Monday, July 7, 2008

Nazi hunter looking for 'Dr. Death' in S. America

The chief Nazi hunter of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center headed to South America on Sunday in a final public campaign to locate the most wanted Nazi in the world and bring him to justice.

The search for Dr. Aribert Heim, 94, the former Austrian doctor also known as "Dr. Death" who tops the Wiesenthal Center's list of "most wanted Nazis," has spanned nearly half a century since his 1962 disappearance in Germany ahead of a planned prosecution for his war crimes.

Heim was indicted in Germany on charges that he murdered hundreds of inmates by lethal injection at the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he was the camp's doctor during the Holocaust.

"Our working assumption is that Heim is hiding somewhere in Chile or Argentina," said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter and Israel director in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post ahead of his departure.

Zuroff conceded that this would likely be the "final push" to uncover the nonagenarian, despite his status as the world's number one Nazi suspect.

"We feel we are approaching the end of the line," he said.

The Nazi hunter noted that Heim's daughter lives in the southern Chilean city of Puerto Montt, and that she is the most likely to be in contact with her father, or at least have information about his whereabouts.

His daughter had previously said that her father died in 1993 in Argentina, but she never provided a certificate of death or accepted his inheritance.

A one million Euro bank account in his name is active in Berlin, which Heim's children could have received if they had proved he was dead.

During his trip, Zuroff will be holding a press conference in Puerto Montt in a "final attempt" to reach anyone who has information about his current whereabouts.

"We are going into her backyard," he said.

The German and Austrian governments and the Wiesenthal Center are jointly offering 316,000 Euros, or about half a million US Dollars, for information that will lead to Heim's arrest and prosecution by the German Government.

In the interview, Zuroff said that he did not expect to nab Heim on his current visit, which will include meetings with government officials and ad campaigns in Chilean and Argentinean newspapers, but hopes that the effort will bear fruit in the near future.

"We are putting into place the tools to have him handed over in the coming weeks or months," Zuroff said.

Last week, he blasted a German judge for repeatedly refusing to allow investigative measures requested by the special police task force to find Heim which are routinely approved in murder cases in Germany, and said that the judge's "obstructionist" moves have contributed to the failure to capture the wanted Nazi.

"Documents which we have obtained clearly indicate that the efforts of the German police to find Dr. Heim are being consistently hampered by Judge Hans-Richard Neerforth's refusal to approve routine investigations which are allowed as a matter of course by all judges in murder cases in Germany," Zuroff said.

"We urge the German judicial authorities to find a way to circumvent these obstructive decisions to help facilitate the capture of Dr. Heim so that he can finally be brought to justice for his heinous crimes," he said. (JPOST)

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