The recent revelation that Nazi war criminal Aribert Heim appears to have died in Cairo in 1992 has brought to light the fact that Egypt was a refuge for many Nazis in the decades following the collapse of the Third Reich.
In the turbulent post-World War II atmosphere, many of Hitler’s followers came to Egypt, where they benefited from “high ranking” friendships within the entourage of British-backed King Farouk, historians say, according to Agence France-Presse.
Arab nationalists trying to break free from the yoke of British colonialism had found a natural backer in Nazi Germany during the war when Germany invested in such men as future Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to fight the British occupiers during the war.
Future Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser — Sadat’s predecessor — deposed Farouk in 1956 and employed several Nazis to generate propaganda against Israel, established in 1948 following a war with several Arab armies, Agence France-Presse reported.
And the Egyptians weren’t just hiding Nazi small fry, either. Take Heim:
He was a member of Hitler’s elite Waffen-SS and a medical doctor at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps, according to The New York Times.
At Mauthausen, he committed the atrocities against hundreds of Jews and others that earned him the nickname Dr. Death and his status as the most wanted Nazi war criminal still believed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to be at large, according to The Times.
Dr. Heim was accused of performing operations on prisoners without anesthesia; removing organs from healthy inmates, then leaving them to die on the operating table; injecting poison, including gasoline, into the hearts of others; and taking the skull of at least one victim as a souvenir, The Times reported.
After living below the radar of Nazi hunters for more than a decade after World War II — much of it in the German spa town of Baden-Baden where he had a wife, two sons and a medical practice as a gynecologist — he escaped capture just as investigators closed in on him in 1962, added The Times.
Others who escaped to Egypt include Johann Von Leers, close to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who came to Egypt in the 1950s, converted to Islam and became head of the “anti-Zionist propaganda service” at the foreign ministry.
Also, Egypt’s post-war ministries of information and defence employed former SS and SA officers, such as Louis Heiden, Walter Bollmann and Wilhelm Bocker.
Germany, for all its many faults related to World War II and the years just before it, has made a concerted effort to atone for its sins. That’s a lot more than many other countries can say.