Brunner, Alois°

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BRUNNER, ALOIS ° (1912– ), Nazi deportation expert. Brunner was born in Rohrbrunn, Austria. "He was an extremely unscrupulous individual, one of the best tools of *Eichmann. He never had an opinion of his own, and as Eichmann himself described him, he was 'one of my best men.'" Adolf Eichmann's reliance on Alois Brunner confirms this Nuremberg testimony of Dieter Wisliceny, Brunner's coworker in the SS program to deport Europe's Jews to Poland.

Adolf Eichmann turned over the Central Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna to Brunner, who organized the first European experiments in deportation of the Jews as early as October 1939. As director of the Central Office in 1941 and 1942, Brunner co-opted Jewish leadership by threats and promises; after decimating the Austrian Jewish community, he was promoted to ss Hauptsturmfuehrer in 1942. In the fall of 1942 Brunner applied the methods he had used in Vienna in Berlin. Then, in February 1943 Eichmann posted Brunner to command technical aspects of deportation in Salonika, Greece, the center of Sephardi Judaism in Europe. There Brunner perfected his methods of pressure and deception, destroying in six weeks a community that had flourished for five centuries. He also presided over the deportation of Jews from Bulgarian-occupied Trace and Macedonia.

In order to accelerate the deportation program in France, Eichmann sent Brunner to France's main transit camp, Drancy, where he was commandant from June 1943 to August 1944. Brunner radically altered Drancy, and with it the condition of the Jews in France: he denied French officials access to the camp, provisioned it with funds taken from Jews, deceived and tortured the inmates, and deported even those with de facto exemptions – Jews from neutral or friendly states, welfare workers, orphans, and French-Jewish nationals. When Germany occupied the Italian zone of southern France in September 1943, Brunner took charge of one of the most brutal roundups in Western Europe, sending off transports even as the Germans retreated from France. He then took up his last post, commandant of Camp Sered, the deportation center of Slovakia.

In Slovakia, from September 1944 to April 1945, Brunner dismantled the Jewish community, and punished both Jews and Nazis who had negotiated to ransom Jewish lives. In 1945, as Russian troops approached, Brunner disappeared. According to his own account, Brunner was arrested by Czechs, Americans, and British, but released under a false name. He obtained false papers and left Europe in 1954 for Egypt and then Damascus, Syria, where he lived under the name Georg Fischer. Brunner claimed to have planned to bomb a World Jewish Congress meeting in Vienna, with Syrian help, and also to abduct Eichmann from Israel. Warrants for his arrest are on the books in Germany and Austria; France sentenced him to death in absentia; West Germany requested his extradition in 1984, but the Syrian government refused to respond.

Brunner deported at least 129,000 people to ghettos and death camps in Poland – 47,000 from Vienna, 44,000 from Salonika, 24,000 from France, and 14,000 from Slovakia.


M. Felstiner, "Alois Brunner, Eichmann's Best Tool," in: Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual (1986); D. Wisliceny testimonies, in: The Holocaust: Selected Documents, J. Mendelsohn (ed.), vol. 8, and in Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, vol. 4; Brunner interview, Bunte 45, 46 (Oct. 30, Nov. 7, 1985).

[Mary Lowenthal Felsteiner]