Last big Nazi hunt ends as Aribert Heim, ‘Dr Death’, is declared dead
The last great Nazi hunt, the search for an infamous SS officer Aribert Heim, has ended with the discovery that he died in Cairo in 1992
Aribert Heim became known as 'Dr Death' for performing grotesque experiments
James Bone in New York
The last great Nazi hunt, the search for an infamous SS officer known as Dr Death, has ended with the discovery that he died in Cairo in 1992, after converting to Islam.
Aribert Heim, a concentration camp doctor who killed hundreds of inmates by injecting petrol or poison into their hearts, was number two on the “most wanted Nazi” list, after Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s main assistant, who is thought to be dead.
Efraim Zuroff, a leading Nazi-hunter from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, said last July that he believed Heim was still alive and hiding in Patagonia, near where his daughter Waltraud lives in the Chilean town of Puerto Montt. He would be 94.
However, the German television channel ZDF and The New York Times reported last night that Heim died of rectal cancer in Cairo on August 10, 1992, after converting to Islam and living under a false identity as Tarek Farid Hussein.
Nazi hunters launched a search for Heim in southern Chile and Argentina, offering a ¤315,000 (£280,000) reward for his capture. Heim’s sadistic experiments have been compared to those of Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz “Angel of Death”, who died in Brazil in 1979.
However, the German TV channel said its investigators found a briefcase containing Heim’s Egyptian passport, an application for a residence permit, bank slips, personal letters and medical documents, which were left behind in the hotel room where he lived. An application for Egyptian residency in the name of Farid had the same birthday, June 28, 1914, and the same place of birth, Radkersburg, Austria, as Heim.
His son, Rüdiger Heim, who has long wanted his father declared dead so that he could inherit his ¤1.2 million German bank account, said his father had fled to Egypt via France, Spain and Morocco.
He said he first visited his father in Cairo in the mid-1970s and cared for him as he recovered from an operation in 1990. “Tarek Hussein Farid is the name my father took when he converted to Islam,” Rüdiger told The New York Times.
Heim was a paying guest on the seventh floor of a hotel in a middle-class district of the Egyptian capital, but was treated as a member of the family, and known as “Ammou Tarek”, Uncle Tarek. The Doma family, who run the hotel, were unaware of his true identity.
Heim became concerned in the 1980s, when Egypt and Israel established diplomatic ties, that he might be exposed, but nothing happened, the television network said.
Rüdiger Heim, who is 53, admitted for the first time that he was with his father in Egypt at the time of his death. “It was during the Olympics. There was a television in the room, and he was watching the Olympics. It distracted him. He must have been suffering from serious pain,” he said.
Heim was buried in a cemetery for the poor in Cairo, where graves are reused after several years, so that the chance of finding remains is unlikely, ZDF said.
The first independent confirmation of his identity was from a hotel porter who, when shown a photo of Heim, said: “Yes, that’s Mr Hussein, I’m 100 per cent sure. That is the German who converted to Islam.”
Mr Zuroff, the Nazi-hunter, said if true, the news of Heim's death would be earth-shattering. “I don't want to comment just yet. The reports seem to be serious but I’m still waiting for confirmation from my own sources and there are various questions that need to be answered,” he said.
He said that Rüdiger Heim had previously claimed that the only contact he had since his father went into hiding in 1962 were two notes that appeared in his family’s mailbox.
“Rüdiger has been lying,” Mr Zuroff said from Jerusalem. “Either he is lying now or he was lying before, and he has a vested interest in this so anything he says has to be taken with a certain amount of scepticism and suspicion — and the most important thing is missing: the body. There’s no grave, there’s no corpse, there’s no DNA tests.”
Heim joined the Waffen SS and was assigned to the Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz in October and November 1941.
He became known as “Dr Death” for performing grotesque experiments such as amputating organs without anaesthetic and injecting different solutions into prisoners’ hearts and then using a stopwatch to see which killed them fastest.
He kept a log of his experiments.
Unsuccessfully applying for Heim’s indictment in 1950, Karl Lotter, a non-Jewish political prisoner who worked at the hospital at Mauthausen, told a court that Heim had murdered a young man in an operation and had then kept the skull.
At the end of the Second World War, Heim was held for more than two years by the US military before being released without being tried.
After moving to Frankfurt, he married and worked as a gynaecologist. In 1958, he even bought a 42-unit apartment building in Berlin under his own name. He fled in 1962 after an apparent tip-off that the German authorities planned to arrest him.
Investigators say Heim lived off rents from the apartment block until it was confiscated in 1979.
The ones that got away
Heinrich Müller was chief of the Gestapo. Last seen in the Fuhrer’s bunker on May 1, 1945. Believed to have fled to Brazil and Argentina. Death never confirmed
Dr Josef Mengele became notorious for experiments at Auschwitz. Lived in home town of Günzburg, Bavaria, until 1953, when hints of his crimes began to surface. Fled to Argentina, practising medicine in Buenos Aires. Died in Brazil in 1979
Walter Rauff was a former SS colonel who prefigured the gas chambers by channelling exhaust fumes into trucks filled with victims. Blamed for 97,000 deaths in the Soviet Union, Poland and Yugoslavia. Unrepentant to the end, he died peacefully in Santiago, Chile, in May 14, 1984, of lung cancer, aged 77
Alois Brunner was deputy to Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Final Solution. Fled Germany in 1954, first to Egypt and then to Syria. Believed to have died there in 1992. Death never confirmed