July 9, 2008 / 12:09 AM / 12 years ago

Nazi hunters seek to smoke out "Dr Death" in Chile

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Nazi hunters are hoping to flush out the most notorious member of the Third Reich still believed to be alive, Aribert Heim, known as “Dr Death”, in southern Chile — with an advertising campaign.

Efraim Zuroff, Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem, holds up a document with pictures of Nazi war criminal Aribert Heim during a news conference at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in this November 27, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Heim, who passed his 94th birthday on June 28 if he is still alive, documented the hundreds of victims he himself murdered and tortured at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria during World War Two.

The Nazi hunters believe he is hiding out in the Patagonia region of southern Chile, also home to his daughter.

“In the last few days we’ve received information from two different sources, both relating to Chile, which we think have very good potential,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center which is hunting for Heim and hundreds of other suspected Nazis.

The group has put up a 315,000 euros ($495,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of Heim, known to have decorated his office during the war with human body parts, even using the skull of a man he decapitated as a paperweight.

Zuroff and his team will fly on Wednesday to Puerto Montt, a town 657 miles south of the capital Santiago where Heim’s daughter lives.

They are hoping residents may come forward with new information.

The visit is part of what they call Operation Last Chance, which will include a newspaper advertising campaign in local newspapers in Chile and Argentina.

“We’re hoping that our presence in the area will attract the necessary attention to receive the information that we’re looking for,” Zuroff said.

Hundreds of Nazis wanted for war crimes escaped to Latin America after World War Two, mainly to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Brazil.

Zuroff said most evidence suggests Heim is alive. His children have not taken possession of a 1.2 million-euro ($1.9 million) bank account in his name in Berlin, which would be theirs if they could present proof of his death.

They would also have access to some 800,000 euros ($1.26 million) in stocks and bonds if Heim were proven dead.

Zuroff said Heim would be easier to catch if he tried to run.

An Austrian who killed hundreds of inmates by injecting gasoline or poison in their hearts, Heim has been on the run since evading police in Germany in 1962 prior to a planned prosecution.

Editing by Simon Gardner and Alan Elsner

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