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Alois Brunner, born April 8, 1912 in Nádkút, Hungary (now: Rohrbrunn, Burgenland, Austria), reports of death contested, is an Austrian Nazi war criminal who was Adolf Eichmann's assistant, who called him "his best man." Commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, Alois Brunner is held responsible for sending some 140,000 European Jews to the gas chambers. Nearly 24,000 of them were deported from the Drancy camp. He was condemned in absentia in France in 2001 to a life sentence for crimes against humanity. He is, according to The Guardian, "the world's highest-ranking Nazi fugitive believed still alive."
He was a trouble-shooter for the Schutzstaffel (SS) and held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer when he organized deportations to Nazi concentration camps from Vichy France and Slovakia. Through his role in these deportations, he is considered guilty for the mass murder of tens of thousands of Jews. He was personally sent by Adolf Eichmann in 1944 to Slovakia to oversee the deportation of Jews. From early 1944 until January 1945, over one million Jews were transported to Auschwitz. Before being named commander of Drancy internment camp near Paris, Alois Brunner deported 43,000 Jews from Vienna and 46,000 from Salonika. In the last days of the Third Reich he managed to deport another 13,500 from Slovakia .
After the War and escape to Syria
In an interview with the German magazine Bunte, in 1985, Brunner describes how he escaped capture by the Allies immeditately after the Second World War. The identity of Brunner was apparently mixed-up with that of another SS member, Anton Brunner, who was thereby executed for war crimes, instead of Alois. Brunner, like Josef Mengele, lacked the SS blood-type tattoo, which prevented him from being detected in an Allied prison camp. Claiming that he "received official documents under a false name from American authorities," Brunner professed he found work as driver for the United States Army in the period after the War. It has also been alleged that Brunner found a working relationship after the War with the Organisation Gehlen.
He then fled Germany only in 1954, on a fake Red Cross passport, first to Egypt and then to Syria, where he took the pseudonym of Georg Fischer. In Syria, he was allegedly hired as a "government advisor" - with some suggesting he was advising the Syrian dictatorship on torture and repression techniques. Syria has constantly refused entry to French investigators as well as to Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld who spent nearly 15 years bringing the case to court in France. Simon Wiesenthal also unsuccessfully tried to trace him.
Germany and other countries have unsuccessfully requested his extradition. He was twice sentenced to death in absentia in the 1950s; one of those convictions was in France in 1954. In August 1987 an Interpol "red notice" was issued for him. In 1995 German State prosecutors in Cologne and Frankfurt posted a €333,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
In his 1980s interview by the German magazine Bunte, Brunner declared that his sole regret was not having murdered more Jews. In a 1987 telephone interview to the Chicago Sun Times, he stated: "The Jews deserved to die. I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again..."
Brunner lost an eye and several fingers from letter bombs sent to him years ago by Israel's intelligence service, Mossad. In December 1999, rumours surfaced saying that he had died in 1996 and had been buried in a cemetery in Damascus. However, German journalists visiting Syria said Brunner was living at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus. According to The Guardian, he was last seen alive by reliable witnesses in 1992.
On March 2, 2001, he was found guilty in absentia by a French court for crimes against humanity, including the arrest and deportation of 345 orphans from the Paris region (which had not been judged in the earlier trials) and was sentenced to life imprisonment. According to Serge Klarsfeld, the trial was largely symbolic - an effort to honour the memories of victims such as Celestine Ajzykowicz, 11, Jean Bender, four, and Alain Blumberg, a two-week-old baby kicked to death by an SS guard. Klarsfeld's own father, arrested in 1943, was one of Brunner's victims.
Brazilian police are said to be investigating whether a suspect living in the country under an assumed name is actually Alois Brunner. Dep.-Cmdr. Asher Ben-Artzi, the head of Israel's Interpol and Foreign Liaison Section, passed on a Brazilian request for Brunner's fingerprints to Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, but Efraim Zuroff could not find any.
In July 2007, the Austrian Justice Ministry declared that they would pay 50,000 Euros for information leading to his arrest and extradition to Austria
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