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Are there Nazi war criminals still at large?


Doctor Death
Prisoners at Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany in April 1945, just after the camp was liberated by the army of General George S. Patton. 
Prisoners at Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany in April 1945, just after the camp was liberated by the army of General George S. Patton. 
Eric Schwab/AFP/Getty Images

If caught, the low-level Nazis believed to still be alive won't face individual charges­ as their superiors did. Still, they would be eligible to face charges for crimes against­ humanity for their role as guards or officials at the concentration camps the Nazis maintained during World War II. At least one person alive will face a list of specific charges if he can be found, however. This man is the most prized of all those the Simon Wiesenthal Center seeks.

Aribert Heim, an Austrian-born medic who served as a doctor at concentration camps during the war, has a bounty of $448,000 on his head. Heim, who's now 93 (if he's still alive), earned the grim nickname "Doctor Death" for experiments he carried out at the camps at Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Mauthausen. It was here that he performed unnecessary surgery, such as amputations, on prisoners without anesthesia. Camp survivors say Heim was fond of watching inmates into whose hearts he injected gasoline, water or poison to see how long it would take them to die. The flesh of the head of one man who endured such an injection was later boiled off and his skull used a paperweight. As a gift for a camp commandant, Heim is reported to have fashioned seat coverings out of the skin of inmates. In all, Heim is believed to have personally murdered around 300 people.

Heim was arrested once, shortly after World War II. He was released, however, and actually practiced medicine in Germany for a time. When his name came up again and again in interviews with Holocaust survivors, though, a warrant was filled out for his arrest. He escaped the day before police showed up at his door in 1962 [source: Reuters]. Aribert Heim once again came close to capture in 2005. Police scoured Spain for him after a report from an Israeli man who said he'd met a person who looked like Heim in Ibiza, off the coast of Spain. Authorities have now focused their sights on San Carlos de Bariloche, a ski resort town in Argentina.

A 2007 memoir by Israeli commando Danny Baz recounts a story of his own participation in the capture and murder of Heim in 1982. But in 2009, the New York Times reported the discovery of a briefcase in Cairo that contained documents suggesting that Heim had lived in Egypt under the name Tarek Hussein Farid and died there in 1992. However, the Wiesenthal Center still believes that Aribert Heim is alive today. It dismisses a report by his family that he died in 1993 of cancer. The investigators have good reason to continue searching for Heim.

A bank account in his name containing more than $1 million could be claimed by his family if he is, in fact, dead. His heirs have made no such claim on the money. His son set up a phone line in Heim's name in Denmark in 2005, where the doctor is believed to have fled after his near capture in Spain [source: Fuchs]. In 2001, a family lawyer filed a request for a tax refund in Germany for Heim, claiming the man was living abroad at the time [source: Carroll, Goni]. And his daughter from his first marriage lives just across the border from San Carlos de Bariloche, in Chile.

All of the evidence of Heim's continued existence is circumstantial, yet it's enough for those at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. They will continue to hunt Heim and other Nazis during Operation Last Chance, without pity and regardless of what age these men may now be. "The passage of time in no way diminishes the crimes committed," Zuroff says [source: Wiesenthal Center].

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