German intelligence hampered search for Nazi Brunner: report

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Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, deliberately misled authorities hunting for Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, the weekly Der Spiegel said in a report published Saturday.

Quoting declassifed documents, it said the BND pointed parliament, the police and prosecutors on false trails and denied knowledge of Brunner, who according to some reports was employed by the agency.

The BND admitted in July after an earlier report by Der Spiegel that it had shredded 581 pages of files on Brunner between 1994 and 1997, when it told federal prosecutors it had no data on him.

Brunner, born in 1912, topped the Simon Wiesenthal list of wanted Nazis for deporting tens of thousands of Jews to the death camps during World War II, although the centre says he is almost certainly dead.

After the war, he escaped detection by taking on a false identity and worked for two years for the US occupying forces in Germany, before fleeing to Egypt in 1954 and from there to Syria, where he was protected by successive regimes.

French investigators, trying to call him to account for crimes committed during the occupation of their country, lost track of him in 1992 in Damascus, where he had been living under an assumed identity.

According to Der Spiegel, the 581 pages destroyed related mostly to the period 1954-1964, with their disposal raising questions about whether Brunner worked for the BND after the war and if he was being protected by someone senior.

It is not the first time that the BND has fallen under suspicion of protecting former Nazis after World War II. A team of historians is currently combing through its archives.

Der Spiegel reported in January that Klaus Barbie, the notorious former Gestapo head of Lyon, France, worked for the BND in Bolivia after the war. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 and died in jail in 1991.

This followed a report in the Bild daily citing newly released documents showing that German intelligence knew Adolf Eichmann, one of the key architects of the Holocaust, was hiding out in Argentina eight years before Israeli agents kidnapped him in 1960.

In July an Austrian weekly said Brunner was close to being extradited from Syria to the former East Germany when the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 halted proceedings.

© 2011 AFP

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