Team Hunts Aging Nazi Doctor In South America Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and his colleagues are searching Chile and Argentina for former Nazi doctor Aribert Heim. He's on the Center's list of targets in Operation Last Chance, an effort to track down alleged war criminals from the Holocaust before they die.
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Team Hunts Aging Nazi Doctor In South America

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Team Hunts Aging Nazi Doctor In South America

Team Hunts Aging Nazi Doctor In South America

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Sixty-three years after the fall of Nazi Germany, the hunt for its war criminals continues. And that effort has taken Nazi hunters to South America. That's where a Jewish human rights group hopes to track down a man named Aribert Heim, the doctor accused of murdering Jews during the Holocaust. If Heim is still alive, he is 94, and he's one of the accused war criminals that the Simon Wiesenthal Center wants to catch before they die. The man in charge of this hunt is Efraim Zuroff, who is on the line from - where are you, sir?

Mr. EFRAIM ZUROFF (Simon Wiesenthal Center): Santiago, Chile.

INSKEEP: And what evidence take you there?

Mr. ZUROFF: So far, all the evidence seems to indicate that Dr. Aribert Heim is hiding either in Chile or in Argentina.

INSKEEP: Has he been there since the end of the Second World War, as best you can determine?

Mr. ZUROFF: No. He's been in quite a few different places, like Egypt, Spain, Uruguay, as well as to Chile and Argentina.

INSKEEP: So this is a man who's known that he is being hunted all this time?

Mr. ZUROFF: That's correct. He's on the run since 1962. When the West German government was about to arrest him, to put him on trial for his crimes at the Mauthausen concentration camp, and he was able to escape before he was arrested.

INSKEEP: What, according to your evidence, did Dr. Heim do with that concentration camp during World War II?

MR. ZUROFF: Dr. Heim served in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria in the fall of 1941. And there, he injected phenol, which is a form of gasoline, directly into the hearts of hundreds of Jewish and non-Jewish inmates. He also tortured many inmates. And all of this has been fully documented by Heim himself, and there's no question as to his guilt.

INSKEEP: Did Jewish patients go to him, thinking that they would be treated for some illness, and instead he killed them?

Mr. ZUROFF: Well, use of the word patients is wrong here. We're talking about inmates in one of the worst Nazi concentration camps, Mauthausen. Perhaps some of those people went to him thinking that they might be healed, but in many cases, there was nothing wrong with the people that he murdered.

INSKEEP: So Dr. Heim was one person involved in the Holocaust according to your evidence. What makes it important to find him all these years later?

Mr. ZUROFF: I think it sends a very powerful message that people commit the genocide, war crimes against humanity, even if many years passed, there still will be a serious effort to hold those people accountable for their crimes.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the practicalities of that. Let's imagine that you find this man. You're not a police officer, we should say. You're part of a human rights organization. What do you do then?

Mr. ZUROFF: It's a good question. We can't arrest the people. But we're working in close contact with local police, and they certainly can arrest him.

INSKEEP: And what is the burden of evidence that you'll have to bring just to get him back to Germany for trial?

MR. ZUROFF: Well, the evidence is overwhelming. He fully documented all the medical procedures that he carried out in the Mauthausen concentration camp. As a matter of fact, Heim is the only Nazi in the world for whose capture a special taskforce was created in the German police. So believe me, if the Germans had any doubt as to his culpability, they wouldn't have gone to the trouble to set up a special taskforce to capture him.

INSKEEP: Who tipped you off that he might be in Chile?

Mr. ZUROFF: You don't expect me to answer that question, do you?

INSKEEP: I don't know. If there's a way that you can give me a hint, I'd be interested in how these investigations work.

Mr. ZUROFF: We have received some information since our arrival in Chile, that's number one. Number two, we are starting an ad campaign that will publicize the rather large reward for information leading to the capture and prosecution of Aribert Heim: 315,000 euros. And right now, the most important thing is to find him as quickly as possible so that there'll be a chance that he can actually be held accountable.

INSKEEP: You said as quickly as possible. Do you feel you're racing against the clock?

Mr. ZUROFF: Oh, undoubtedly. In our work, we have one eye on the clock all the time. This is not something that will be possible three or four years from now.

INSKEEP: Efraim Zuroff, thank you very much for taking the time.

Mr. ZUROFF: You're welcome.

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