MADRID (Sep. 14)
A Spanish police unit is searching for one of the most-wanted Nazi war criminals. A National Police spokesman said new evidence points to the possibility that Aribert Heim, 91, may be living undercover somewhere near the Mediterranean coastal city of Alicante.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center ranks Heim as the No. 2 most wanted Nazi war criminal, after Alois Brunner, an aide to Adolf Eichmann, the chief organizer of the “Final Solution.”
During World War II, Heim murdered hundreds of people, largely via lethal injection, at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.
Known as the “Butcher of Mauthausen,” Heim also performed “medical experiments” in which he amputated body parts without painkillers to see how long prisoners would live.
“He is a sadist, a murderer, a horrendous example of the perversion of medicine in the service of the Nazis,” said Efraim Zuroff of the Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office.
“He’s a little Mengele,” Zuroff added, referring to the Auschwitz doctor known as the “Angel of Death.”
Germany has offered a $170,000 reward for Heim’s arrest in the framework of Operation Last Chance — the Wiesenthal Center’s new initiative to capture the last Nazi war criminals believed to be alive.
The Spanish police spokesman declined to elaborate on the new evidence regarding the whereabouts of Heim, whose family had claimed that he died years ago in Argentina.
However, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that German police discovered money wires starting several years ago to a bank on Spain’s coast that were picked up by a contact.
The Spanish magazine Intervu said hundreds of wires were sent over the course of three years starting in 2000, totaling $220,000.
The magazine said Heim could be living on the coast “as just one more German retiree.”
Because of its temperate climate, Spain’s Mediterranean coast has become home to large populations of elderly Germans and other northern Europeans living in retirement communities.
Zuroff said there is still an account in Heim’s name at a Berlin bank with $1 million, which his children could claim if they provided definitive proof of his death. “We feel very certain he is alive,” he said.
Zuroff called on Spanish authorities to put an end to their “horrendous record” of impunity for Nazi war criminals, which he says continued even after Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s.