“The Eternal Nazi: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the Relentless Pursuit of SS Doctor Aribert Heim”
by Nicholas Kulish and Souad Mekhennet
Reviewed by Larry Cox
Aribert Heim worked at the Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen for only a few months in 1941, but he quickly became known as “Dr. Death.” The Austrian SS doctor’s experiments on Jews, such as injecting gasoline directly into their hearts and even removing organs from living prisoners without anesthesia, became notorious.
At the end of World War II, Heim slipped out of Germany, evaded capture and eventually settled in a working-class neighborhood of Cairo. In his new homeland, he prayed in Arabic and remained hidden, even though a manhunt for him continued due to the testimony of survivors who told of the doctor’s atrocities.
How Heim lived under the radar is the subject of a fascinating new book by Nicholas Kulich, former Berlin bureau chief of The New York Times, and Souad Mekhennet, a seasoned journalist and frequent contributor to both The Washington Post and Daily Beast. It reads more like a mystery novel than a work of nonfiction.
According to the authors, Heim might never have been found if not for the efforts of a group of Germans who were unwilling to let Nazi war criminals go unpunished. Among them was a police investigator, Alfred Aedtner, who turned finding the former Nazi into an obsession. His quest took him across Europe, occupying several decades of his time, and became, in essence, nothing less than a powerful symbol of German’s evolving attitude toward the sins of its past. A desire to see justice done at almost any cost became paramount.
As late as 2009, the mystery of Heim’s disappearance seemed almost unsolvable. This highly readable account reveals how historical detection, grit and determination finally illuminated a nation’s dramatic reckoning with the crimes of the Holocaust and one of the most shocking war criminals ever.