SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Alois Brunner was born in Austria in 1912 and joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1931 at the age of 19. His anti-Semitism was considered to be so extreme that he was swiftly tapped to be Adolf Eichmanns private secretary. As head of the Nazis Jewish affairs office in prewar Vienna, he organized persecution that forced thousands of Jews to flee to other European countries and the United States.
When World War II started, he sent 47,000 Austrian Jews to concentration camps. After organizing mass roundups in Berlin, he transferred to Greece, where he was responsible for deporting all 43,000 Jews in Salonika within just two months.
In June 1943, he was sent to France to take over the Drancy transit camp near Paris from its French administrators. During 14 months in France, Brunner sent an estimated 25,000 men, women and children to their deaths.
After World War II, Alois Brunner found gainful employment courtesy of Reinhard Gehlen and the CIA. Gehlen, Hitler's top anti-Soviet spy, surrendered to the Americans and offered his services. CIA took the bait and Gehlen re-established his spy organization, and enlisted thousands of Gestapo, Wehrmacht and SS veterans. During the Cold War Gehlen's network of agents received millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. From 1956-68, Reinhard Gehlen was Germany's Chief of Federal Intelligence Service.
Later Brunner escaped to Syria where he became a government adviser. To this day Alois Brunner - now 87 - has successfully evaded capture. He is believed to live in Damascus using the alias Dr. Georg Fischer, though in December 1999, there were unconfirmed reports that he had died in 1996 and was buried in a Damascus cemetery.
But last October German journalists visiting Syria said Brunner was living at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus. Brunner is easily identifiable, having lost an eye and several fingers from letter bombs sent him years ago by Israels intelligence services.
With the release of Adolf Eichmann's memoirs, Alois Brunner, whom Eichmann once called his "best man," is again in the news. Brunner was already sentenced to death in absentia in France in 1953 and 1954; more recently, a new suit was filed there based on his sending children to Auschwitz. Previous attempts to persuade Syria to release Brunner failed. Germany applied for his extradition in 1987, and in 1991 the European Parliament voted to condemn Syria for continuing to harbor the alleged war criminal.
In 1995, German State prosecutors in Cologne and Frankfurt posted a $333,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the last leading Nazi still believed to be on the loose.
Brunner was interviewed about 15 years ago in the Austrian news magazine Bunte. He said his one regret was that he hadn't murdered more Jews. In 1987, in a telephone interview, he told the Chicago Sun Times: "The Jews deserved to die. I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again..."
In 2000, rumors were circulating that Poland was preparing to seek the extradition of Alois Brunner. Until now the Syrians have ignored all attempts to extradite him, including those by Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, but apparently moods are changing in Syria.
In December 2005, reports disclosed that an international manhunt was underway to find Brunner who, if still alive, would be 95 years old. If caught, Brunner would be extradited to France where he was sentenced in absentia in 2001 to life in prison for crimes against humanity.
Source: Children of Izieu; Jerusalem Post, (December 31, 2005)