Alois Brunner

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Alois Brunner
Born8 April 1912
Nádkút, Vas, Austria-Hungary (now Rohrbrunn, Burgenland, Austria)
Died1996 (reports of death contested)
Allegiance Nazi Germany
RankSS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain)
UnitFlag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Commands heldDrancy internment camp
Other work"Government advisor" to the Syrian government; arms dealer in Egypt
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Alois Brunner
Born8 April 1912
Nádkút, Vas, Austria-Hungary (now Rohrbrunn, Burgenland, Austria)
Died1996 (reports of death contested)
Allegiance Nazi Germany
RankSS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain)
UnitFlag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Commands heldDrancy internment camp
Other work"Government advisor" to the Syrian government; arms dealer in Egypt

Alois Brunner (born 8 April 1912) was a German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer. Brunner was Adolf Eichmann's assistant, and Eichmann referred to Brunner as his "best man."[1] As commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, 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 to death in absentia in France in 1954 for crimes against humanity. In 1961 and in 1980, Brunner lost an eye and the fingers of his left hand, respectively, as a result of letter bombs sent to him by Mossad.[2]

In 2003, The Guardian described him as "the world's highest-ranking Nazi fugitive believed still alive."[3] Brunner was last reported to be living in Syria, whose government rebuffed international efforts to locate or apprehend him.[4]


Until 1945

Born in Nádkút, Vas, Austria-Hungary (now Rohrbrunn, Burgenland, Austria). He is the son of Joseph Brunner and Ann Kruise. Brunner was a trouble-shooter for the Schutzstaffel (SS) and held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) when he organized deportations to Nazi concentration camps from Vichy France and Slovakia. He was commander of a train of Jews deported from Vienna to Riga in February 1942. En route, Brunner shot and killed the well-known financier Siegmund Bosel, who, although ill, had been hauled out of a Vienna hospital and placed on the train. According to historian Gertrude Schneider, who as a young girl was deported to Riga on the same train, but survived the Holocaust:

Alois Brunner chained Bosel, still in his pajamas, to the platform of the first car -- our car -- and berated him for having been a profiteer. The old man repeatedly asked for mercy; he was very ill, and it was bitterly cold. Finally Brunner wearied of the game and shot him. Afterward, he walked into the car and asked whether anyone had heard anything. After being assured that no one had, he seemed satisfied and left.[5]

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 Auschwitz. Before being named commander of Drancy internment camp near Paris, Brunner deported 43,000 Jews from Vienna and 46,000 from Salonika. In the last days of the Third Reich he managed to deport another 13,500 from Slovakia.[3]

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 executed for war crimes, instead of Alois, who, 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.[6]

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.[7][8][9][10] It has been alleged that Brunner found a working relationship after WWII with the Gehlen Organization.[11][12]

He then fled Germany only 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. 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 SS torturer. 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 tried unsuccessfully to trace Brunner's whereabouts.[citation needed]

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..."[13] He was reported to be living in Damascus under the alias of Dr. Georg Fischer.[1] Although there were unconfirmed reports that Brunner may have died in 1996, he was reportedly sighted in 2001.[citation needed]

In 2011, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the German intelligence service BND had destroyed its file on Brunner in the 1990s, and that remarks in remaining files contain conflicting statements as to whether Brunner had worked for the BND at some point.[14]

Letter bombs

Brunner lost an eye and fingers on his left hand from letter bombs sent to him in 1961 and in 1980 by Israel's intelligence service, Mossad.[2] In December 1999, rumours surfaced saying that he had died in 1996 and had been buried in a cemetery 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, 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 Interpol "red notice" was issued for him. In 1995, German State prosecutors in Cologne and Frankfurt posted a €333,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.[citation needed]

On 2 March 2001, he was found guilty in absentia by a French court for crimes against humanity,[4] 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. Klarsfeld's own father, arrested in 1943, was reportedly one of Brunner's victims.[3]

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. Brazilian 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 Interpol and Foreign Liaison Section, passed on a Brazilian request for Brunner's fingerprints to Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, but Zuroff could not find any.[15]

In July 2007, the Austrian Justice Ministry declared that they would pay €50,000 for information leading to his arrest and extradition to Austria.[16]

A self-described "team of Israelis" who have "hunted down" 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 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".[17] Despite this reality, he resurfaced in media reports in 2011 as being one of the most wanted men globally who many insist could still be alive.[18][19]

See also


  1. ^ a b Biography at the Jewish Virtual Library
  2. ^ a b Alois Brunner : La Haine Irreductible by Didier Epelbaum, January 1990
  3. ^ a b c Henley, Jon (2003-03-03). "French court strikes blow against fugitive Nazi". London: The Guardian.,2763,445717,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  4. ^ a b "Most Wanted Nazis" by Bridget Johnson for
  5. ^ Schneider, Gertrude, Journey into terror: story of the Riga Ghetto, pg. 25, Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001; ISBN 0-275-97050-7
  6. ^ Schneider, Gertrude, Journey into terror: story of the Riga Ghetto, (2d Ed.) Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001, pgs. 54, 167; ISBN 0-275-97050-7
  7. ^ "Most-Wanted Nazi Ready to Surrender, Report Says". Los Angeles Times. 1985-10-28. 
  8. ^ "In Syria, a Long-Hunted Nazi Talks". The New York Times. 1985-11-29. 
  9. ^ "Nazi Criminal Says Mixup Aided His Escape". The New York Times. 1985-11-07. 
  10. ^ George J. Annas (1991). "Mengele's Birthmark: The Nuremberg Code in United States Courts". The Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy 7: 17–46. 
  11. ^ Peter Wyden (2001). The Hitler Virus: The Insidious Legacy of Adolf Hitler. Arcade Publishing. 
  12. ^ Georg Hafner; Esther Schapira (2000). Die Akte Alois Brunner. Campus Verlag. 
  13. ^ Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act on
  14. ^ "BND vernichtete Akten zu SS-Verbrecher Brunner". Der Spiegel. 2001-07-20. 
  15. ^ Int'l hunt on for top Nazi fugitive, The Jerusalem Post, 28 December 2005
  16. ^ Warrant of Apprehension, Austrian Justice Ministry
  17. ^ "The hunt for the last Nazis", BBC, 23 March 2009
  18. ^ "World's Most Wanted: Who's Left on the List?", Ben Forer. ABC News. 26 May 2011
  19. ^ "Die meistgesuchten Kriegsverbrecher", 20 Minuten. 26 May 2011; accessed 10 June 2011

External links