Nazi Criminal Who Went Into HidingThe Secret Service Files on Alois Brunner

First he helped organize the Holocaust, later he lived a happy life in exile. We publish files of the German Secret Service which show how early the German state knew about the whereabouts of the war criminal.

Alois Brunner –

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Alois Brunner is considered a Nazi perpetrator by conviction. He commanded SS special commandos, was Adolf Eichmann's deputy and in this role was instrumental in the industrial extermination of millions of people. Unlike Eichmann, who was sentenced to death in Israel in 1962 as an organizer of the Holocaust, Brunner never had to answer for his actions before a court. He lived in Germany under a false name until 1954, then fled abroad and is believed to have died in Damascus around 2001.

A file of around 400 pages from the German Internal Secret Service (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), which we are publishing, shows that German intelligence services had known for decades where Brunner had gone into hiding, what he was doing there and who had supported him in his escape. The file was released after a request under the Federal Archives Act.

A file that was not supposed to become public

The intelligence files on Alois Brunner are themselves a political issue. In 2020, the Bild newspaper already reported on contents of the documents. Before that, the tabloid had to fight in court for more than eight years to be allowed to see the file. The legal dispute led all the way to the Federal Administrative Court.

The then president of the secret service, Hans-Georg Maaßen, said before the ruling that he would "ensure that the Federal Archives Act is amended" if the Brunner files had to be released. That is what happened later.

Only 129 pages, dating from 1984 to 1991, were released by the secret service to the Bild newspaper after the verdict. Older files had been destroyed due to deletion deadlines. A short time later, however, the BfV surprisingly released further documents on Brunner, which had "suddenly appeared" and dated back to 1960. We are now publishing the entire 396-page file that has been released so far.

What the secret service knew about Brunner

The documents show that as early as 1960, indications of the war criminal's whereabouts and cover identity were known to the German secret service.

Brunner is said to have been involved in arms deals with German right-wing extremists in Damascus. Among others, he was in contact with Otto Ernst Remer, a former Wehrmacht officer who became a well-connected player in the far-right scene in the postwar period.

A letter from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to the Frankfurt Prosecutor General's Office, which was investigating Brunner at the time, also shows that there had been "further findings about an activity of Brunner in Damascus" as early as 1960, but that these were under source protection.

But although German authorities knew where Brunner was shortly after he fled, the German government did not submit an extradition request to Syria until 1984. In that year, the intelligence service documented that Brunner was living in Damascus under the pseudonym Georg Fischer. A handwritten note adds, "In order to prevent a broader dissemination of the report," only a single department was to be informed.

As the source further reports in the note, "Georg" also comes into contact with employees of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution due to an alleged activity for the Syrian secret service. He was always "up to date" in terms of intelligence, he said.

Prominent escape helpers

The parts of the files from the 1960s also show absurd details of how Nazi criminals on the run were dealt with at the time - and how well they were networked into the highest circles in the postwar period. Even back then, there were indications that Rudolf Vogel, then a CDU member of the Bundestag, had provided financial help to escape for Nazi criminal Brunner. In an interrogation by the secret service, the politician at least admitted, according to the minutes in the files, to having contributed money to support Brunner's wife. However, he denied actively helping Alois Brunner to escape. It was not until 2017 that Der Spiegel finally reported on the politician's escape assistance on the basis of further archive documents. By then, both Vogel and Brunner had been dead for years. Both remained untouched until the end.

Former SS Hauptsturmführer and Reich student leader Georg Fischer, who provided his identity for Brunner's escape and under whose name Brunner is said to have lived until his death, had a "large circle of acquaintances and good relations with influential people" in Bonn, the federal capital at the time - for example, in the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Office.

First BND chief Reinhard Gehlen

To this day, Alois Brunner's most important escape helper is believed to be a man who was at the head of another intelligence service at the time: Reinhard Gehlen was the first president of the Federal Intelligence Service until 1968. A former major general in the Wehrmacht, he set about building up an intelligence service after World War II with financial support from the United States. In 1956, this "Gehlen Organization" was absorbed into the BND. However, there is no obvious evidence in the files that the former intelligence chief Gehlen facilitated the escape of the war criminal Brunner. The BND itself destroyed a 581-page file on Brunner in the 1990s.

We are now also publishing documents from the U.S. intelligence service FBI on ex-BND chief Gehlen. We obtained the files on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the USA. They consist of 76 pages created between 1956 and 1972 and were formerly classified as secret or confidential. They essentially cover several U.S. visits by Gehlen, during which he attended conferences, some of which were secret, visited the FBI, or traveled after his term for a reading of his memoirs.

There is nothing about Brunner's connection to Gehlen in the FBI documents either. However, these pages provide a glimpse into the tangled web of intelligence work during the Cold War. In a memo on the occasion of a visit by Gehlen to FBI headquarters, several individuals are cited as allegedly being involved in espionage activities. According to the memo, the BND allegedly received information that Karl-Heinrich Kappstein, then German ambassador to the U.S., had passed on diplomatic information in exchange for payment. This knowledge had then reached the East German Stasi via two intermediaries. Gehlen had also stated that this could be a case of double espionage conducted by the Soviet secret service.

All this was "top secret," Gehlen emphasized. Neither other foreign intelligence services nor any other German agency outside the BND had access to this information - until now.

The BfV file on Alois Brunner

The FBI file on Reinhard Gehlen

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                                    "J_..;:,~ .,II l-1; f- ~I 1,t,,I 0,n:/uJJer,.:. . .

         Lia t e ge                                 h
         k        a
         ei                                      erb      te                                                       n
         eu P                                    Hft      tn
         l1ch                                    it h     n
                                                                               en .
     Oe ·---:~"T             urd         a d a           taat      t   i                   ün~!.~ n (a f       n
     Ant                     n r.;---- -   erl         S.PDe    entzog                     b .: ... rch luc:ht n
     Syrien er '             h             r n e e    ort J?.it en u l                     r. 10n Herrn r
                anabrUck di               • Um nu.n otivc rar &eine P                      cnt   au
                                          e P llachirmjäge       f    r                    -     n;
                e er, er we               uta chl ond     ob     e    t                    e     r
                epol i:ci ge       • Andern       r    r    ~V                             r     r
             ot ek und dem Archiv      bayer     en    d   _A e     nt
               J o et St         bl      bele    en    ta!~~l1cb hat s
             lf18en 1n           n    ne beaitz. Er &1~. vor,     e fU
            ti t zu ha   .,      r    1g    onat    ng ~~aa t ur beim
          ralanzeiger in ue~tlitlß    ewcaen 1st.

   SJaetn h t ährend der Direktorenzeit be1 :.~r ThaamecQ Veru.ntre Ullße~ in
  Höhe von run 9o 000 ,--                begangen. AnJ N 6 over.:b r         rde er in einem
  BUro in D u: ku v n er y r i chen Po11~~~ v rna:rt t . nd z                          auf "'rund
  e in      w atdeutechen Ausl eterun~ ant 1a~r , beon tr                   on der Obereteat -
    n~altac att in Uneben eg n der [r~~: t betr ereie n in 48 p·11cn . Spae th
  w r de jeaoch &Cl nachaten ag :iu.!. .:3e1 :-i: i ben ey! ach r „reise 1 der ent ae-
  een. Si "v erbürgte ,n eich af r , 1.:s.d Spaeth aus " polit 1 eher. rUnden
    i e Bu.n e re publik verla en l ul c •.na da                   ri••                        11
                                                                     die kr minellen ~r ...n lacen
   ea Au lieferu oon~ra8e "geJ. 1.t. nt " oe_en • .J s gt: c1 ah , n chder. eich
  S aeth verpflichte t he t te , aus J " .lnea ech 1zer 1 t • 1n ~1le I eh enaen Be-
      ·ge bei der rhareeca wieder b~ezug~eich~n! Auf er                      Art wird d1e ~bez -
        t hoben   tect...11 t. 1n tinc.;her :,i mu s I.! 1 t
           anY.el konnen                                     ... ei:. At.          an t      :C.r-

                ,ertunö Je         e                                 -t,r1.a.r: r u.U:: nader:acher tllnZLl-

                 ' die     1 1                                 • .::;F. ct       t f. on 'illQlldent fü r
 da                                                                       fo          on en~ vcrdanAt er , ~1
    il                                                                       ... hri ftle_~ r
 Ho                                                                                                  nr.enbe1 •
Axtmti          , Lr
' ll6bt ,          n;
kes e           enren                  ~t , u ü     er
  8.JS        Axt :ann                 er. n er, ter.


 Blatt   5/           0
 libvl.richten .i..enstli . e Arb~1t in ~j'l'lf'
                                                                  ld erk ~.t u::-•e , w.irde ge~~n
 11--::-. ~in .. ftb !eh ... t I l.Je~en. Er '? .til'. ,       ..,-.,eh und ei;in r _h 1 1/?- jtihri~e r
 - t i ~1t, 11 ~ _f ~vhen~A 1n nc~t-~· f i n An Z i e r t e , nq~h
 ... 1t .... lan1.1 zur 1.:K • .:<.;., 1-: "ichte •.i: , 'IH.:.ll der- Vor_a:113 .:; ... 2 b, •:irn,..~E'
      .. 1   ~.,1 r...        "UlJ :=,• . Alt; 1~4 ... c.. 0 .Kit: befrac,~e , ier1~t er i n V-e::-le~i:>r,
                             .. r   ~   q .



         An   4••
         Bundesamt tUr Ver!aeaungaacb~tc
         - .ibt. II A -
         z.Hd. d•• Herrn Präaidenten -o.v.1 • .1.-

         Bet.r.1    lh•••   SD-lUhrer.4.loia BiUIBD

                    Daaaaku ■ •
         Besya Ohne.
         Anl.g.1 1 (3 Blatt) •                                 _!;5ft f_ l: i:

     /   Ale in.lage wird in die ~ideaatattliche Versicherung
         de• Jou.rnali ■ten Hermann SCH.lEJYi~ aus lttenb eh/Siebengebirge
         vom 28.~.1960 Uberaandt. Aue t~tt . 2 d!eoe:r     lclärW1g ergibt
         eich, da& der 1n den Bericht~~ Uber illegalen Waff enhandel
         wiederholt erwähnte PISCHPS;. einen falschen N en f ührt und
         in Wirklichkeit Aloie BE ~~NER heißt.

                                                       "'4~ -k;-lk.:-=fJ+lfcr-tl-1R:cz~-.,,r:-.
                                                                                      ~     !« ..,.,. ' .

         PfS :   Dem SCHAEPER iet ni c ht bekannt ,
                 daß ■ein ~anua~ript dem Ver-
                                                            ;i/ {~ . . .J 1- t' ...               1,.µ_._'""

                 faasungaschutz zugän~lich gemacht
                 wu r de . eeonderer uellenechutz
                 ~egenUber SCHA.E ER 1s t öaher
                                                            i/ !,/:~.-{.- "- u.
                 -trforderlich .                                 c.:-1,,., 21, -n- Je l t

Aal•1 • 7
                                        TOS     15,
                  l.lH ICH AEPI I       'tlb . llr •
      •OINU • - ( . . . . . .. , _               •
• 1

                        Weltar~b• an Exekutiv• nur nach
                         ROck1prach• mit LN "'nnover.                      ----- -----·,,·-

            In •oller,ni1 :l " r Stu1Dar ll•1t 1dQ•~ ta lecti•r. •· ~•••t1ttl1 cb• n
            V• 11Cberu.aa tl'Klär• l    ~ 4Ck9 Vor l •~ bei G ric~~ in B•b1.111 I Q
              1d ea Stttl tol!•               01 :

            , .) lob l eb• 111t t w, l Mon~t•n alt ~1n1•4 ,~t•rb r ech~• o 1 , an•
              ~t•D uBl bln voro• aal1cb in naa11Ku~ ur,J &.,~~u,b 91 • .P\lbl1a 1tt t -
            ti~t Ia taaae&u ■ l•rate 1ch ~ ■ oad• 1 tolge~~ ~                     •nner.:
              )vor. ~•org ·Piacber, 22,Rue ~•org• Beo.dai, ~          1011, llo, PO
            2 , u.c4 c Dr . 3a1d P tt~ ■ b 1   , POB 23~~
             1 Dtr R,i„pe11 <1 e1 tr . Geol'g Pbctler !.1)t abgel1\llHl u..Dli1 • 1.rd. YO■
             d utM ~•o G•~ nlkona ul 1u1 !ol ~•ndeo ·• ~-uadeo oic„t MU ••rlaqert,
            ,t r. J lec ~~r ,ragt ■ ln•o !al1cb,, ~ n...n. IA W■ t>zbeit a.111 •1
          / Aloi1 Bi,ioner , ata t 1 u1 Oeterr•1cti . ••• eb.e4n ILIIIMn1         -PUA.r•r
             iad elnl • Zeit ;l•lh          -t.~r ~o to 11.uei Y--..- ~ 1UA        ·11 1ob-
             Ul\n• rwiMr •           Ton a4thr•r•n S ~•>lateo g•euc tt, •11 ••• •1
             nu.a■ All, la CU1qeaaeo 7 ■ tY•rt\r,~~t et-tht, liod e.r J.reue a Wlil1 •ärui• r
             ,\11111e be a GiaubeOI •••••awei • ~~t öt~t au beben.              uatere t4b•  kUAOer
             in a■ esku. 4ea - nonl 1ct1en c~,.fluta d               1n11,1r1 lbdeul !aa1~
             1                 ~a.o•r •t 0~ct~lcbt ea4i•a.atl1cb titl& und •ub•itet"
             fur                     w-•t •
            } .) Ttl..& •••••llo, Gel ~~• aa• Paftl autolge •P•~1ecber Dipl~t ••1n
            ••11 , trMa• eben.falle •~ ~A'l !tlecben . ...a. Io Wataheit baAde lt e1
            aich ua deo •~•aal~o! er•nt,a de Auawutlgea Aat•• uat~r
            Q bbeatr op. ua Oe ll f~\.i fae reD L•~• a uo.a R deu cbe1 • .Aucb R• •
            ClACD•r ar.>e1t•t !ur ,. u ■ r-ab U<'h• Su.ret s 1•1•n         \l.!t e :>,.IUal                                  111

            einM. 1i•!•ru.Gße• ~~~Q•r                      BUMe ■ r•gi~r UDg         1owie eia lattbe labl.
            ~. ) Deo ai.r wor li~e0de0 8ewet1•n au.!olf• i •t :r. Iua au.e Daaaeku.a
                                                                er •rab iaob.e o Welt. u
             t l nPr :l er proa).~,')ot eet-. n ~•1 fe11bam1l•r
            ; ~r.~ ~r . al\r~• u~•r 4Deneo B.w411 e0 b1t Re.rr Dr-. I - a1\
          .,• rna t lilhel~ ·       r r o g • r e u■ " •g• r g Wld Herr" ...,r_.:. ', _
                                                                                                               Jl• ,
             ~nn er P\i:"·~ ~r,ca: 'II St<Drarl'I ••!lt Qg P~Cb.ält1aa ■ 11~ itag , w r ...
             Ul'll..1    o„   100.-:,
                                    • Cr„ un.J ■ cna .1 tl1 cr. &UNam .. ~••rb"'l.t•t. '111 Dr. I a
             • ren            •!~61' elg•a•a 1.r~larun& QaCh au ch Sruao1r Radeaacher t~t

                .)     1 ,:· r, uAd ••iner r, .. "ractle • <11• <'b 10 taauku• a1 t Areb•r
                -tl.t.  ~.eo .utu't1, au! ';.:- ex: e1a. r !lt J e nr               ea la Uiue          • t • •
             r ner, B r ~ , , br . rua uau Y 1 • l                        „  o     an.i•r•n Pe c100eft •o• l
             D•~ •-:~•r• au! ,ru            Ml ner l„'Ultou •on G"' ■ chittavorgaf16eC, l o
             ,, ,,,~ ••D ~ Pr1watbr1•!•0 1,t a1r btti.a oot &••orden , da11 Herr S
             ,, i 01 a 1 ur c be u1.... tu ~Q •~ ne 1 t l !. c ~ o I o o t . . \ • 1, ~ r t.MlOt r -wr,1-....p~-4'-----•
                                                                                                                       - c--b-r~
             •.uiterbalteo ~,. D•o !ril&ruo~ D •oo Ar ebera wl4 D•utacbea 1uto ~•
              1• e1ch au• e u! Red~a1ch•'1-!::• und BruM•r er1trecken,                                            h•t
             ~e cr ~~11~•1' rteaerbolt ln     kUI d1 • le,rec IUD..D• r UA.:1                                     •     ••

•    • • . . . ' " ' 11,ol ..,,IIOUTIVI           erv,h.   an Exekutive n
                                               RUcks~, ehe mit LfV Hannover.

              b         81.i•   n• .

                •       cb • icer M~1 nun 1cb•l,t • ~•r elo be•oallen ■ h.n~~~u•erallt-
                ni1 vorauliegea. leia 1•11„11e u••a die B•                   r     ©t 1 lpr1ager
                       Dr . 111•• •or I D •r alt eUl II' IIHHI a !lll••o ,.\ ~ abg98Cblo• -

                SHD.SO vhl 111.r bellanot. ilt, •uroen die Waitea ■ oau 5.~ de!° koaaua1ei 1
                1cben Haupt etedt Preg e1Q6e~au1t. Herr Dr. l.ria•r ~ ~.,, lt,11ngtr
                baoto d e n vorli•g•na•n Or111n1luot erl•1• n al&.tolge 4 ~ Treoaport •
                oacb b• rwiodWll8 ern1b l1~n ~ 1 r. 1c:-a-.r l'111ceacblo~, iuoa          1. .1eo
                   • l 1tet. Daa h•ltiaaat•rul a to g• tllt • r r S ,               tri.._.,.
                                                                                   4h alt1to-
                   • Auog in !eglaitung e101cbl 11i-r anblacbeJ> ~ 1aöal1c-..e1t• • l n ' j •
    .....:J..,. l pf•~ ~eoolllffl'lr.; de ai• 1iob 011 nbar aber 01~ ~, 1D d•• 11r ■pru. .-
                11 h tn 7ui.t aad betend• 1Nr<1e llel"r Spr14--r nn11tt•'• lie Berran Brun-
                nu:, R , macb-.r W1ll1 ~•adoub " 1••n1 - a1t ller.~~ Spl'iGIU b•frewadet und
                :!itit•r               •r
                                "foutiacb•n J •üur ~• 1• ■ 7r1a<',~G 1A.Mu1ai ■i•r1ua -
     •          besue eo jP.dOCh eloen ao lcber. l ou•n irit!~•• aD4areraa1 • le -
                t.     ai a •1cc •1ne n derartig• n- •   euf H•~--~A !111 t1'°'•r•     er eti 1-4-••
      •            t bwe ie;ena erit •• e n •ur •.

               • V o r l:apfanc ai•u•r et••• peialicr.~n •tt,u•nr:luat t■DCl 1a lote l
               ":1e• ~••1•d" au o„a ■au■ etn re5•lr•~~•i "1 S■•le&• • att • an 4 . .
                  1rn dh ~,.rr•n „r,,r1a er, Brunoe.r, ~,cl•aacllar \\DIil aa4u·1111 erbeblicb
               b• el l i tea, •l• ■ 1r aie T• 1lo@ baet ~•r11cMJ"t be~eA - bll aul Sprin-
               ,: r ( Wu i ch 10 den ,~ cl\a.1 t1pap1et,;· en d•• ler.rn Dr. !■,.~ fa1t111\e llt
               r.... t e, l,at it.rr Dr. ll'all IOt)lr b • u i•• r G• l•&•c.btit ■• :ro 8pri°'511r
                ,~1~ in Hone von 1 . 500,-- 1yr1 ~,~en Pfu.a:1 ~•li•h•c1 -r drobt• •or • •n1-
               i'.•H •·o na ten ■ 1t e1.ner llage, ~-~ .. Jol gt• J.aocb die !acb„ ftihr nicht •
                  • 1°nber bette sicti 1 •1•;~:1 •n Herrn Dr. r u.m1 ' lerrn Spriog• r
               wl n ~e i .f\Jr!n11 entwickelt.       ;n etn•• Scb.re1beo •oo Herrn Spr1ot•r ao
               Ae . ri i r . ••• beaelctl.Get~ verr Spriqge, ••r.rn Dr. lrqa.l' •lt 410
                u n.1111 ~v•r taoo l1cben v.rb~~iojuzl•~ •Scb'Nia• \I.Od •tuap• •

                  • ) Aut r.ruoo r.• 101: l !u>~guag hat eio w1ta•ut1cbar Jouroa l11t                     ••r
                  ;~•m J~h r                s••1•••
                                              pe.~~nelle 7.ue•••ll.baac• la der lleupt1acb• awlacbeo
              ~ru nn•r• Spr1a,,•r u~~ ~aa „acber ■ utgealut. Dabei &1DC •• u eine
              grn lt ere publ1detL:.: de Arbeit, d.h ia Dieoat der 'IAtl a■ 4•• 1a
                ' ruhJ 1Q59 ur1ic·telltan Recbt ■ aawalt1 Dr. Me.rte11 1a Atben 8'aad.
              t •\      e11e r t;eles.•..v~it .,Ha11n a ir u        d1     et o Tat ·b•     ii
             tl' J 1 F.1.      a n11 .. ~~•not. In d•• S.ricbt d•• •eatdau t aebeo JoW'c1l1lho
               voJ1 2d. e t. •11M~-:• l ,,q a n a1 cn , J e aun In.loraatiooeo b1aaer oocb a1c bt
               v~r of ltnt 1ch• ooer v•r•aoa t wuraeo, haia1t -• au! Seit• 1 ucb einer
               a 1a !unrl1<"n .. ! , i> arate llufl6 ub•r BruQ.Q,-r Wld Kicbaarui rirtl1cb •it !olat ,
               " Nie S ie 11.:,~ e1g•ner Anecba uung •i aHn , gibt
               K ~~ tre ta ~ :ese r
                                                                              beute a1oeo
                                              ut•• 1t te1t aua•••a.balteo u.od •or a1cbta au-
                                                                                               1tar-   ••b.r
               :uc k ~n• t ~u . Daau 11blt a ueb ao •1 c b .1ger Stell• wi1er Jreuo:S !
               ~• t , •lP 3 1„ b~!eot l1ch • i19en, 1 r              1 • t     eo 1 • t • o •    a i
               ~         ~ a     t • ! r e u o a • t , • b•n•o trie eucb ■it R • • t .r ••
               Aue a, .. 8 ,- r1 c bt g• ~t „1~,.rn1 c o•r• or; d1u Herr Spriag•r d 1e1e■ Jol.i.l' oa-
               1&' e~ aoga r a1t~ • t•llt bat, Qa•• jie .rau •011 ~lo1a !J'uo.ner 1o W1ea
               l• ~~. ei nt         l e be Mttt atl~ ba t it Herr Spr1o.ger J•4ocb olcbi • b&•~•n
               ~ ,. 1en , n no        • r 1" S~r1~er ub•rb tupt kt io•D lootaa t I u lerrn huuer
                  .-;     Datte.
                          J• Dt
                     l • f. s1 ~0 o~ &•1 cb•o s ~r1n~•r wid •ru1U1er au• rda utltcb ~ ,      e
                  1 o Je o ent ■ c beidtao•n               ~•t•
                                                 epati oa oieäer1••ch.r1• o . lo d e■ Be rt~

                            n,~.◄,..., .

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