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Former Nazi Commits Suicide

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A former Nazi officer, accused of complicity in the murder of 250,000 Jews and Poles at the Sobibor extermination camp in occupied Poland in 1942-43, committed suicide Friday night at his home in the town of Atibaia, about 50 miles from Sao Paulo.

Gustav Franz Wagner had emigrated to Brazil in 1950 and lived quietly under his own name until Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal identified him from a newspaper photograph taken at a birthday party for Hitler near Rio de Janeiro in 1978.

Israel, West Germany, Poland and Austria sought to extradite the 69-year-old former officer in the SS elite guard. Wagner turned himself in 1979 after federal police announced that they wanted him in connection with extradition requests but the Supreme Court rejected the extradition requests on the grounds that the statute of limitations on war crimes had expired.

Wagner, who denied taking part in the extermination of the camp inmates told Brazilian officials, “I only obeyed orders.” Officials said he tried to commit suicide four times since he was discovered living in Atibaio. After his repeated suicide attempts, Wagner was hospitalized for a time. Wiesenthal described Wagner as “one of the most brutal thugs” in the camps. He said he had incited others to hang, beat and kill prisoners.

Wagner arrived in Brazil with Sobibor commandant Franz Paul Stangl in 1950 and settled in Arabaia, working as a farmer and building contractor. Stangl was extradited to West Germany in 1967 where he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in 1970.

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