|“||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.||„|
|~ Alois Brunner on his reasons for the killings|
Alois Brunner (April 8th, 1912 – 2001 or 2010) was an Austrian Schutzstaffel (SS) officer who worked as Adolf Eichmann's assistant. He joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1932. After joining the SS in 1938, he was assigned to the staff of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Austria and became its director in 1939. He worked closely with Eichmann on the Nisko Plan, a failed attempt to set up a Jewish reservation in Nisko, Poland, later that same year.
Born in Nádkút, Vas, Austria-Hungary (now Rohrbrunn, Burgenland, Austria), he was the son of Joseph Brunner and Ann Kruise. He joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1932. After joining the SS in 1938, he was assigned to the staff of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Austria and became its director in 1939. He worked closely with Adolf Eichmann on the Nisko Plan, a failed attempt to set up a Jewish reservation in Nisko, Poland, later that same year.
Brunner held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) when he organized deportations to Nazi concentration camps from Vichy France and Slovakia. He was commander of a train of Jews deported from Vienna to Riga in February 1942. One of the unwilling passengers of the train was Jewish financier Siegmund Bosel, who had been dragged out of a hospital in Vienna to be put on the train. En route, Brunner dragged Bosel out of the train and repeatedly accused him of being a profiteer before eventually shooting him dead. He was also commandant of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, from which nearly 24,000 people were deported.
Before being named commander of Drancy internment camp near Paris in June 1943, Brunner deported 43,000 Jews from Vienna and 46,000 from Salonika. He was personally sent by Eichmann in 1944 to Slovakia to oversee the deportation of Jews. In the last days of the Third Reich, he managed to deport another 13,500 from Slovakia to Theresienstadt, Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, and Stutthof of whom a few survived; the remainder, including all the children, were sent to Auschwitz, where none are known to have survived. According to some accounts, Brunner was responsible for the deportation of 129,000 people to death camps.
While serving as the commandant at Drancy, Brunner was remembered for his exceptional brutality. He personally conducted interrogations of new prisoners, and survivors of the camp have claimed that his office was covered in bloodstains and bullet holes. He instituted torture even for slight offences. As he was personally responsible to Eichmann, he circumvented the typical chain of command that included Helmut Knochen, the Chief of the SS in Paris, and Heinz Rothke, the Jewish Affairs expert of the German police. He introduced a rigid system of categorization to control the inmates using information about their race and ethnicity derived from the interrogations. He deliberately misled prisoners about the living standards of their destinations at the extermination camps in the General Government, including Auschwitz-Birkenau. Brunner also led round-ups of Jews in the Italian Military Administration of France when the Germans assumed control in 1943 following the Armistice of Cassibile, ended all legal exemptions preventing Jews from being deported by Vichy France, and extended the deportations to Jews of French nationality. He continued deportations and arrests even as the Allies and the Free French Forces advanced towards Paris.
After some narrow escapes from the Allies in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Brunner fled West Germany in 1954, first for Egypt, then Syria, where he remained until his death. He was the object of many manhunts and investigations over the years by different groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Klarsfelds and others. He was condemned to death in absentia in France in 1954 for crimes against humanity, and Interpol issued a red notice for him in 1987.
In 1961 and 1980, letter bombs were sent to Brunner while he was a resident in Syria. As a result of the letter bomb he received in 1961, he lost an eye, and in 1980, he lost the fingers on his left hand when the parcel blew up in his hands. The senders of the letter bombs were not known, but are believed to have been the Israeli government.
A 2018 article in Newsweek by journalist Ronen Bergman disclosed that the 1961 bomb was sent by Military Intelligence Unit 188, a branch of the Israel Defense Forces and was the first target of a new method of letter bomb that was developed for deployment against ex-Nazi scientists working for Gamal Abdel Nasser in developing missiles targeting Israel. The article, excerpted from Bergman's book Rise and Kill First, says that Brunner was located by Israeli spy Eli Cohen. According to information released by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, it was behind the 1980 bomb.
The government of Syria under Hafez al-Assad came close to extraditing him to East Germany before this plan was halted by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Brunner survived all the attempts to detain him and was unrepentant about his activities to the end. During his long residence in Syria, Brunner was reportedly granted asylum, a generous salary and protection by the ruling Ba'ath Party in exchange for his advice on effective torture and interrogation techniques used by the Germans in World War II. He also allegedly helped Bashar al-Assad in his plans to exterminate Syria's Jewish population.
Starting in the 1990s and continuing for two decades, there was periodic media speculation about Brunner's exact whereabouts and his possible demise. In November 2014, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported that Brunner had died in Syria in 2010, and that he was buried somewhere in Damascus. In 2017, a Syrian guard known only as "Omar" came forward and revealed that Brunner had in fact been confined to a basement for the last few years of his life without proper sanitation or the ability to leave, eventually dying in his confinement in 2010.