“Most damning was the presence of the swastika-looking flag of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, founded by Antun Saadeh in 1932 and modeled after the Nazi party”, writes Michael Totten in his intriguing and wonderful book titled The Road to Fatima Gate (Encounter Books).
The book is the best guide available to understanding the current protests in Syria and the Middle Eastern upheaveal. In particular, Totten explains why Syria’s Alawites can’t reach a peace agreement with the Jewish State. The Alawi sect is a religious community that makes up around 10 percent of Syria’s population. The Assads are members of the sect.
Both Sunnis and Shias have long considered the Assads as “infidels” and “heretics”. “No Arab government in the world was as stridently anti-Israel, in both action and rhetoric, as his”, writes Totten.
“There was no better way for a detested minority regime to curry favor with Sunnis in Syria and the larger Arab world than by adopting the anti-Zionist cause as its own. As ‘infidels’, Syria’s Alawites didn’t feel they had the legitimacy to force Sunnis to make peace with Israel. That was a risky business even for Sunni leaders, as the assassination of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat showed after he signed a treaty”.
But Assad’s strategy against Israel has not been driven only by political opportunism. The Baathists have always been radically and ideologically anti-Semitic. The Nazi party and the Baath party express concepts of destiny with the superiority of their respective racial demographics over others, particularly Jews.
Baathist founder Michel Aflaq saw Nazi Germany as a model. The Vichy government handed over Syria to the Nazi’s, who were intent on causing trouble for the British, who occupied the rest of the fertile crescent inherited from the Ottomans at the end of the First World War. The Nazi’s indocrinated the Baathists to provide an insurgency.
Sami al Joundi, another founding father of the Syrian Baath movement, writes: “We admired the Nazis. We were immersed in reading Nazi literature and books. Anyone who lived in Damascus at that time was witness to the Arab inclination toward Nazism”.
Former Syrian Defense Minister, Mustafa Tlass, penned “The Matzah of Zion”, which propagated the libel that Jewish families murdered Gentiles and then used their blood to make holiday pastries.
Roger Garaudy, the French Holocaust denier, was invited to Damascus by the Ministry of Information, who praised him for “exposing the lies of the Zionist movement which exaggerated what happened to Jews during the Second World War for political purposes”.
But by far the most revealing aspect of Assad’s regime is the Syrian harbouring of many Nazi officers. Damascus was the safest haven for the architets of the Shoah, those such as Theodor Dannecker, who had helped Adolf Eichmann implement his genocide policy in France, Bulgaria, and Hungary, and Karl Rademacher, the Eichmann aide involved in the mass murder of Jews in Belgium, Holland and Croatia. After the war, Radmacher fled to Syria and became an official in the Syrian secret service.
The most notorious of the Nazis granted asylum in Syria was Alois Brunner, the “Holocaust’s engineer” and Eichmann’s deputy slaughterer. Until conclusive evidence of his demise is obtained, Brunner will be mentioned on any most wanted list of Holocaust perpetrators.
45.000 Austrian Jews were deported under Brunner’s command. He then deported to Auschwitz 46.000 Jews from Greece. Another 26.000 Jews were deported from France. On 31 July 1944, when the Allies were at the gates, Brunner arrested 300 children and sent them to Auschwitz. None survived. In Slovakia he deported 13.500 Jews. He was obsessed with deporting children and women of childbearing age.
In 1954 Brunner ran to Egypt to work for Nasser's police force and trained the Egyptians in interrogation techniques of which he had become a master. Then Brunner fled to Damascus, where he has lived in peace for decades. His home address is George Haddad Street 7 and his new name and identity is Georg Fischer, a German businessman. His home is constantly guarded by armed members of the Syrian security force.
In 1961 Brunner-Fischer received a bomb-letter that caused the loss of an eye and in 1980 he lost three fingers in another attack. In 1971, Assad took power in a coup and Brunner helped him to train the “praetorian guard”. It’s the same police force that is now killing the Syrian people in the streets.
When Robert Fisk, one of the most well known UK reporters, tried to interview Brunner in 1983, he was told by an official spokesman, “I think you want to keep good relations with Syria”. Two years later, the German magazine Bunte photographed Brunner in Damascus, wearing dark glasses and an open-necked striped shirt.
In a 1987 telephone interview from Damascus to the daily Chicago Sun Times, Brunner stated, when asked about the Jews: “All of them deserved to die because they were the devil’s agents and human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again”.
As the famous Nazi-hunter and Holocaust survivor the late Simon Wiesenthal once said: “Brunner is living as a free man in Damascus. It seems that in Syria the murder of Jews is not a crime”.
Amid the controversy over a peace deal with Syria, the issue of Brunner’s presence in Damascus has always received very little notice. Those who favor a deal with Syria seem determined to kill the issue with silence. Europe and Israel should demand justice and truth about Brunner.
They must do it for the children of an orphanage known as “La Maison d’Izieu”, the name of a sleepy village in central France. There, 44 children, aged between four and seventeen, felt safe and secure, supervised by seven adults, with plenty of time for playing, drawing and painting.
Maybe Brunner will be lucky enough to die of some disease in his own bed, but his little victims from Izieu did not have this privilege. They were gassed like insects in a hallway with a low, heavy ceiling in Auschwitz.
In one of Brunner’s convoys, the children were accompanied by a 103-year-old woman, while the youngest deportee was only 15-days-old. Assad’s proteges sent hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths, whose suffering must continue to breathe and live in our minds today.