Home News Doctor Death lived as ‘pious Muslim’ at Cairo hotel

Doctor Death lived as ‘pious Muslim’ at Cairo hotel

Published on 10/02/2009

Cairo -- One of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, Aribert Heim or "Doctor Death," lived for years as a quiet, pious Muslim in a small hotel on the edge of Islamic Cairo, where he was known as Doctor Tarek.

Concealed in the labyrinthine streets of the largest city in Africa and the Middle East, the man wanted for killing hundreds of concentration camp victims with horrific medical experiments found refuge until his death in 1992.

"He was like a giant, not very chatty but he never missed a prayer at the mosque," remembers Gamal Abu Ahmed, who today lives in Dr. Death’s former room on the sixth floor of the Qasr el-Medina hotel.

When Abu Ahmed is told about the true identity of the former Nazi, as revealed by Germany’s ZDF television and the New York Times last Wednesday, the former clothes shop owner does not seem taken aback.

"I knew him when I was 17 years old, I knew that Doctor Tarek, who I saw every day, was German and Muslim, and it never intrigued me," he said.

It was in the Qasr el-Medina hotel, today a run-down building with stairways overflowing with rubbish, that the "butcher of Mauthausen" arrived on the run after converting to Islam and taking the name Tarek Farid Hussein.

"His life was very ordered, exercise in the morning, then prayers at the main Al-Azhar mosque, and long sessions spent reading and writing while sat on a rocking chair," says Abu Ahmed.

He says he doesn’t know exactly when Heim got to Cairo, but that the Nazi had good relations with the Doma family, which owned the hotel, and with the manager, a German-speaking former Egyptian soldier called Mohammed Sherif.

More than 100 personal documents that were in the Doma family’s possession as well as the testimony of Heim’s son Rudiger, led to the unveiling of the true identity of the doctor who had been in hiding since 1962.

Leading Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Center said last July that he believed Heim was still alive and living in either Argentina or Chile.

German public television channel ZDF said in a statement that Heim died of bowel cancer in 1992, citing his son and acquaintances in Cairo.

"He was found dead one day in his bedroom,” said Abu Ahmed. “There were no burial plans when the ambulance came to take his body away and his body was laid to rest in a communal grave."

Abu Ahmed says that Doctor Tarek’s outings in the last 10 years of his life were as rare as the friends who visited him — none of whom were German despite the fact that several former Nazis settled incognito in Egypt.

"He was very solitary and very pious,” said Abu Ahmed. “He didn’t have a full beard, but he was never clean shaven, and always fasted during the holy month of Ramadan."

Born in Austria on June 28, 1914, Heim joined the Nazi party before Germany annexed Austria, when membership of the party was still illegal.

He then became a member of Hitler’s elite SS guard in 1940 and, after stints at camps in Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen in Germany, was posted to the infamous Mauthausen camp in Austria.

It was at Mauthausen that he became known as "Doctor Death," after performing sadistic and grotesque medical experiments. Survivors of Mauthausen allege the father of three cut prisoners open, removing their livers, among other things.

His cruelty was such that he has frequently been compared to Josef Mengele, the so-called "Angel of Death," who was a doctor at Auschwitz.

Alain Navarro/AFP/Expatica