Nazi War Criminal Alois Brunner Declared Dead

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Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner has been officially declared dead, though he is thought to have passed some time in 2010.

Brunner, an Austrian Schutzstaffel (SS) officer, and the "best man" to Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) Adolf Eichmann, is responsible for the execution of roughly 128,500 European Jews during the Holocaust. He was convicted of crimes against humanity, and was sentenced to death in absentia in France in 1954.

Brunner then spent decades eluding capture, though the Israeli Mossad sent him letter bombs in 1961 and 1980, causing him to lose and eye and all of the fingers on his left hand.

It was believed by German intelligence that Brunner lived in Damascus, Syria, under the alias "Georg Fisher." Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, told the New York Times that Brunner took a position as an adviser to Syrian president Hafez Assad, thus influencing "the mistreatment of the Syrian Jewish community.”

Though German intelligence first thought Brunner to be dead in 2010, this year would have marked his 102nd birthday, so it as been deemed the war criminal died of natural causes.

In a 1985 interview with the German magazine Bunte, Brunner explained that another SS officer was mistaken for him and was executed in his place, which allowed him to evade capture. He likewise did not have an SS blood type tattoo, so he wasn't detected in an Allied prison camp.

Brunner fled Germany in 1954 with a forged Red Cross passport, and made his way to Syria, where he took a government job. Details of his position remain vague, but it is thought he was an adviser on torture and repression techniques, a skill-set he learned during his time as an SS torturer.

In the Bunte interview, Brunner said his only regret was that he was unable to murder more Jews. In a 1987 phone interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Brunner remarked, "All of the Jews deserved to die because they were the Devil's agents and human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again."

Zuroff commented, “The significance is only that one very prime target can no longer be brought to justice, and that’s very sad, because it just underlines the failure of the world community to see to it that the primary movers and shakers of the Final Solution were forced to pay for their crimes."