We called him Doctor Death (Kulish / Mekhennet)

This new book dealing with the hunt for the Nazis as part of the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the camps is the result of the research and investigation of two journalists. Nicholas Kulish and Souad Mekhennet, about Aribert Heim the Doctor Death from Mauthausen camp.

Aribert Heim

Born June 28, 1914 in the Austrian city of Radkersburg, Aribert Ferdinand Heim entered the Vienna Medical University in the fall of 31. A passionate athlete, he participated in multiple ice hockey and athletics competitions until day when the Austrian national ice hockey team decides to hire him. His extremely impressive build makes him easy to recognize. His older brother Josef died in 1941 and Aribert then took care of his mother, but also of his sisters Hilda and Herta with whom he would remain very close. A doctor working in the camps during World War II, Heim was indicted and tried in 1948, but the jury considered him a follower, who was forced to join the Waffen-SS. In 1950, Aribert Heim married Friedl Bechtold with whom he had two sons, Aribert Christian and Rolf Rüdiger. The family moved to Baden-Baden in 1953 and quickly grew rich thanks in particular to Aribert's very good business sense. But in April 1963, alerted by his friends, he was informed that he was wanted for Nazi crimes and forced to flee for Tangier, in Morocco, then in Cairo, in Egypt, in 1964.


When Alfred Aedtner took action on the case concerning Mauthausen's doctor, suspicion about Heim dates back to 1948. Member of the Bureau to Investigate Nazi Crimes since 1964 Aedtner hates the Nazis and hates these “plagues”. " of Germany. At a lecture in June 1967 given by Simon Wiesenthal in Vienna, the name of Dr. "Heribert" Heim, a camp doctor at Mauthausen, who has performed countless lethal experiments on detainees, is cited and supposedly hidden in Egypt. If the first name is incorrect, Wiesenthal is correct when he claims Heim fled to Egypt. During this time, the police stalled and if many testimonies come to increase the suspicions and the case file of Heim, the investigation stalls and Heim remains untraceable.

The outcome

In 1975, Rüdiger Heim, aged almost 20, decided to see his father again and began a series of trips to Egypt, helped by his aunt and escaping the police. Heim is aware of the hunt for the Nazis and the role of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld or even Simon Wiesenthal. He then learns to be wary of everything and everyone. Meanwhile, Aedtner tries to contact other witnesses, the majority of whom have memory problems. However, his meeting with Karl Lotter sheds some light on Heim's true role during WWII and is the most reliable witness to the investigation. Many avenues are being launched to find the doctor, but none will succeed. The dissemination of the Holocaust series in Germany and the revelations of Spiegel in 1979 bring this story to the fore in the eyes of the general public, who are outraged by Heim's real estate possessions in Germany, which allow him in particular to live in hiding, and managed by his lawyer , are the subject of a petition and lead to the final trial in Berlin. Heim is obviously not present, and his lawyer Steinacker defends him fiercely, while the prosecution must face the absence and silence of the witnesses. Nevertheless, Heim is doomed and his apartment building seizes. Heim's appeal is delayed from October to December 1979, but the initial judgment is upheld. Meanwhile Aedtner continues his investigation, but the accumulation of false leads means that Heim remains untraceable. In 1980, the doctor converted to Islam, changing his name and thus becoming Tarek Farid Hussein. In 1992, suffering from rectal cancer, Aribert Heim died alongside his son Rüdiger.

In 1994, the Viennese doctor Robert Braun announced to Simon Wiesenthal that Aribert Heim had passed away. But the doubt still remains since the doctor reconsiders his statements in 2005. Meanwhile, Alfred Aetner died in April 2005 and Simon Wiesenthal in September of the same year. The legend supposes that Heim is still alive and a Chilean track is launched in 2008 in the footsteps of his illegitimate daughter who learns at the same time the identity of her father and the crimes of which he is accused.

In January 2009, Rüdiger Heim received the journalists who wrote this book and told them the whole story. Heim's trace was traced back by Souad Mekhennet to Cairo, and the facts corroborate with the Rüdiger's version, Heim's friends in Cairo even led him to the burial place where he was buried under the name of Tarek Hussein Farid, as a poor Egyptian.

Our opinion

A real detective story, it was called Doctor Death and a work combining suspense, history and mystery around the hunt for Doctor Heim. Very pleasant to read from its handwriting and its images and archival documents. The book by Nicholas Kulish and Souad Mekhennet plunges us with pleasure in the hunt for the Nazis and in the breathless account of the longest hunt in history. If today the mystery remains intact on the real actions of Aribert Heim at the Mauthausen camp, the authors leave it to the reader to choose their version by superimposing the points of view of the main actors.

They called him Doctor Death: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the breathtaking tale of the longest hunt in history, by Nicholas Kulish and Souad Mekhennet. Flammarion, 2015.

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