Dr. Death discovery puts focus on Egypts past ties to Nazis

cairo  |  Nazi hunters urged Egypt last week to come clean about how much it knew about a fugitive dubbed “Dr. Death,” who reportedly lived here for decades until he died in 1992. But Egypt has long kept a strict silence about former Nazis reported to have taken refuge on its soil.


Aribet Heim

The discovery of Aribert Heim’s secret life throws light on how the Arab world took in members of the Nazi regime after World War II, said Efraim Zuroff, head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The region’s role as a haven has gone little examined while researchers focused on the larger, better known influx of Nazis to Latin America.


A number of Nazis are believed to have been welcomed in the 1950s by the Egyptian regime of then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who was locked in an intense rivalry with Israel that erupted into wars in 1956 and 1967. Nasser enlisted some Nazis to train Egypt’s military or produce anti-Israel propaganda — and Israel feared they were involved in building a rocket program.

So far there is no indication that the Austrian-born Heim, a former concentration camp doctor accused of carrying out gruesome, deadly experiments on Jewish prisoners, played any role with the Egyptian government.

Instead, it appears he lived a quiet life in downtown Cairo starting in the early 1960s. The only hint of his past — besides a constant refusal to be photographed — was the personal “research” that he wrote purporting to prove that the Jews of Israel are not true Semites, according to the son of Heim’s dentist, who saw the paper.

The Egyptian government has been silent since Heim’s presence in Egypt was first reported by the New York Times and Germany’s ZPF television last week. Government officials and several former Nasser-era officials approached by the Associated Press refused to comment on any aspect of the reports.

One current security official said that if Heim was in Egypt, he was let in under a previous government. The official said nothing more, except that Egypt would look into the reports.

The silence reflects a reluctance to acknowledge an era that is potentially embarrassing now, three decades after Egypt’s peace accords with Israel.

German investigators say they want to search in Egypt for definitive proof of Heim’s death and are preparing a request to Egypt for permission.