Police Say 40-Year Manhunt Is Zeroing In on Aribert Heim,
Nazi Concentration Camp Doctor
MADRID, Oct. 25
-- After more than 40 years of searching, an
international manhunt for Aribert Heim, a notorious
doctor from the Nazi concentration camps and one of the
most wanted Nazi war criminals, has zeroed in on a
stretch of the Mediterranean coast of Spain, according to
Spanish police officials.
Mr. Heim, born
in Austria 91 years ago, is accused of torturing and
killing hundreds of prisoners at the Mauthausen
concentration camp in Austria in 1941 and 1942. The
crimes for which he is sought include injecting gasoline
into the hearts of victims, conducting operations on
prisoners without anesthesia and executing prisoners just
to record how long they took to die.
"The trial would
be the most significant in the last 30 years," said
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center, which helps search for Nazi war
criminals. "This case symbolizes the Nazi perversion of
medicine and science, and the application of medicine to
commit the most horrible atrocities."
Mr. Heim is second
on the Wiesenthal Center's most wanted list of Nazi war
criminals, after Alois Brunner, an assistant to Adolf
Eichmann who is accused of deporting tens of thousands of
Jews to Nazi concentration camps. Mr. Brunner is believed
to be in Syria, and there is thought to be little chance
of his being captured.
undated photo of the war criminal
Aribert Heim, now 91
Spain has been a
haven for Nazi war criminals since the end of World War
II, when many were drawn here by the protection offered
by the government of Francisco Franco, according to
scholars of the issue.
Franco died in 1975 and democracy was established,
Spain's elected governments did little to cooperate with
international searches for Nazi war criminals, those
María Irujo, author of "The Black List," a book
about Nazis who fled to Spain, said in an interview that
whole colonies of them lived here undisturbed for
decades. "Many lived out their lives here, and died
peacefully," he said.
"We are talking
about hundreds of people," he said. "Spanish governments
never did anything."
of the Wiesenthal center said Spain had "a horrendous
record on Nazi war criminals." But he added that under
the government of Prime Minister José Luis
Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist who was elected in
March 2004, Spain appeared to have begun
Spanish police began searching for Mr. Heim over the
summer in response to a request from the German
government, which had detected large transfers of money
to Spain from Mr. Heim's family in Germany, according to
Dr. Zuroff and a Spanish police official.
transfers, worth a total of about $400,000, were sent to
Palafrugell, a town near Spain's northeastern coast, from
2000 to 2003, Dr. Zuroff said.
Spanish officials said their search for Mr. Heim was not
limited to Palafrugell, but refused to specify where it
was focused. They would say only that it spanned much of
the Mediterranean coast, going at least as far south as
Alicante, a section of southeastern Spain where many
Nazis reportedly sought refuge after the war.
developments in the search for Mr. Heim came 18 months or
so after Germany set up a task force to find him. As part
of the search, the Germans distributed a computerized
rendering of what Mr. Heim, who is about 6 feet 3 inches
tall and has a scar on his right cheek, might look like
today and offered 130,000 euros, about $156,000, for
information leading to his arrest. The Wiesenthal center
offered an additional 10,000 euros.
always been reason to believe Mr. Heim is still alive,
Dr. Zuroff said, because his million-euro bank account in
Berlin has yet to be tapped by his children, who are free
to do so if they can prove he is dead.
has been a fugitive since 1962, when he fled his home in
Baden-Baden, Germany, as the police were preparing to
In 1979, a
Berlin court declared him a major Nazi war criminal and
convicted him in absentia of killing scores of prisoners
at the Mauthausen concentration camp, some out of "pure