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A Nazi doctor’s escape

Even in old age the imposingly tall, athletic German known to locals as Tarek Hussein Farid maintained the discipline to walk some 15 miles each day through the busy streets of Egypt’s capital.

world Updated: Feb 05, 2009 23:02 IST

Even in old age the imposingly tall, athletic German known to locals as Tarek Hussein Farid maintained the discipline to walk some 15 miles each day through the busy streets of Egypt’s capital.

He walked to Al Azhar mosque here, where he converted to Islam, and to the ornate J.Groppi Cafe downtown. He used to give bonbons to children, who called him Uncle Tarek.

Friends and acquaintances here also remembered him as an avid amateur photographer who never allowed himself to be photographed.

And with good reason: Uncle Tarek was born Aribert Ferdinand Heim, member of Adolf Hitler’s elite Waffen-SS, and medical doctor at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps.

It was behind the gray stone walls of Mauthausen, in his native Austria, that Heim 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 to be at large by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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 gynaecologist — he escaped capture just as investigators closed in on him in 1962.

His hiding place, as well as his death in 1992, have remained unknown until now.

A dusty briefcase with rusted buckles, sitting nearly forgotten in storage here in Cairo, hid the truth behind Heim’s flight to the Middle East.

Obtained by The New York Times and the German television station ZDF from members of the Doma family, proprietors of the hotel here where Heim resided, the files in the briefcase tell the story of his life, and death, in Egypt.

A certified copy of a death certificate obtained from Egyptian authorities confirmed witness accounts that the man called Tarek Hussein Farid died in 1992. “Tarek Hussein Farid is the name my father took when he converted to Islam,” said his son, Ruediger Heim. In an interview in the family’s villa in Baden-Baden, Heim, 53, admitted publicly for the first time that he was with his father in Egypt at the time of his death from rectal cancer.

Ruediger Heim said he learned of his father’s whereabouts through his aunt, who has since died. He said he did not come forward because he did not wish to bring trouble to any of his father’s friends in Egypt.

Despite the newly uncovered evidence, it is impossible to definitively close his case, with the location of his burial site still a mystery.