The trail of Doctor Death leads Nazi-hunters to Spain

madrid | Spanish police may have identified the area that the Nazi war criminal known as “Doctor Death” has been hiding.

Aribert Heim, 91, whose cruel experiments killed hundreds of prisoners during World War II, has long been at the top of Germany’s list of most-wanted Nazis.

“We haven’t detained anyone with that name,” said Joan Lopez, a police spokesman in the northeastern province of Girona. “All we know is that he may have been in the area of Palafrugell recently.”

The Spanish police said last week they had not found Heim during searches after receiving indications he was located in Girona. There have been several leads indicating that Heim is on the Iberian Peninsula, including the transfer of large sums of money from his family in Germany to locations in Spain, according to Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.

“Spain has been famous for harboring Nazi war criminals. For the first time they’re making a serious effort to find one,” Zuroff said. He added that, “When governments make serious efforts to find Nazis, they usually find them.”

Zuroff noted that the real force behind the efforts to find Heim is Germany, which is offering hundreds of thousands of dollars for his capture. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has added a significant amount of money as part of its “Operation: Last Chance.”

Heim has been at large since he was charged by German authorities in 1962 with killing hundreds of concentration camp inmates in Germany and Austria with lethal injections.

Since then Heim has evaded capture in Germany, Argentina, Denmark, Brazil and Spain. During the war, Heim earned his nickname of “Doctor Death” for torturing inmates at the Buchenwald and Mauthausen camps. He would perform surgery without anesthesia and inject prisoners with gasoline and other poisons to see how much they could withstand before dying.

Spanish investigators believe a relative of Heim’s has transferred large sums of money to an acquaintance in Spain over the past five years and are looking into the possibility that at least some of it may have been used to support Heim, Der Spiegel reported.

The magazine said Spain was suspected as his possible hiding place as long ago as the mid-1980s, and there have been increasing indications over recent weeks that he may have lived somewhere near Denia on the Mediterranean coast until recently.

After the war, Heim worked as a doctor in southern Germany until he was indicted.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center earlier this year asked Austria to find a way to strip Heim of his academic title of doctor that he received in 1940 from the University of Vienna. Heim was never allowed to practice medicine in Austria because he did not finish his medical training in that country.