Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

News Brief


A notorious Nazi war criminal is currently living in Austria.

Erna Wallisch, 85, who was recently found by a British historian to be living alone in a flat outside Vienna, has been aided by a group of Nazi sympathizers led by Heinrich Himmler’s daughter.

Late last month, British historian Guy Walters, who is writing a book about Nazi hunters, revealed that he had traced Wallisch to Vienna. Wallisch is on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of the top 100 most wanted living Nazi war criminals. Several eye witnesses saw her beating children to death and escorting scores of people to their deaths during her tenure as an SS guard at Majdanek camp in Poland.

The Austrian government has said it would not take action against Wallisch because of a statute of limitations on prosecution.

Now Walters has uncovered that Wallisch has been supported in recent years by Stille Hilfe (Silent Help), a Nazi sympathizer group.

Silent Help, which claims to be a charity, is partly run by Himmler’s only child, Gudrun Burwitz, now 77, who admits that she “helps where she can” with the group’s work. It has helped some of the Third Reich’s most prominent officers, including Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie and Erich Priebke. The Wiesenthal Center says Silent Help has been organizing the “ratlines” – secret escape routes out of Germany to South America and the Middle East for former Nazis – and helping those that remained to evade discovery and prosecution for their crimes for more than 50 years.

“There is no doubt that Stille Hilfe has been providing aid and advice to help keep criminals like Wallisch under the radar of the authorities. Not that Austria wants to be bothered in prosecuting her anyway,” Walters said.

Recently, the Austrian newspaper Heute demanded the government reopen the case against Wallisch and that it refute allegations that government links with groups like Silent Help were behind the Austrian government’s decision to take no action.

The Austrian justice ministry spokesman, Thomas Geiblinger, told the paper, “We will not give up and will examine every piece of new evidence in the Wallisch case.”

Recommended from JTA