BUDAPEST, Jan. 19 (JTA) — Poland may demand the extradition from Syria of the last leading Nazi still believed to be on the loose.
An expert with the Polish Justice Ministry said Tuesday he had been asked to assess whether Poland could seek the extradition of Alois Brunner to face trial for genocide at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Brunner was private secretary to Adolf Eichmann, chief engineer of the Holocaust, who was tried and executed in Israel in 1961.
The person whom Eichmann once described as his “best man” is thought responsible for transporting some 130,000 Jews to Auschwitz from Austria, France, Slovakia and Greece.
He is believed to be living in Damascus, which Syria officially denies.
Unofficially however, according to the Polish media, Syria might allow the extradition of Brunner, but not to Israel.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has demanded that Brunner’s extradition be made a condition of any peace deal between Israel and Syria.
The Justice Ministry expert, Witold Kulesza, told reporters in Warsaw that there was “no legal obstacle” to Poland seeking Brunner’s extradition because the crimes for which he was responsible were committed in Poland.
“It is an interesting possibility,” said Stanislaw Krajewski, a leader of Poland’s Jewish community and consultant to the American Jewish Committee.
Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka will eventually make the decision as to whether to proceed with the extradition request.
Auschwitz was built outside the Polish town of Oswiecim, which during World War II was incorporated into the territory of the German Reich.
Previous attempts to persuade Syria to release Brunner failed. Germany applied for his extradition in 1987, and in 1991 the European Parliament voted to condemn Syria for continuing to harbor the alleged war criminal.
Brunner was born in Austria in 1912 and joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1931. His anti-Semitism was considered to be so extreme that he was swiftly tapped to be Eichmann’s private secretary.
As head of the Nazi’s Jewish affairs office in prewar Vienna, he organized persecutions that forced thousands of Jews to flee to other European countries and the United States.
When World War II started, he sent 47,000 Austrian Jews to concentration camps.
After organizing mass roundups in Berlin, he transferred to Greece, where he was responsible for deporting all 43,000 Jews in Salonika within just two months.
In June 1943, he was sent to France to take over the Drancy transit camp near Paris from its French administrators.
During 14 months in France, Brunner sent an estimated 25,000 men, women and children to their deaths.