Alois Brunner, Nazi henchman to Adolf Eichmann and long reported living in Syria, may have died some months ago, according to an unconfirmed report.
Paris-based Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld told the French daily Le Monde that it is possible that the Austrian war criminal, one of the last major Nazis still sought for prosecution, is dead.
He said a story about Brunner’s death, reported in a confidential newsletter published by Lebanese journalists in Paris, is plausible “because he was 80 years old and in bad health.”
Klarsfeld, along with wife Beate, led a long campaign to have Brunner, who was responsible for the deaths of some 120,000 Jews, extradited from Syria. Syria repeatedly denied he lived there.
French and German authorities have both filed extradition requests in recent years. France convicted Brunner in absentia in 1954 of crimes against humanity and condemned him to death.
As deputy to Eichmann, who was in charge of the Jewish Office for the Gestapo, Brunner organized the deportation to Nazi death camps of Jewish communities in Germany, Greece, France, Austria and Slovakia.
Syria canceled a visit to Damascus by French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas a year ago when it became clear Dumas would mention Brunner during the trip.
Jewish figures who have long been interested in bringing Brunner to justice felt frustrated by the news.
“We regret that Alois Brunner, who was chief deputy to Adolf Eichmann, was never brought to justice for his horrendous crimes,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.
It is “interesting” that Syrian authorities “are ready to speak up now. Where were they when Brunner was alive?” asked Mark Weitzman, associate director of educational outreach of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in New York.
He recalled four years ago when a Jewish delegation tried to raise the Brunner case with officials at the Syrian Consulate in New York.
“The doors were closed; they wouldn’t let us in,” said Weitzman. “They were not interested in hearing anything about Brunner. The silence from Damascus has been deafening.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.