and other countries demanded that Syria extradite Brunner, but to no avail. In France, Brunner was sentenced in absentia to death in 1954 and again in 2001 to life imprisonment.
Despite having never been brought to justice, Brunner was the target of several unsuccessful assassination attempts, which were attributed to the Israeli foreign intelligence service, Mossad. The former SS captain received two letter bombs which resulted in the loss of three fingers and an eye, Zuroff said.
Brunner, who was last seen alive in 2001, was among the Wiesenthal Center's most-wanted Nazi criminals for many years. Due to his presumed death he was removed from the Center's list earlier this year.
ksb/av (Reuters, AFP, dpa)