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Former Top Nazi Officer Alois Brunner Died in Syrian Jail in 2001, French Report Claims

Prior to new report, Eichmann's right-hand man was thought to have died around 2010 in Damascus, where he lived for decades and advised Syria's then-president, Hafez Assad.

Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, who was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 130,000 Jews, died in 2001 at the age of 89, locked up in a squalid Damascus basement, a French magazine reported on January 11, 2017.
Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, who was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 130,000 Jews, died in 2001 at the age of 89, a French magazine reported on Jan. 11, 2017. Stringer, AFP Photo

The Nazi criminal Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s deputy who oversaw the deportation of 130,000 Jews to death camps, died 16 years ago in a locked basement in Syria, having undergone much suffering, according to a French investigative report.

The story was published Wednesday in the magazine Revue XXI. It claims that Brunner was kept under house arrest in Damascus throughout the 1990s. Towards the end of the decade he was imprisoned in a cellar for “security reasons.” He stayed there, according to the report, until the day he died at the end of 2001, at the age of 89.

Three people from the secret service who had worked as Brunner’s bodyguards were interviewed for the story. One of them, named Omar, said that “the door closed on him and was never opened again.” He stated that Brunner suffered from hunger and that “all he had to eat were battle rations – terrible stuff – and an egg or potato. He had to choose between them.”

Omar also noted that Brunner, who according to sources quoted in the story remained an anti-Semite and Nazi supporter to the end of his life, was secretly buried in a Muslim ceremony at the Al-Afif cemetery in December 2001.

Born in Austria in 1912, Brunner joined the Nazi party in 1931 and enlisted in the SS in 1938, after Kristallnacht. During the war he was Eichmann’s right-hand man, sent to oversee the deportation of Europe’s Jews to death camps and ghettos. He was arrested after the war but managed to escape to the Middle East. For decades he was one of the Nazis most sought after by Nazi hunters, and several countries issued extradition orders against him.

Brunner settled in Syria under a false name, living in the diplomats’ quarter in Damascus while evading justice. In Syria he befriended Hafez Assad, the father of current president Bashar Assad, and became an adviser to the government. Among other things, he provided advice and instruction on using Gestapo methods. While in Damascus he was injured twice by packages that contained explosives, allegedly sent by Mossad agents. He lost one eye and several fingers in the explosions.

In an interview from Damascus in 1987, he said that he did not regret the Holocaust, calling Jews “human garbage.” However, there never were any details regarding the rest of his life and the date and circumstances of his death.

Once the younger Assad took the reigns as Syria’s leader after his father’s death in July 2000, things turned sour for Brunner. He was put into a jail cell and died not too long after his former benefactor.

Two years ago, at the end of 2014, the Wiesenthal Center reported that Brunner died in 2009 or 2010 in Damascus from old age, and that he had lived at least until 2001 in a Damascus hotel. Following news of his death, his name was taken off the list of wanted Nazis, published by the center every year.

The current report indicates that he had died earlier, and not under congenial circumstances.