BERLIN – German investigators who have hunted Nazi war criminal Aribert Heim for decades said Thursday that new information indicating the former concentration camp doctor died in Egypt in 1992 appears credible and that they will attempt to locate his corpse to rule out any doubt.
The Baden-Wuerttemberg state police unit that investigates Nazi-era crimes is preparing a request asking Egyptian authorities to allow them to pursue the case in Cairo, unit spokesman Horst Haug said.
"We want to attempt to find the body," Haug told The Associated Press.
Heim's son Ruediger told Germany's ZDF television that his father fled to Egypt after authorities tried to arrest him at his Baden-Baden home in 1962. The younger Heim contradicted previous statements that he had never had any contact with his father since that time, telling ZDF that he had met with him several times in Cairo, starting in the mid-1970s.
Asked about the discrepancies, Heim told the AP on Thursday that the ZDF interview was the correct version of the story.
"You can trust this interview," he said.
Heim would not elaborate on why he decided to speak now, or why he kept his silence for so long.
Born in 1914 in Radkersburg, Austria, Aribert Heim joined the local Nazi party in 1935, three years before Austria was bloodlessly annexed by Germany.
He later joined the Waffen SS and was assigned to Mauthausen, a concentration camp near Linz, Austria, as a camp doctor in October and November 1941.
While there, witnesses told investigators, he worked closely with SS pharmacist Erich Wasicky on such gruesome experiments as injecting various solutions into Jewish prisoners' hearts to see which killed them the fastest.
In 1961, German authorities were alerted that he was living in Baden-Baden and began an investigation, but when they finally went to arrest him in September 1962, they just missed him — he apparently had been tipped off.
Heim would be 94 today if still alive.
Last summer, Ruediger Heim tried to have his father declared legally dead so that he could take control of an estimated more than $1.5 million in investments in his name, saying that he would donate the money to charity.
He indicated Thursday that he might now try again to have his father declared dead so that he can access the money — though not immediately.
"I'm going to wait and see how the case develops," he said.
ZDF, working with the New York Times, reported Wednesday that they had found a passport, application for a residence permit, bank slips, personal letters and medical papers — more than 100 documents in all — left by Heim in a briefcase in the Cairo hotel room where he lived under the name Tarek Hussein Farid.
The report said Heim was living under the pseudonym and had converted to Islam by the time of his death from intestinal cancer.
Ruediger Heim confirmed to ZDF that his father used the name Farid, and that the documents belonged to him.
Haug said that the state police investigators now had copies of the documents as well, but without the originals could not vouch for their authenticity.
But, he said, "we got information one way and the New York Times and ZDF got it another and they add up, so we think it is plausible, but we can't give any official statement yet that Aribert Heim is dead."
Haug said the police investigators received their information at the beginning of this week — suggesting that the media outlets had it first — from someone "close to Aribert Heim."
The source confirmed the story, telling police that Heim died in Egypt in 1992, Haug said.
He would not say whether the source was Heim's son, saying only that "it was a serious source that we take earnestly."
ZDF reported that Heim was buried in a cemetery for the poor in Cairo, where graves are reused after several years "so that the chance of finding remains is unlikely." Haug said that it would take some time for his office's request to be allowed to search for the body to be processed.