Wanted Nazi war criminal long dead: report

February 5th, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Frankfurt, Feb 5 (DPA) Wanted Nazi war criminal Aribert Heim, who was accused of killing and torturing hundreds of concentration camp inmates, is long dead, Germany’s ZDF television channel reported Wednesday.The former concentration camp doctor died of cancer in the Egyptian capital Cairo Aug 10, 1992, research by the channel in collaboration with the New York Times showed.

Heim, known as Dr Death, was thought to have been living in South America.

As an SS doctor in the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen, he was accused of killing and torturing inmates by various methods, including lethal injections directly into the hearts of his victims.

Witnesses said he made a lampshade for a camp commander from the skin of one of his victims.

News of Heim’s death was viewed with reservation and suspicion in some quarters. “On the surface this appears to be serious, but the most important pieces of evidence are missing. There’s no corpse, there’s no grave and there are no DNA tests,” said Ephraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem.

Zuroff told DPA the information on Heim should be viewed with some scepticism “given the fact that there are people who have a vested interest in convincing us that Heim is no longer alive.”

Born in Austria in 1914, Heim practiced as a gynaecologist in the German city of Baden-Baden after the war, before fleeing in 1962.

An international arrest warrant for him was issued and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre placed advertisements in South America, referring to the $400,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

The centre’s Zuroff said, “If (the news) is true, I’m incredibly frustrated and disappointed that we did not succeed in bringing him to justice. On the other hand, there’s a certain amount of resolution.”

ZDF said Heim converted to Islam in the early 1980s and lived under the name Tarek Farid Hussein after that.

The television channel said it was in possession of a briefcase belonging to Heim that contained more than 100 documents, including an Egyptian passport, applications for residence permits, bank statements, personal letters and medical forms.

The information made it clear beyond doubt that Hussein was the wanted concentration camp doctor, ZDF said.

The television channel said its findings were confirmed by various sources, including Heim’s son, who lives in Baden-Baden.

“Yes, my father lived in Cairo,” the son told ZDF in an interview.

The son said he visited his father for the first time in Cairo in the mid-1970s and looked after him for several months early 1990 after Heim underwent surgery for cancer.

“If this story is true, the German police should consider prosecuting his family for helping him escape,” Zuroff said.

Heim’s son said he had confronted his father with the allegations, which were denied. Egyptian friends, acquaintances and even the war criminal’s doctor knew nothing about his true past.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre and German investigators had believed Heim to be alive and probably hiding in South America, although information surfaced in 1967 that he might be in Cairo.

A German police spokesman told ZDF that the research by the television channel and the New York Times matched the latest information obtained by German authorities.

“It was not possible to confirm the information,” the police spokesman added.

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