Jesse Jackson’s Help Sought in Effort to Extradite Brunner from Syria
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Jesse Jackson’s Help Sought in Effort to Extradite Brunner from Syria

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Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld has asked the Rev. Jesse Jackson to intervene in the case of wanted Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, who has been living safely in Damascus for about 30 years.

Last week, Klarsfeld spoke to people in the Washington office of the Democratic presidential aspirant, asking if Jackson, who has good relations with Syrian President Hafez Assad, would help with multinational efforts to have Brunner extradited from Syria so that he could stand trial on war crimes charges.

Klarsfeld told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Sunday that she sent Jackson documents chronicling Brunner’s wartime history and efforts by several nations to bring him to justice for his crimes. She said she was told by two members of Jackson’s staff that a letter from Jackson to Assad would be ready on Monday.

Jackson went to Damascus in 1984, during his first bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, and was successful in obtaining the release of U.S. Navy flier Robert Goodman, whose plane had been shot down and captured by Syrian troops in Lebanon during an American reconnaissance flight. Since that time, Jackson has maintained good relations with Damascus.

The Damascus government has repeatedly maintained that Brunner is not in Syria. On Friday morning, Klarsfeld demonstrated here in front of the Syrian Mission to the United Nations for Brunner’s extradition.

Although the mission would not open its doors to her, she pursued her effort that afternoon, after appearing at a news conference following the announcement that thousands of war crimes files stored at the U.N. archives would be opened to governments, scholars and journalists.


Later at the General Assembly, Klarsfeld confronted a Syrian press attache who “had no choice” but to take the Brunner file she handed him. She said he was “surprised to find someone in front of him.” Klarsfeld told him, “You have to transmit this to your government.”

For five years, Klarsfeld has been championing a campaign with her Jewish husband, Paris lawyer Serge Klarsfeld, for Brunner’s extradition from Syria to West Germany. Now, the intensity of their crusade has picked up a certain momentum, abetted by statements made very recently by Brunner himself.

Last Sunday, an interview with Brunner was published in the Chicago Sun-Times in which the unrepentant Nazi said in a telephone conversation from Damascus that he continued to believe in the killings of Jews. “All of them deserved to die, because they were the devil’s agents and human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again,” he was quoted as saying.

Brunner had made a similar statement about two years ago in an interview with a purported friend which appeared in the German weekly Die Bunte, and which included a photograph of Brunner in Damascus, disproving the Syrians’ claim that Brunner is not in their country.

Brunner joined the clandestine Nazi Party in 1931. He attended the police school in Gratz, Austria, from 1932-33. He belonged to the Austrian Legion from September 1933-38, and joined the SS in 1938.


In 1938, Brunner became Adolf Eichmann’s right-hand man in the SS, working at the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Vienna. When Eichmann left, Brunner was placed in charge.

He allegedly deported Jews from Vienna and Berlin; 46,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece; and more than 24,000 Jews from France from 1943-44, when he was in charge of the Drancy internment camp. Brunner is accused of deporting 24,000 Jews from Nice in June 1944. Among them was Serge Klarsfeld’s father, Arno. In July 1944, Brunner is said to have ordered the deportation of more than 300 children who had been in Jewish children’s homes in the outskirts of Paris. Klarsfeld said that when one Jewish leader appealed for the children’s lives, Brunner, said “No, they will be the future terrorists.”

Having finished with France, Brunner went to serve in Slovakia, where he allegedly deported 13,500 Jews. Altogether, says Klarsfeld, “he is accused of having personally engaged in the deportation of over 100,000 Jews, certainly worse than Klaus Barbie, who only killed and deported Jews in France.”

Brunner was sentenced to death in absentia in France in 1954 for the crimes he committed there, but the French issued no extradition request.

The first extradition request for Brunner was made by his native Austria in 1961.


In June 1982, Serge Klarsfeld went to Damascus to personally try to locate Brunner, but he was expelled from the country. Beate Klarsfeld tried this again in March of this year, and was likewise placed under police arrest at the airport and expelled.

Serge went to the prosecutor in Cologne following his expulsion from Damascus. In December 1984, the West German foreign affairs ministry issued a warrant for Brunner’s extradition.

In February 1986, the prosecutor general in Frankfurt, Walter Griebel, said that Syria had refused another extradition request by West Germany, and that Syrian authorities had refused to confirm published reports that Brunner was interviewed in Damascus with their approval.

Beate Klarsfeld said that even the East German Foreign Affairs Ministry has placed Brunner on its “Watch List,” as has Interpol in Paris.

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