Nile Nazis: Egypt haven for German war criminals
Arab nationalists trying to break free from the yoke of British colonialism found a natural backer in Nazi Germany, who gave the nationalists money to fight British occupiers during the war.Cairo -- Wanted German war criminal Aribert Heim, also known as Doctor Death, was not the only Nazi to have found refuge in Egypt after the Second World War.
Heim, reported on Wednesday to have died peacefully in Cairo in 1992 after 30 years on the run, is one of many Nazis to have converted to Islam and settled in Egypt.
Alliances between Egypt and Nazi officials were initially forged during World War II.
Arab nationalists trying to break free from the yoke of British colonialism found a natural backer in Nazi Germany. The Nazis invested money in men such as future Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in order for them to fight the British occupiers during the war.
And in the turbulent post-war atmosphere, many Nazis came to Egypt where they benefited from "high ranking" friendships within the entourage of British-backed King Farouk, according to historians.
Future Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sadat's predecessor, deposed Farouk in 1956. He then employed several Nazis to generate propaganda against Israel, which was established in 1948 following a war with several Arab armies.
The ODESSA network, which was reportedly set up after World War II to help wanted Nazis escape Germany and Austria, extended to Argentina, Syria and Egypt.
Johann Von Leers, close to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, came to Egypt in the 1950s, converted to Islam and became head of the "anti-Zionist propaganda service" at the foreign ministry.
According to historian of the Nazi era, Kurt Tauber, Egypt's post-war ministries of information and defense employed former SS and SA officers, such as Louis Heiden, Walter Bollmann and Wilhelm Bocker.
A former Nazi's son who worked in Egypt as a financial manager told AFP on condition of anonymity how his family traveled to Egypt having first sought refuge in Switzerland.
"My father was a Nazi spy in the Balkans, a liaison agent with Serb nationalists,” he said. “We came thanks to relations with Farouk's court. Then he worked in the armaments industry under Nasser."
With the arrival of Russian engineers to construct the Aswan High Dam in 1960, Moscow insisted that Nazis be purged from Egypt's military apparatus but tolerated their continued presence in ideological jobs, a Western journalist who has lived in Egypt for more than 50 years told AFP.
It is unknown exactly how many Nazis came to Egypt, and Egyptian authorities would rather not discuss the matter.
Heim "was unknown to us, it would have been too dangerous,” said Germany's ambassador to Cairo, Bernd Erbel. “I don't think he was a German citizen any more but became an Egyptian. They certainly weren't going to tell us they were here, and I have no details on them. To know more, I sometimes go to the Google search engine."
List of fugitive Nazi war crime suspects
Following claims that Aribert Heim, alias "the Butcher of Mauthausen," died in Egypt in 1992, here is a list of other wanted Nazi war crimes fugitives, drawn up by Jerusalem's Simon Wiesenthal Center:
-- John Demjanjuk, originally from Ukraine, fled to the United States after World War II. He was sentenced to death in 1988 in Jerusalem for the killing of Jews in concentration camps. While a guard at the Treblinka camp in Poland, Demjanjuk was known as "Ivan the Terrible." In 1993, he was acquitted on the benefit of doubt; the United States later withdrew his citizenship.
-- Sandor Kepiro, a Hungarian police officer accused of killing more than 1,200 civilians in Serbia. He was convicted in 1944 and 1946 by a Hungarian court, but never did time. Kepiro returned to Hungary in 1996 after decades in hiding in Argentina. He denies allegations made against him, but an investigation has been reopened.
-- Milivoj Asner, former Croatian police chief, who actively participated in the deportation of Serbs, Jews and Roma. He lives in Klagenfurt, southern Austria, but authorities refuse to extradite him to Croatia based on medical expert advice that he is unfit to be questioned or stand trial.
-- Soeren Kam, ex-member of the elite SS brigade, is accused of killing a Danish journalist in 1943. Now living in Germany, the courts have refused to extradite him to Denmark, citing a lack of evidence. Danish authorities say they will reopen an investigation into Kam's role in deporting Danish Jews.
-- Heinrich Boere, a former SS commando, was sentenced to death in absentia in the Netherlands in 1949 for having killed three Dutch civilians. Germany, where he lived in hiding, has refused to extradite him, citing objections to the death penalty. Dortmund prosecutors launched new charges in April 2008 for the same three murders.
-- Charles Zentai, a former Hungarian soldier alleged to have participated in the persecution and killing of Jews in Budapest. Hungary is seeking his extradition from Australia, where he now lives.
-- Mikhail Gorshkow, a former Gestapo interpreter, who is suspected in the murder of Jews in Belarus. The United States stripped him of his American citizenship, while Estonia, his country of birth, is investigating his actions during the war.
-- Algimantas Dailide, former police officer from Lithuania, who took part in the transport of Jews during the war who were then executed by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators. Extradited by the United States to Germany in 2003. A Lithuanian court found him guilty but said he would not need to serve his jail sentence.
-- Harry Mannil, a former Estonian police officer suspected of assisting in handing over Estonian Jews to the Nazis. An investigation into his conduct concluded in 2005 that he was not guilty of crimes against humanity, citing a lack of proof. He now lives in Venezuela.