Alois Brunner, an infamous Nazi and one of Adolf Eichmann’s henchmen, died in Syria four years ago, the New York Times reports. Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the organization’s Israel office, confirmed Brunner’s 2010 death this weekend in British newspaper The Sunday Express. Zuroff, who called Brunner Eichmann’s “right-hand man,” said the Nazi official was responsible for deporting nearly 130,000 Jews to death camps, and once described his greatest regret in a magazine interview as not having murdered more Jews.
Mr. Zuroff said a German intelligence official with extensive experience in the Middle East – “a reliable source in our eyes” — had informed the Wiesenthal Center about four years ago that Brunner had died of natural causes, but that because of the Syrian civil war “we were never able to confirm it forensically.” Given that Mr. Brunner would be 102 today, Mr. Zuroff added, “I took his name off the list” of wanted Nazis.
The Wiesenthal Center did not announce Mr. Brunner’s death when the German operative reported it in 2010, or this year, when it published its annual list of fugitives without him on it. Mr. Zuroff said it only came up now because of an inquiry by The Sunday Express.
Brunner reportedly lived in Damascus since the 1950s, using the name Georg Fisher. According to the Times’ interview with Zuroff, Brunner advised former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad on terrorism and security as well as—get this—the “mistreatment of the Syrian Jewish community.”
Brunner was convicted of crimes against humanity in absentia in a French court 2001, after famed Nazi hunters like Zuroff and Serge Klarsfeld had gone after him for decades. Brunner had also been sentenced to death in absentia twice in the 1950s.
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Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.