Monday, July 16, 2007

Do they really want Brunner now?

ALOIS BRUNNER was a top Nazi criminal, an aide to Adolf Eichman. Born in 1912 in Austria's Burgenland, he may or may not be still alive, but now he is on a "wanted" list issued by the Austrian authorities, alongside another nonagenarian, Aribert Heim, a concentration camp doctor accused of injecting poison into the hearts of Jewish prisoners.

A notice posted on the Austrian Justice Ministry’s website has photos and descriptions of Brunner and Heim and offers rewards for information leading to their capture. Brunner is described as having mutilated hands and only one eye, after reportedly being disfigured by letter bombs.

Justice Minister Maria Berger, says Austria would do everything possible to find the fugitives. “I know the odds aren’t the greatest, but in particular given the ages and indications that both are possibly still alive, I think one should seize this potentially last opportunity.”

Heim is “strongly suspected of murdering numerous prisoners” in the Mauthausen concentration camp by injecting poison into their hearts, according to the notice on the Web site. Brunner is “strongly suspected of being significantly involved in the deportation of Jewish persons with the aim of murdering them.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which describes Brunner as the "most wanted" Nazi war criminal is pleased that Austria is paying attention to pursuing Nazis and warns "time is running out". Indeed. Better late than never, we might say, but then wonder - why now?

Alois Brunner did not end his criminal career when the Third Reich fell. He was able to escape capture with the help of a ratline organised by Bishop Alois Hudal [3], and found employment with the Gehlen organisation, an intelligence network staffed by Nazi agents which worked for the American CIA before becoming West Germany's intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst(BND). In 1954, Brunner "fled" Germany on a fake Red Cross passport, going to Egypt, and then Syria.

According to former CIA agent Miles Copeland, CIA chief Allen Dulles had offered Nasser help with security and intelligence, and turned to the network of Nazis like Otto Skorzeny and Brunner to provide it. In Syria, Brunner took the name Georg Fisher, and became a businessman, while also serving as an adviser to government. It has been alleged that he advised on torture and repression. I suspect the old Nazi and his comrades might have assisted in the CIA-backed coup in Iraq in 1963, which was followed by a massacre of communists. Whatever his special expertise, the Syrian regime has apparently protected Brunner, refusing entry to French investigators and to Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld who spent nearly 15 years bringing a case to court in France.

Brunner had been sentenced to death in absentia in the 1950s, but France repealed the death penalty in 1981. In 1987 an Interpol notice was issued for him.

Interviewed by the Austrian magazine Bunte in the 1990s, 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. I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again..." [1]

He lost an eye and several fingers from letter bombs sent to him by Mossad, and and in 1999 there were rumours he had duied and been buried in Damascus. 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.

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.

There were reports that Alois Brunner had gone to Brazil, but events to trace him there failed.

Zionist propaganda has periodically built up the "Nazi-Arab link" from cases like Brunner, as though it explained Israeli-Arab conflict rather than being a by-product of it, and without paying too much attention to the American role in planting Nazis like Brunner in the Middle East. One tries to avoid biting the hand that also feeds...

If Brunner is finally brought to justice it will be about time. But we are bound to ask why this old Nazi was left free to pursue his career for so long, and to regret that the criminals who helped and shielded him cannot also be brought to book. Sadly, remembering how Austria elected Kurt Waldheim as president, I . can't help wondering whether its new interest in pursuing old Nazis, and specifically, Brunner, owes anything to changing international relations, and ways of dealing with Syria. Not that the Simon Wiesenthal Centre will mind.

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