Note: This excerpt is NOT for commercial purposes, but for EDUCATIONAL research and discussion.
Syria's torturers were not without their tutors, and one of the earliest of them was still living in George Haddad Street, a quiet, tree-lined thoroughfare not far from the British Embassy. He was an Austrian pensioner of 71, a reticent old man known to his neighbours as George Fischer, an apparently harmless eccentric who kept pet rabbits on the roof of his apartment. Every day at ten o'clock, he took a constitutional walk outside his home and once a week he visited the Hamadiyeh souq next to the Umayyad mosque to buy vegetables. All that distinguished him from other visitors to the market were his blue eyes, four missing fingers and the two mukhabarrat* gunmen who always accompanied him to the souk, Kalashnikovs in their hands.
A visit to George Haddad Street confirmed that Fischer was no ordinary retired expatriate. He lived on the third floor of a yellow-painted apartment building but his name did not appear beside any of the doorbells that were screwed onto the wall next to the tall wrought-iron double gate. Fischer's exclusivity was doubly emphasised by the young man who stood, day and night, opposite his gate, dressed in a black leather zip-up jacket with a pistol in his belt. At each end of the street, there stood two more Syrian security men, one resting a submachine-gun on his shoulder.
Certainly, Fischer had need of protection. In 1981, a parcel arrived for him with a Vienna postmark franked on the paper. It contained explosives and blew off four of his fingers. He had told a neighbour - a diplomat from the Swedish Embassy - that once, long ago, he used to train German shepherd dogs for the Syrian army. And one night, when he was very drunk, he told a friend that, before President Assad's** 'corrective' revolution, he had instructed the Syrian security apparatus in the use of an ingenious interrogation machine. It was a wheel upon which prisoners could be strapped and beaten with electric cable. Every few minutes, an automatic pump would spray water through the wheel to open the prisoners' wounds, whereupon the whippings could start again.
If old Fischer was therefore an unconventional pensioner, his pedigree suggested an even more chilling career. For to his friend, he had confided that George Fischer was in fact Alois Brunner, SS Obsersturmbannführer, senior officer in the Sonderkommando der Sicherheitspolizei für Judenangelegenheiten, responsible for the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews from the Greek city of Salonika in 1943. Born in the Austrian village of Rohrbrunn in 1912, Brunner joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and entered the police school in Graz a year later. He assisted Adolf Eichmann in the arrest and deportation of Jews from Vienna in 1938 and was posted in 1943 to Salonika where, under the command of Maximilian Merten, he signed the orders for 46,091 Jews to be deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. Greek survivors of the Jewish Holocaust recall that he would whip uncooperative prisoners or threaten them while holding a revolver in each hand. He was subsequently transferred to command the French transit camp at Drancy, whence he deported a further 24,000 Jews to the camps in eastern Europe.
Then he disappeared. In the 1950s he was seen in Cairo, where he was allegedly helping Nasser to train the Egyptian security police in interrogation techniques. During the period of the United Arab Republic - the political union of Egypt and Syria - he travelled to Damascus, where he was still working, helping the Syrian secret service, when the Egyptian-Syrian alliance fell apart. In 1960, he advised on the purchase of 2,000 items of bugging equipment from East Germany, but his usefulness apparently ended. When Assad came to power in 1971, he 'inherited' Brunner who was, so the Syrians privately acknowledged, an embarrassment, an unsavoury throwback to the bad old days of reactionary Arab politics. Brunner was pensioned off after promising to remain silent. In return for keeping his mouth very firmly shut, he could stay in Damascus.
Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, pp. 179-80.
*Syrian intelligence unit (my clarification)
** Syrian President Hafez Assad (my clarification)
Note: I apologise for any typing mistakes
So, any thoughts on Alois Brunner? I did a search for him on the forum but didn't come up with anything. Allegedly, he had helped the Syrians with torture methods.
Here's something I found (a Jewish website) about Alois Brunner: Link
On Brunner, from the Macedonian Press Agency
Alois Brunner to be tried in absentia
Something from the IHR
In 1987 in a telephone interview Alois Brunner told the Chicago Sun Times:
"The Jews deserved to die. I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again .."
Anyone know if that is true? Was something of the sort published in the Chicago Sun Times?