CAIRO — Even in old age the imposingly tall, athletic German known to locals as Tarek Hussein Farid maintained the discipline to walk some 15 miles each day through the busy streets of Egypt’s capital. He walked to the world-renowned Al Azhar mosque here, where he converted to Islam, and to the ornate J. Groppi Cafe downtown, where he ordered the chocolate cakes he sent to friends and bought the bonbons he gave to their children, who called him Uncle Tarek.
Friends and acquaintances here in Egypt also remember him as an avid amateur photographer who almost always wore a camera around his neck, but never allowed himself to be photographed. And with good reason: Uncle Tarek was born Aribert Ferdinand Heim, a member of Hitler’s elite Waffen-SS and a medical doctor at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps.
It was behind the gray stone walls of Mauthausen, in his native Austria, that Dr. Heim committed the atrocities against hundreds of Jews and others that earned him the nickname Dr. Death and his status as the most wanted Nazi war criminal still believed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to be at large.
Dr. Heim was accused of performing operations on prisoners without anesthesia; removing organs from healthy inmates, then leaving them to die on the operating table; injecting poison, including gasoline, into the hearts of others; and taking the skull of at least one victim as a souvenir. After living below the radar of Nazi hunters for more than a decade after World War II — much of it in the German spa town of Baden-Baden where he had a wife, two sons and a medical practice as a gynecologist — he escaped capture just as investigators closed in on him in 1962.
His hiding place, as well as his death in 1992, have remained unknown until now.
Investigators in Israel and Germany have repeatedly said that they believed Dr. Heim was alive and hiding in Latin America, near where a woman alleged to be his illegitimate daughter lived in Chile. Witnesses from Finland to Vietnam and from Saudi Arabia to Argentina have sent tips and reported sightings to investigators.
A dusty briefcase with rusted buckles, sitting nearly forgotten in storage here in Cairo, hid the truth behind Dr. Heim’s flight to the Middle East. Obtained by The New York Times and the German television station ZDF from members of the Doma family, proprietors of the hotel here where Dr. Heim resided, the files in the briefcase tell the story of his life, and death, in Egypt.
The briefcase contains an archive of yellowed pages, some in envelopes that were still sealed, of Dr. Heim’s letters and medical test results, his financial records and an underlined, annotated article from a German magazine about his own manhunt and trial in absentia, even drawings of soldiers and trains by the children he left behind in Germany. Some documents are in the name Heim, others Farid, but many of the latter, like an application for Egyptian residency under the name Tarek Hussein Farid, have the same birthday, June 28, 1914, and the same place of birth, Radkersburg, Austria, as Dr. Heim.
Although none of the 10 friends and acquaintances in Cairo who identified a photograph of Dr. Heim knew his real identity, they described signs that he might have been on the run. “My idea, which I’ve taken from my father at that time, is that he was in dispute with maybe the Jews, but he took refuge in Cairo at that time,” said Tarek Abdelmoneim el Rifai, the son of Abdelmoneim el Rifai, 88, Dr. Heim’s dentist in Cairo and close friend.
A certified copy of a death certificate obtained from Egyptian authorities confirmed witness accounts that the man called Tarek Hussein Farid died in 1992. “Tarek Hussein Farid is the name my father took when he converted to Islam,” said his son Rüdiger Heim. In an interview in the family’s villa in Baden-Baden, Mr. Heim, 53, admitted publicly for the first time that he was with his father in Egypt at the time of his death from rectal cancer.(...)Despite the newly uncovered evidence of Dr. Heim’s time in Egypt, it is impossible to definitively close his case, with the location of his burial site still a mystery.
His death would be a significant but hitherto unknown milestone in the winding up of the passionate and at times controversial hunt for Nazi war criminals that led to the trial and execution of the Holocaust planner Adolf Eichmann but never managed to catch up with Josef Mengele, the most famous of the Nazi doctors, who died in Brazil in 1979, as forensic tests later proved.
While the secret lives of Nazis in countries like Argentina and Paraguay captured the popular imagination in books and films like “The Odessa File” and “The Boys From Brazil,” the Heim case casts light on the often overlooked history of their flight to the Middle East.
Until political winds shifted, ex-Nazis were welcomed in Egypt in the years after World War II, helping in particular with military technology. Rüdiger Heim said that his father told him he knew other Nazis there, but tried to steer clear of them.
Even so, how Dr. Heim was able to elude his pursuers for so long, while receiving money from Europe, most notably from his late sister, Herta Barth, and corresponding with friends and family in long letters, is unclear.“The Arab world was an even better, a safer haven than South America,” said Efraim Zuroff, the Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had been searching for Dr. Heim and traveled to Chile last July to raise awareness about the case. Mr. Zuroff expressed surprise when informed of Dr. Heim’s apparent fate, saying the center had been about to raise the reward for information leading to his arrest to $1.3 million from $400,000.
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Andrew Bostom points out on his blog that the Nazis slotted seamlessly into anti-Zionist careers in their adopted homeland of Egypt:
Heim converted to Islam (in his case, at the renowned Al Azhar mosque in Cairo), becoming “known to locals” as Tarek Hussein Farid—like scores of other Nazis, who found safe haven in Egypt, such as Johannes “Omar Amin” von Leers. Bat Ye’or has described this phenomenon, as follows ( here, pp.154-55):
…they lived under false names and worked in anti-Zionist propaganda centers, such as the Institute for the Study of Zionism, which was founded in Cairo, in 1955. Its director, Alfred Zingler (alias Mahmoud Saleh), worked together with Dr. Johannes von Leers (d. 1965, alias Omar Amin), who had been a specialist on the “Jewish Question” in Josef Goebbels’ propaganda department. Zingler’s main assistants were Dr. Werner Witschale and Hans Appler (Saleh Shafar), who had also served on the staff of Goebbels’ ministry, as well as Louis Heiden. Heiden was the editor of one of the many Arabic versions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and of a translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf into Arabic. In 1955, the Cairo Egyptian special services for anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist propaganda hired Appler.
Other Nazis settled in Egypt as well. Most of them worked with the Egyptian government as advisers on anti-Zionist propaganda or assisted with the organization of police forces or as military trainers in Palestinian terrorist camps. In 1957, according to Frankfurter Illustrierte [August 25, 1957], the number of Nazis in Egypt was two thousand. [emphasis added] Erich Altern (Ali Bella), the chief of the Jewish section of the Gestapo in occupied Galicia [Eastern Central Europe, between Poland and Ukraine] during the war, escaped to Egypt in the early 1950s, where he served as a military instructor in the Palestinian camps. [Standartenfuhrer (an SS regiment leader)] Baumann (Ali Ben Khader), who had collaborated in the extermination of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and went into hiding, became a military specialist in Egypt for the army of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The pervasive impact of this ugly mentality is perhaps best illustrated by then Colonel Anwar El-Sadat’s 1953 “Letter to Hitler”. When, in September, 1953 several news agency reports were circulated claiming that Hitler was still alive, the Cairo weekly Al Musawwar, posed this question to a number of Egyptian personalities, including Sadat: “If you wished to send Hitler a personal letter, what would you write to him?”
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