Concentration camp doctor heads list of top 10 wanted Nazis By DAVID RISING, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 1 minute ago
BADEN-BADEN, Germany - Karl Lotter, a prisoner who worked in the hospital at Mauthausen concentration camp, had no trouble remembering the first time he watched SS doctor Aribert Heim kill a man.
It was 1941, and an 18-year-old Jew had been sent to the clinic with a foot inflammation. Heim asked him about himself and why he was he so fit. The young man said he had been a soccer player and swimmer.
Then, instead of treating the prisoner's foot, Heim anesthetized him, cut him open, castrated him, took apart one kidney and removed the second, Lotter said. The victim's head was removed and the flesh boiled off so that Heim could keep it on display.
"He needed the head because of its perfect teeth," Lotter, a non-Jewish political prisoner, recalled in testimony eight years later that was included in an Austrian warrant for Heim's arrest uncovered by The Associated Press. "Of all the camp doctors in Mauthausen, Dr. Heim was the most horrible."
But Heim managed to avoid prosecution, his American-held file in Germany mysteriously omitting his time at Mauthausen, and today he is the most-wanted suspected Nazi war criminal on a list of hundreds who the Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates are still free.
Heim would be 93 today and "we have good reason to believe he is still alive," said Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's top Nazi hunter. He spoke in a telephone interview from Jerusalem ahead of the center's plans to release a most-wanted list Wednesday, and to open a media campaign in South America this summer highlighting the $485,000 reward for Heim's arrest posted by the center along with Germany and Austria.
According to an advance copy of the list obtained by the AP, the most wanted, after Heim, are: John Demjanjuk, fighting deportation from the U.S., which says he was a guard at several death and forced labor camps; Sandor Kepiro, a Hungarian accused of involvement in the wartime killings of than 1,000 civilians in Serbia; Milivoj Asner, a wartime Croatian police chief now living in Austria and suspected of an active role in deporting hundreds of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies to their death; and Soeren Kam, a former member of the SS wanted by Denmark for the assassination of a journalist in 1943. His extradition from Germany was blocked in 2007 by a Bavarian court that found insufficient evidence for murder charges.
The hunt for Heim has taken investigators from the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg all around the world. Besides his home country of Austria and neighboring Germany where he settled after the war, tips have come from Uruguay in 1998, Spain, Switzerland and Chile in 2005, and Brazil in 2006, said Heinz Heister, presiding judge of the Baden-Baden state court, where Heim was indicted in absentia on hundreds of counts of murder in 1979.
Thousands of German war criminals were prosecuted in West Germany after World War II. In the 1970s Western democracies began a hunt in earnest for Eastern European collaborators who had fled West claiming to be refugees from communism, and the end of the Cold War gave access to a trove of communist files in the 1990s.
"All of a sudden there was pressure on countries like Latvia and Estonia to put these people on trial," Zuroff said. "So two times in the past 30 years we've been given a tremendous infusion of new energy and new possibilities."
The Wiesenthal Center's previous annual survey counted 1,019 investigations under way worldwide. The number is lower this year and inexact because not all countries responded, but new investigations were up from 63 to 202, Zuroff said.
Still, a lack of political will in many countries, and what Zuroff called the "misplaced-sympathy syndrome" — reluctance to pursue aging suspects — has meant that few people have been brought to trial and convicted.
Lotter, the witness to Heim's atrocity, was in Mauthausen because he fought with the communists in the Spanish Civil War. His statement from the 1950 arrest warrant was viewed by the AP at the National Archives in College Park, Md.
Now that the necessary evidence is in place, numerous witness statements have been taken and Heim has been indicted, all that's left is to find him.
Born June 28, 1914 in Radkersburg, Austria, Heim joined the local Nazi party in 1935, three years before Austria was bloodlessly annexed by Germany.
He later joined the Waffen SS and was assigned to Mauthausen, a concentration camp near Linz, Austria, as a camp doctor in October and November 1941.
While there, witnesses told investigators, he worked closely with SS pharmacist Erich Wasicky on such gruesome experiments as injecting various solutions into Jewish prisoners' hearts to see which killed them the fastest.
But while Wasicky was brought to trial by an American Military Tribunal in 1946 and sentenced to death, along with other camp medical personnel and commanders, Heim, who was a POW in American custody, was not among them.
Heim's file in the Berlin Document Center, the then-U.S.-run depot for Nazi-era papers, was apparently altered to obliterate any mention of Mauthausen, according to his 1979 German indictment, obtained by the AP. Instead, for the period he was known to be at the concentration camp, he was listed as having a different SS assignment.
This "cannot be correct," the indictment says. "It is possible that through data manipulation the short assignment at the same time to the (concentration camp) was concealed."
There is no indication who might have been responsible.
The U.S. Army Intelligence file on Heim could shed light on his wartime and postwar activities, and is among hundreds of thousands transferred to the U.S. National Archives. But the Army's electronic format is such that staff have so far only been able to access about half of them, and these don't include the file requested by the AP.
Heim was relatively well-known, however, having been a national hockey player in Austria before the war, and there were plenty of witnesses from his time at Mauthausen.
Austrian authorities sent the 1950 arrest warrant to American authorities in Germany who initially agreed to turn him over, then told the Austrians, in a Dec. 21, 1950 letter obtained by the AP, that they couldn't trace him.
What happened next is unclear, but in 1958 Heim apparently felt comfortable enough to buy a 42-unit apartment block in Berlin, listing it in his own name with a home address in Mannheim, according to purchase documents obtained by the AP. He then moved to the nearby resort town of Baden-Baden and opened a gynecological clinic — also under his own name, Heister said.
In 1961 German authorities were alerted and began an investigation, but when they finally went to arrest him in September 1962, they just missed him — he apparently had been tipped off.
Heim continued to live off the rents collected from the Berlin apartments until 1979 when the building was confiscated by German authorities.
Proof that he is alive may lie in the fact that no one has claimed his estate. Heim has two sons in Germany and a daughter who lived in Chile but whose current whereabouts are unknown.
In Frankfurt, Heim's lawyer said he still officially represents the fugitive, but has not heard from him for 20 years and has "no clue" to his whereabouts.
Asked in a telephone interview if Heim was dead, Fritz Steinacker said only: "I don't know."
Ruediger Heim, one of the sons, would not comment when telephoned at his Baden-Baden villa.
"All I can say is that it has been implied that I am in contact with my father, and that is absolutely false," he said. "The rest is speculation, and I can't enter into that."
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Given his background, Lotter hardly appears an unbiassed witness, nor does his story, redolent of Jack the Ripper, sound credible. It should be noted to that at the time Lotter's statement was made, and the Austrian warrant for Heim's arrest made, 1950, Austria was still partly under Soviet occupation; depending on which Austrian authority issued the warrant, there is the possibility of a political motive for the story told by Lotter.Lotter, the witness to Heim's atrocity, was in Mauthausen because he fought with the communists in the Spanish Civil War. His statement from the 1950 arrest warrant was viewed by the AP at the National Archives in College Park, Md.
There is certainly a case known of a doctor killing prisoners and boiling down their bodies to obtain their skeletons for his collection. But he had asked Himmler for permission to do so, and to have the prisoners made available to him; it is precisely from his correspondence with Himmler that the case is known.
Camp doctors were simply not permitted to kill prisoners on a whim and cut up their bodies for their own purposes. They had to have permission from Himmler, and anything they did to prisoners had to be part of an approved research programme.
On the other hand, the accounts of Heim experimenting with different cardiac injections to test their lethality is prima facie credible, since such injections were an attested method of "euthanasing" sick prisoners.
On the other hand, there appears to be some doubt as to whether Heim was ever in Mauthausen. The records appear to show that at the time certain witnesses claim to have seen him in that camp, he was actually assigned elsewhere. Since Heim appears to have been a well-known personality before the war, it may be that false claims were made about him, possibly for political purposes, at the instigation of the Soviet occupation authorities or their Austrian puppets. The claim that the official German record of his wartime assignments has been mysteriously altered by a person or persons unknown seems somewhat far-fetched.
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(a) There are very few unbiased witnesses in concentration camp cases.Given his background, Lotter hardly appears an unbiassed witness, nor does his story, redolent of Jack the Ripper, sound credible.
(b) Most of the western world reacted with disbelief when the stories of concentration camp horrors first appeared. Notwithstanding the initial disbelief, a substantial number of the stories turned out to be true. Subjective disbelief, without more, doesn't discredit the story, any more than subjective belief establishes that the story is true.
This is true in theory, but in practice, the concentration camp administrators were largely unsupervised. That prisoners were murdered on the whim of these admistrators is well-established by both inmate testimony and the SS corruption investigations of Dr. jur. Konrad Morgen.Camp doctors were simply not permitted to kill prisoners on a whim and cut up their bodies for their own purposes. They had to have permission from Himmler, and anything they did to prisoners had to be part of an approved research programme.
According to the article, the German authorities who drafted the indictment against Dr. Heim in 1979 stated:The claim that the official German record of his wartime assignments has been mysteriously altered by a person or persons unknown seems somewhat far-fetched.
If you browse through French McLean's book The Camp Men, which contains a large number of biographical sketches of concentration camp officers, you can find more examples of administrators whose concentration camp service was an established fact, yet their personnel files contained no mention of it."It is possible that through data manipulation the short assignment at the same time to the (concentration camp) was concealed."
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However, it is possible that while posted to Vienna he made a visit or a series of visits to Mauthausen toward the end of 1941, and that his presence was noted due to his pre-war high profile as a hockey-player.
One likely scenario is that he visited the camp to train medical orderlies in the administration of lethal cardiac injections. It is a documented fact that, when the Euthanasia program was extended to the concentration camps under Aktion 14f13, doctors connected with the program visited the camps for the purpose of selecting sick prisoners for transport to the Euthanasia centres. Heim may well have been such a doctor; this scenario would certainly tally with inmate accounts of his administering lethal injections using different substances.
However, some of the other tales should, I think, be dismissed as "lurid embellishment" in the absence of hard evidence that Heim was involved in an approved research program entailing the collection of skeletal material or other anatomical specimens. Such "lurid embellishment" by camp inmates was a very common occurrence at the end of the war, where real occurrences such as the collection of anatomical specimens from deceased prisoners for research purposes were given a sensational explanation, such as the manufacture of furniture from human bones, or of lamp-shades from human skin.
I tried searching for background material on Aribert Heim, but all I could find were media reports such as the one quoted in the initial post on this thread. It would seem that not much has been written about him.
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28 June 1914, born the son of a Gendarmeriebezirksinpektor in Radkersburg, Austria
studied medicine at Graz University
NSDAP and SA from 1935 (illegal then in Austria)
1 Oct 1938, SS
Jan 1940, obtained his medical appointment (ärztliche Bestallung)
Apr 1940, joined Waffen-SS
10 April 1941, taken into the Inspekteur der Konzentrationslager (IKL)
June/July 1941, became a camp doctor at KL Buchenwald
"His activities in Mauthausen are not noted in his Personalakte" (i.e. his SS-Officer file) but his presence in the camp is noted "im Mauthausener Operationsbuch lediglich eine Tätigkeit für Oktober/November 1941. Weiterhin, ist er 1941/42 im Lager"; the Operation-Book can be inspected at "Archiv Mauthausen (Innenministerium Wien)", reference H 12/2.
winter 1941/1942 Heim played for the Vienna ice hockey club "Engelmann"; a witness, Sanitäts-Scharführer Kleingünther at KL Mauthausen, mentioned that Heim often left Mauthausen for Vienna when competitions for prizes were being played;
Revierschreiber Kohl, KL Mauthausen, stated that he witnessed Heim giving lethal injections into the heart of "hundreds of Jews"
1947/1948, Heim played in the ice hockey season at Nauheim while working as "assistentarzt im Bürgerhospital in Friedberg"
1949, Heim began living in Mannheim
1954, to Baden-Baden where he opened a medical practice for women's health and pregnant women
1958, in Berlin
1962, arrested in Berlin on euthanasia charges but disappeared and sold his home
1979, a Berlin court fined him "in absentia" 510,000DM
source: Ernst Klee, "Auschwitz, die NS-Medizin und ihre Opfer", Fischer paperback, 2001, pp 37-39
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