Wanted Nazi criminal died in Cairo in 1992
Berlin -- One of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, Aribert Heim or "Doctor Death," thought by Nazi-hunters to be in his 90s and in South America, actually died in Cairo in 1992, German TV reported Wednesday.
Heim was wanted for killing hundreds of concentration camp victims with horrific medical experiments, including performing operations without anesthetics and injecting petrol directly into their hearts.
Public TV channel ZDF said in a statement that he died of bowel cancer in 1992, citing Heim’s son and acquaintances in Cairo where he had been living under the assumed identity of Tarek Farid Hussein after converting to Islam.
He had been in hiding since 1962. Leading Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said last July that he believed Heim was still alive and living in either Argentina or Chile.
On Wednesday, Zuroff said that the German TV report sounded authoritative but that he would be seeking further confirmation.
"The report on the death of the ‘butcher of Mauthausen’ is apparently reliable but we don’t for the moment have either a body or a grave," he said. "Some people have an interest in substantiating this death, so we are going to check the available documents on the subject."
Zuroff added that despite the inability of authorities to bring Heim to trial, the publicity raised by the searches for Heim still served a public good.
"Personally, I would be very disappointed if Heim had been able to end his life without being tried, but I do not regret the efforts that we have made to try and have him arrested because through this, the world came to know what he was," Zuroff said.
Born on June 28, 1914, in Radhersburg, Austria, Heim joined the Nazi party before Austria was annexed by Germany, 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 his 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.
Zuroff said in July he had to be brought to justice, whatever his age.
"He castrated people, he used parts of their body to decorate his office,” Zuroff said. “I’m not giving out these details to emotionalize the issue, but for people to understand how important it is to catch this criminal."
The New York Times — which carried out the investigation along with ZDF — said on its website that Heim would decapitate prisoners, boil their heads until only the skull remained and keep them as souvenirs and decorations.
Heim was number two on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s most wanted Nazi list, after Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s main assistant, who is thought to be dead.
Eichmann, one of the leading architects of the extermination of the Jews, was himself hanged in Israel in 1962.
Heim was arrested by American troops in 1945 but was released two-and-a-half years later. He subsequently set himself up as a gynecologist in Germany but fled in 1962 when authorities were poised to arrest him.
There had been numerous reported sightings of him as far afield as South America, Egypt and Spain.
Nazi-hunters thought twice in recent years that they were close to pinning him down — once in Spain in 2005 and again last year in a small Chilean town some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Santiago.
However, Heim’s son Ruediger told ZDF in an interview that his father went to ground in 1962 and traveled to Cairo via France, Spain and Morocco.
In Cairo, he contracted an incurable form of bowel cancer in the early 1990s and died following several months of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.