Fall of Berlin Wall halted extradition of key Nazi: report
Top Nazi war crimes suspect Alois Brunner was close to being extradited to former East Germany when the fall of the Berlin Wall put a halt on proceedings, an Austrian weekly said Saturday.
Based on unpublished documents from the former East German Stasi secret police, communist East Germany (GDR) negotiated with Syria in the late 1980s to have the Austrian Brunner extradited and arrested in Berlin, the ‘profil’ news weekly said in a statement.
Brunner, one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, is believed to have been responsible for the deportation of over 100,000 Jews to Nazi deaths camps during World War II.
“Brunner, Alois, will likely be extradited from Syria to the GDR,” read a Stasi document from 1988, cited by ‘profil’ in its next edition to be published Monday.
Another document from April 1989, quoting former East German foreign minister Oskar Fischer, went on: “(East German leader) Comrade Erich Honecker has arranged for the GDR general prosecutor to initiate the necessary measures to prepare for criminal proceedings against Brunner in the event that he arrives in the GDR.”
The ‘profil’ weekly also interviewed Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, who along with her husband Serge first proposed an extradition.
“We suggested to the GDR that Brunner be arrested in Damascus and flown to Berlin,” she told the weekly.
However, the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 severed contacts between the two regimes and put paid to the extradition plans, according to the weekly.
Brunner, a close associate of Adolf Eichmann, is seen as “the most important unpunished Nazi war criminal who may still be alive,” according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Austrian, who would be 99 if he still lives, fled to Syria in 1954, but was last sighted there in 2001, prompting rumours he may already be dead.
Last week, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, admitted to shredding files relating to Brunner in the 1990s.
These however pertained mostly to the period 1954-1964, according to Germany’s Spiegel magazine, raising questions about whether Brunner worked for the BND after the war and if he was being protected by someone senior.