2 – Alois Brunner
While Adolf Eichmann was at least brought to justice, the same could not be said for Alois Brunner. He represents arguably the biggest failure of the Nazi hunters, surviving long after the end of the war and dying a free man. Brunner interacted closely with Eichmann during the build up to the Holocaust – they were both working at the the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Vienna – eventually succeeding him as head in 1939. He was responsible for the deportations of thousands upon thousands of Jews to the concentration camps of Eastern Europe, particularly from Austria, Greece and later France.
By 1943, Alois Brunner was the commandant of Drancy internment camp, a facility just outside Paris that was used to centralize Jews from Vichy Regime France before they were sent to the gas chambers in the East. While the camp had previously been run by local French police, Brunner’s arrival began an acceleration of deportations. He was famed for his brutality, with tales of him personally executing Jews and ordering revenge killings after French resistance attacks widely known.
In 1944, Brunner was sent from France to Slovakia on the personal order of Adolf Eichmann with the task of deporting the entire Jewish population of the country. Thousands were sent to Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and the ghetto-city of Theresienstadt, where very few survived.
As the war became increasingly unwinnable for the Germans, it became clear that leading Nazis would have to go to ground to survive. Alois Brunner was lucky: he was confused for a similarly named Nazi – Anton Brunner – and managed to evade capture by Allied forces. His namesake was less fortunate and was executed for war crimes. Alois’ luck would continue, as he lacked the SS tattoo that marked out ex-members for the Nazi hunters. He managed to avoid justice and remain in Germany until as late as 1954. During this postwar period, he claimed to have been worked by the Gehlen Organization, an American-lead intelligence agencies that controversially used former Nazis to undermine the Soviet Bloc during the early days of the Cold War.
Brunner finally left Germany for the Middle East under a Red Cross passport. After a short period in Egypt, he emerged in Syria, where he would live the rest of his life in relative comfort. Brunner spoke openly to the press about his former life as a leading functionary of the Holocaust – appearing in interviews with German and American press – and showed little remorse. Speaking to the Chicago Sun Times in 1987, he said “All of [the Jews] deserved to die because they were the Devil’s agents and human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again.”
Periodically there would be calls to extradite him, particularly from the East German state, but the collapse of communism would ensure that Brunner continued to live freely in Syria. Sightings of him were relatively common and his address was known – he was twice injured by letter bombs – but efforts to bring Brunner to justice failed. His death was confirmed in 2014 and dated to 2010. He was the highest ranking Nazi never to have been captured.