published 31/05/1991 by A. M. Rosenthal
"Among Third Reich criminals still alive, Alois Brunner is undoubtedly the worst. In my eyes, he was the worst ever."
The judgment is from Simon Weisenthal, who spent much of his life tracking down Nazi criminals, including Adolf Eichmann.
"While Adolf Eichmann drew up the general staff plan for the extermination of the Jews, Alois Brunner implemented it," Mr. Weisenthal writes in his memoirs.
Eichmann was tracked to Argentina, captured, tried and hanged. Alois Brunner lives -- in Damascus, where for about 30 years he has prospered -- in international commerce, arms trading and police and intelligence work for the Government of Syria.
For much of that time he has lived under the name of Georg Fisher at 7 Rue Haddad, where foreigners have spoken with him and occasionally photographed him. In the past few years he even sat for a couple of interviews, in which he talked of his service to the Third Reich.
As Eichmann's partner he traveled widely in Europe, drawing up lists, setting traps, paying informers to turn in incinerator material, even getting victims to turn in other victims, arranging transport, making sure camps and furnaces were ready, and so on.
A conservative estimate is that during those years he brought his killings to 130,000. In Damascus, he calls the people he killed human garbage, apparently secure that one of them will not turn out to be God.
The Government of Hafez al-Assad dismisses extradition warrants from France, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany and the occasional reminders from the U.S. and Britain, always delivered quietly and privately.
The Syrians respond with bored aloofness. Brunner, Fisher, we know neither. They are sure the nations will never take action against them -- not the Western nations courting Damascus as partner and arms customer, not the Soviet Union, still an ally, and certainly not their Arab neighbors -- the very idea is comical, isn't it?
In Congress, a resolution demanding extradition has been introduced by Representative Michael R. McNulty, Democrat of New York, which honors him and his constituency. Maybe someday it will be passed.
Syria will no doubt ignore it. But there are things that can be done that Mr. Assad might not be able to ignore. Perhaps a Western trade boycott until Syria surrenders its guest might catch the attention of Damascus.
Yes, I know that is ridiculous to talk about. Give up business to catch one Nazi Jew-killer?
But how about things that do not cost money and so might be more practical? Such as, the Western nations at least denouncing Syria before the United Nations. Or maybe one of those international associations of lawyers and jurists might organize a public hearing to accuse Hafez al-Assad of being an accessory after the fact, so many facts?
How about a President of the United States saying in public how he feels about our coalition partner harboring the world's most wanted criminal and spitting in our face when we presume to inquire?
I suppose that is a ridiculous idea too. After all, the West and its Arab allies are busy with Mr. Assad on a far more important matter. They are doing for him precisely the same thing they did for his neighbor, Saddam Hussein: arming him, ignoring his transgressions, such as slaughter of his fellow citizens, saying now here is a fellow we can deal with, and making a few dollars in the arms trade to boot.
Of course, we were a bit tougher with Saddam Hussein. Washington got angry when he went one step too far and swallowed Kuwait.
Who gives a damn that the Syrian has taken over Lebanon? The U.S. is so eagerly tilting again, this time toward Damascus, that it regards the Syrian takeover as almost a gift for the Lebanese.
One day Syria will mount a threat that will not be as easy to ignore. Then Washington will say that it was caught by surprise, how could we have guessed?
But that's some time away. So why bring up Alois Brunner, when he is practically forgotten? After all, almost nobody thinks about his murders anymore, or the murdered, or about what his safe rat hole in Damascus shows about Syria. Nobody screams, except maybe the dead.
published 31/05/1991 by A. M. Rosenthal