Efraim Zuroff
Efraim ZuroffFlash 90

Dr. Efraim Zuroff of The Simon Wiesenthal Center says that the center has received reliable information according to which Alois Brunner, a top Nazi fugitive whom Final Solution architect Adolf Eichmann called his “best man,” is dead and buried in Damascus. Brunner advised former Syrian dictator Hafez Asssad on torture techniques and repression, said Zuroff.

British news site Sunday Express quoted Zuroff, who directs the Wiesenthal Center's Israel office, as saying: "We have received information from a former German secret service agent who had served in the Middle East who said that Brunner was dead and buried in Damascus.

Zuroff added: "Given his age it would not be surprising and the information came from someone who we consider reliable. There is much evidence of what he (Brunner) did and no lack of clarity about his huge guilt in four different countries.

"We are talking about someone who helped send 128,500 Jews to the death camps, the majority were murdered... The victims' families are a very large group and it's fair to say the people who suffered at his hands would have wanted him to be punished and would be disappointed, but he is not the only Nazi war criminal who got away, far too many got away."

Brunner was responsible for the deportation of thousands of Jews from Austria, Greece, Slovakia and France to concentration camps. He was commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, from which nearly 24,000 people were deported, and was condemned to death in absentia in France in 1954 for crimes against humanity. In 1961 and in 1980, Brunner lost, respectively, an eye and the fingers of his left hand, as a result of letter bombs sent to him by the Mossad.

In a 1985 interview with the German magazine Bunte, Brunner said that he escaped capture by the Allies immediately after World War II because his identity was mixed up with that of another SS member, Anton Brunner.

Alois Brunner said that he "received official documents under a false name from American authorities,” and found work as a driver for the United States Army in the period after the war. He was reportedly linked to the Gehlen organization of former Nazi generals, which was set up by the US to spy on the Soviets. He fled West Germany in 1954 on a fake Red Cross passport, first to Rome, then Egypt, where he worked as a weapons dealer, and then to Syria, where he took the pseudonym of Dr. Georg Fischer.

According to Zuroff: "He was involved in the harsh treatment of the Jewish community of Syria and was an expert in terror and torture... He said himself his one regret was he did not kill more Jews. He was unrepentant."