Klarsfeld's apartment, on the western
  edge of Paris, before dawn. Hers was a
  small but crucial role in KJarsfeld's mis-
  sion, starting that morning, to force Syria
  to give up 79-year-old Alois Brunner—the
  last major Nazi criminal on Earth who
 was still alive, free, and unpunished.
     Brunner was
 ber of Adolf Eichmann's S.S. deportation
 team. Between 1941 and 1944, he sent at
 least 120,000 lews to Auschwitz. His spe-
 cial penchant
 the very old and the very young. Eich-
 mann called him "one of my best men."
    On the lam after the war, Eichmann
 and other ma-
 nals chose to hide in South America.                                        BEATE KLARSFELD
 Brunner made a cannier choice. Taking                                            READIES FOR
 the name George Fischer, he went to Syr-                                       SYRIAN ACTION.
 ia. He settled into a comfortable apart-
 ment at 7 Haddad Street, in an expensive
 section of Damascus. By luck or cunning
 he couldn't have picked a more hospitable
 spot. Syria has always faithfully pro-


                                                               THE APARTMENT BUILDING IN DAMASCUS WHERE BRUNNER LIVED FOR YEARS.
tected him—and perhaps used his crimi-              Many are outraged that Nazi criminals         election, as he was about to give a speech.
nal expertise. But Hafez Assad's govern-         go unpunished. Few do anything about             She and her husband had uncovered Kie-
ment has been far less hospitable to Beate       it—especially if their action must take          singer's Nazi past. Germany couldn't rid
Klarsfeld. The last time she attempted to        place in a hostile police state ruled by a       itself of old Nazis, Beate reasoned, but it
enter Syria to protest its hosting of Brunner,   leader as ruthless as Hafez Assad. The           didn't have to re-elect one as chancellor.
in the spring of 1987, she was not allowed       only private Nazi hunters to emerge in the       After the much-publicized slap, Kiesinger
to leave the airport.                            aftermath of the' Third Reich have been          was unseated by Willy Brandt, who had
   This time, Klarsfeld had prepared a dar-      Simon Wiesenthal, Beate Klarsfeld, and           been driven out of Germany by the Nazis.
ing ploy. She'd persuaded a Parisian friend.     her husband, Serge. He is the French Jew-           The Klarsfelds readily credit Wie-
Gertrude Baer, to apply for a Syrian tourist     ish son of a father killed at Auschwitz.         senthal with having first sniffed out
visa and then hand over her passport to her.     She is the Berlin-born, Lutheran daughter        "George Fischer" in Damascus in the late
But Trudy Baer is a 65-year-old brunette,        of a Wehrmacht soldier.                          fifties. But proving that Fischer was really
while Beate Klarsfeld is a 52-year-old red-         They met in 1960 on a Metro platform          Brunner would be more difficult.
head. The makeup artist's challenge, this        in Paris—just a few steps from the modest           They turned first to the dossier pre-
past December 5, was to make them look           apartment they now occupy on the Place           pared for Brunner's 1954 war-crimes trial
the same. Or at least similar enough to let      de la Porte de St. Cloud. Serge was ready        in absentia in France, at which he was
Klarsfeld pass Syrian airport scrutiny.          to start law school; Beate was an au pair        sentenced to death. Papers showed that
   She did her job well. I failed to recognize   whose father was sure she'd end up a             Brunner had been an early member of the
Klarsfeld among the arriving passengers at       prostitute if she left Berlin for Paris. They    Nazi Party, joining in 1931. Eichmann
Damascus airport at seven-thirty that eve-       married in 1963—and since 1966 have              had hired him in Vienna in 1938. Brunner
ning—even though I've known her for thir-        devoted themselves to bringing Nazi crim-        started by deporting Austrian lews. Then,
teen years and expected her to be disguised.     inals to justice. If this sounds like the plot   in 1942, he did the same in Berlin. After
Not a strand of red hair peeked out from         of a made-for-TV movie, it's because             that came the unspeakable extinction of
under her mousy brown wig. Makeup made           there was one in 1986, starring Farrah           the Salonika Jews—whole trainloads of
her face seem to sag. Normally a crisp, styl-    Fawcett as Beate and Tom Conti as Serge.         whom arrived at Auschwitz already dead
ish dresser, she wore a shapeless car coat                                                        from lack of water. In 1943, Brunner be-
over baggy slacks. Her black-framed glasses                    S NAZI HUNTERS, THE KLARS-         came commander of the Drancy transit

were identical to the ones Baer wore in her                    felds don't like being com-        camp outside Paris and deported 23,500
passport photo.                                                pared to Wiesenthal. They          more, including newborns.
   Klarsfeld whispered my name from a                          point out that, even in his           As the Allies pushed nearer to liberat-
few inches away. Only then did I realize                       prime, Wiesenthal was con-         ing Paris in August 1944, Brunner kept
who it was. Her dark eyes sparkled at her                      tent merely to collect docu-       right on working. The very last train of
having fooled passport control—and me.                         mentation. They do that—           Germans to leave the city included a rear
She kept right on walking. We'd agreed                         but they also put their bodies     car filled with Jewish deportees that Brun-
not to acknowledge each other in public          on the line. Serge once crashed a neo-Nazi       ner had arranged for at the last moment.
while in Syria. Her job was to protest the       gathering in a Munich beer hall and was          A month earlier, when adult victims had
presence of Brunner—and, if possible, to         pummeled for announcing that he was a            become scarce, he'd sent 300 children to
be arrested. My job, in a country where          jew. In 1968, Beate darted between body-         Auschwitz.
independent journalists are unwelcome,           guards and slapped West German chan-                Then, at Eichmann's bidding, he pushed
was to be Klarsfeld's witness.                   cellor Kurt Kiesinger, then running for re-      on to Slovakia, where he deported another
30    NEW YORK/JANUARY 13, 1992
 14,000. In 1989. historian Mary Felstiner       through. In 1980, he received a parcel          wouldn't mean much unless it could be
 wrote, "Brunner's policy, his practice,         from Vienna. There was no reason to be          reported.
 and his personality constituted one unit,       suspicious. It bore the name of an herbal-         Syria controls visiting journalists close-
 with no preoccupation but genocide."            medicine catalogue that Brunner had writ-       ly. I turned in my old passport, with its
                                                 ten for. But the package exploded, injur-       offending Israeli visas, for a new one.

         N 1977, SERGE KLARSFELD WENT TO         ing Brunner's left eye. The Klarsfelds          Then I applied for a Syrian tourist visa.
     Vienna and hired a private detective        think the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence      For religion, I put "Methodist"—proba-
      to gather information about Brun-          agency, sent the bomb. The Mossad had           bly safer than the actual "Jewish." (1 had
     ner's wife and daughter, who were           already sent Brunner a letter bomb in           graduated from Methodist-affiliated Duke
     still living in the city. Then he hired a    1961, the year Eichmann was tried in Je-       University.) For profession, I wrote "con-
     second detective to be sure the first       rusalem. That one cost Brunner four fin-        tributing editor."
     wasn't in cahoots with the family.          gers on his left hand.                             I arrived in Damascus on December 4,
     Out of that investigation came a cru-          Brunner has grown old. But he remains        one day before Klarsfeld and just after
cial phone number in Damascus. From              as unrepentant as the young S.S. Haupt-         Hafez Assad won his fourth seven-year
the Klarsfelds' living room in Paris, Beate      sturmfuhrer (captain) who liked to lash         term as Syrian president. It was hard to
dialed it. Here is a translation of the con-     his victims with a leather horsewhip laced      see how the driver of the airport bus could
versation, as she remembers it, that she         with iron wire. He told reporters from the      know where he was going, since every
had in her native German with the man            German magazine Bunte, who managed              window, including his own, was plastered
who answered:                                    to interview and photograph him in 1985,        with pictures of Assad. Multiple portraits
    "Herr Brunner?"                              that he'd do it all over again. "I don't re-    were strung across the streets and covered
    "No, Herr Fischer."                          gret getting rid of all that garbage," he       every wall—Assad watching paratroop-
    "Excuse me. You don't know me, but the       said. Unlike Eichmann, he insisted, he'd        ers, Assad's face bursting out of a red
father of a friend of mine worked with you       never be taken alive. He produced a cya-        flower, Assad portrayed like a Greek Or-
in Berlin during the war. He's a special         nide pill from his shirt pocket to prove it.    thodox saint. His portrait was even super-
prosecutor now. He asked me to warn you          Two years later, he told a Chicago Sun-         imposed on a painting of Saladin's troops
of a new Interpol warrant for your arrest. If    Times reporter in a brief phone interview       routing the Crusaders eight centuries ago.

you leave Syria, they'll get you for sure."      that "the lews deserved to die because          The only image missing was that of Assad
   There was a pause. Then, in a softer tone,    they were agents of the Devil."                 as protector of old Nazis.
"Herr Fischer" said, "Thank your friend                                                            The next night at nine o'clock, I slipped
from me for this warning. God bless him.                   IX MONTHS AGO, I ASKED THE            into Klarsfeld's room, three floors below
And God bless you, my dear."                               Klarsfelds if they'd given up   my own, at the five-star Chain Palace Ho-
   The ruse had worked.                                    their efforts to bring Brunner to
                                                                                           tel. Already on hand was Dominique Ri-
   Brunner is reported to have been a se-                  justice. Not in the least. In fact,
                                                                                           zet, a young French photojournalist for
curity adviser to the Syrian government                    they were looking for somebody  the newspaper France-Soir who'd been
long before Hafez Assad came to power in                   who at least faintly resembled  enlisted to take photos. Like me, he'd en-
 1970. He's said to have invented a torture                Beate who'd be willing to do-   tered Syria on a tourist visa. His job
machine—a variant on the medieval rack.                    nate her passport to the effort wouldn't be easy. The previous day* I'd
But the only verifiable facts about him are      against Brunner. They didn't have to look raised my camera to take a photo of an
that until this fall he was walking his dogs     far. Gertrude Baer, whose father had been Assad portrait display on a public street
in Zanoubia Park each morning and                shot by the Nazis and whose mother and only to have armed men appear from
armed guards were posted in
the hall of his third-floor apart-
ment and outside the building.
It also appears that he didn't
have to worry about money.                                                      IMAGES OF HAFEZ ASSAD DOMI-
   In January 1990, Serge Klars-
feld managed to slip into Da-
mascus. He delivered a letter to                                                NATED THE DAMASCUS STREETS.
the government setting out the
case against Brunner. The Syri-                                                 SO DID YOUNG MEN WIELDING
ans replied by expelling Klars-
feld from the country. Neither
he nor his wife could expect to
enter Syria again. Not, at least,
                                                                                UZI-STYLE G U N S . —
under the name Klarsfeld.
   The couple had had better luck with           sister had been killed in the concentration     two directions to wave me away.
other Nazis. By getting the press to cover       camps, said she'd do it.                           Klarsfeld's plan was simple: She'd hoist
their cases, they forced the joint trial, in        This seemed a propitious time for Syria      a placard of protest in front of Assad's
 1979, of the three highest-ranking S.S.         to turn over a new leaf. Its military spon-     presidential palace and be swiftly arrest-
men who had been active in France and            sor, the USSR, was no more. Assad has           ed. Et voila! A Nazi remains free while a
were then living unpunished in West Ger-         tried to cultivate a better image in the        lone woman merely calling for justice is
many. One of them was Gestapo chief              West—working belatedly to free the hos-         jailed. It's a technique meant to play to the
Kurt Lischka. In 1986, the Klarsfelds fi-        tages held in Lebanon. He would also like,      public's sense of fairness. Klarsfeld has
nally saw Klaus Barbie brought to justice,       no doubt, to be taken off the U.S.'s short-     used it successfully before—notably in
fourteen years after Beate had located him       list of states that sponsor terrorism. Rid-      1973, when she was jailed for five weeks
living in La Paz, Bolivia. But their success-    ding himself of Alois Brunner could only        in Germany for attempting to "kidnap"
es depended on a moral response from             help his cause.                                 Kurt Lischka, then a Cologne business-
host governments. None was forthcoming              Serge Klarsfeld asked if I wanted to be      man. Lischka ended up spending many
from Syria.                                      a witness to his wife's impending action in     more than five weeks in jail.
   The Klarsfelds could not reach Brunner        Syria—assuming she got in. Whatever she            Kneeling now on the floor of her over-
behind his Syrian shield. But the mail got       had up her sleeve for Damascus, it              heated hotel room, Klarsfeld printed her
Photographs by Peter H e l m a n .                                                                           JANUARY 13, 1992/NEW YORK      31
message—in French—with a black mark-              The Foreign Ministry, farther back           confusing was Klarsfeld's German pass-
er on poster paper:                            along Hanano Street, seemed at first like a     port (her real one). No matter how many
                                               possible site for Klarsfeld's one-woman         times they riffled its pages, they could find
              PRESIDENT ASSAD
                                               demonstration. The guard in front wore          no entry visa, a plain impossibility. Every
                                               blue pants, a white jacket, and big epau-       foreigner must have an entry visa.
                                               lets heavy with gold fringe. He'd be most         Taking Klarsfeld by both arms, the police
               ALOIS BRUNNER
                                               photogenic dragging away a protesting           escorted her across the avenue to a small
             LIBERATE THE JEWS
                                               woman. But armed men all around would           camera shop. By this time, Rizet was al-
                  OF SYRIA
                                               have also pounced on Rizet and his              ready turning the corner at the end of the
   Finding the palace proved difficult. Leav-  camera.                                         block. He would pick up his bags at the ho-
ing the hotel separately at ten-thirty that      While I was exploring Hanano Street,          tel and head directly to the airport for a
evening, the three of us flagged a cab a Klarsfeld and Rizet were lunching at a                twelve-thirty flight to Paris—with his film.
block from the hotel. "Give us a tour of the downtown hotel. From the window, they               In the camera store, the police used the
high spots of Damascus." we told the driv- noticed an ideal spot for her protest: the          phone to call their superiors. Then they
er. "Especially the presidential palace."     imposing, elegantly classical Interior Min-      took Klarsfeld back to the police car.
   The cabbie gladly showed us doctors istry. Bunting in the national colors                   Twenty minutes later, a relief car arrived.
and nurses dancing in front of their hospi- draped its entrance on Al-Malek Farouk             I watched-as, bundled between two po-
tal to celebrate (perhaps not voluntarily) Avenue, which was busy and wide enough              licemen in the back seat, with two more in
the re-election of Hafez Assad. But he got to allow Rizet to snap away unnoticed—              front, she was driven off.
jittery when we pressed him to see the pal- particularly in the first few seconds after           I returned to my hotel room and dialed
ace. He claimed not to be sure where it Klarsfeld hoisted her placard.                         Serge Klarsfeld's home in Paris. On his an-
was. Still, he did whisk us past a heavily      A red police station wagon manned by           swering machine I left word that his wife
guarded side street in the northwestern three cops was always in front of the Inte-            had been arrested, knowing that he'd relay
section of town, where Assad and most of rior Ministry, and the sidewalk was                   that information to the media. Then I
the diplomatic community live.                blocked to pedestrians. Klarsfeld would          walked to the German embassy, as I'd
   " J u s t t r y to go down t h a t street have to cross over from the far side of the       promised his wife, and left a note saying,
and. . . . " He finished the sentence by avenue directly in front of the police car.           "A German woman I met at the Cham Pal-
making machine-gun noises while draw- Then she'd hoist her poster while Rizet,                 ace Hotel said that she expected to be ar-
ing an imaginary knife across his throat. also walking on the far side of the avenue.          rested this morning and might need your
                                                                                                           assistance. She said her name is
                                                                                                           Beate Klarsfeld."

                                                                                                                 HAD    NO   IDEA    WHERE
                                           THREE COPS LEAPT OUT OF THE                                           K l a r s f e l d was, but it
                                                                                                                 seemed likely that if she
                                           POLICE CAR. TAKING KLARSFELD                                          were returned to the hotel
                                                                                                                 rather than jailed, it
                                                                                                                 wouldn't be for hours. So
                                           BY BOTH ARMS, THEY ESCORTED                                           I walked south, across the
                                                                                                                 garbage-choked Barada
                                                                                                           River, into old Damascus, and
                                           HER ACROSS THE AVENUE.——                                        wandered through the big, bus-
                                                                                                           tling Al-Hamidiya souk.
                                                                                                              At one o'clock, four hours
The next morning, we tried to persuade         snapped pictures through an opening in          after Klarsfeld's arrest, room 538 still did
another cabdriver to take us to the presi-     his raincoat, like a flasher.                   not answer. I went walking again, this
dential palace. But he flatly refused to go       Klarsfeld left the hotel at 8:45 the next    time to Zanoubia Park, across from Brun-
anywhere near it: Syrians may love their       morning. Left behind in her room was the        ner's home. Young Syrian couples took
leader, but only from a safe distance.         brown wig, which made her head itch; the        up most of the benches. Their courting re-
Many of the 4,000 or so Syrian Jews            hotel kept Trudy Baer's passport. Rizet         minded me of Orthodox Jewish couples in
would like to put even more distance be-       and I were already outside, waiting to ren-     Brooklyn's Prospect Park—sedate, with
tween themselves and Assad. But he re-         dezvous with her under a five-story por-        no kissing and only fleeting touches.
fuses to allow them to emigrate freely.        trait of Assad on busy Alazmeh Square.             The guards no longer patrolled at 7
                                               Rizet had wrapped his head in a kaffiyeh        Haddad Street. According to a Syrian

           ATER THAT MORNING, I WALKED         he'd bought in the souk to make him look        friend of the Klarsfelds', Brunner had
          alone to the end of Hanano           less like a Parisian.                           been removed by ambulance from his
          Street, where, according to the         Striding in front of the red police car at   apartment in October. His current where-
          map, the palace was located. The     8:55, Klarsfeld held herself proudly. A         abouts are unknown.
          street is lined with embassies and   slight smile came over her face. If Dela-          At four o'clock, Klarsfeld was finally
          large private homes. Young men       croix had painted a Nazi huntress instead       back in her hotel room. "I forgot to give
          wearing jeans and wielding Uzi-      of Liberty leading the people, she'd have       you back your pen last night" was the first
          style guns or two-way radios         been his model. She unfurled the poster         thing she said, poking in her bag for it.
looked me over as I walked along. Twice I      from beneath her coat and held it up in            "Never mind the pen. Tell me what
was stopped (politely) to have my brief-       front of the police car like a toreador bait-   happened," I said.
case searched. At last I came to the presi-    ing the bull.                                      She didn't know what building the po-
dential palace, a modern building behind          The three cops leapt out and surround-       lice had taken her to, only that the offices
a high fence. No flags waved in front of it;   ed her. Others dashed over from the min-        were filthy, the bathrooms indescribable.
it didn't appear official enough for Beate's   istry gate as Rizet snapped away. Her sign      She'd been interrogated at length by a se-
protest. Besides, even if she managed to       confused them. None appeared able to            curity officer speaking perfect French.
unfurl her poster there, Rizet would never     read French. And if they could, they prob-      She explained her mission simply: Syria
be able to get away with using his camera.     ably drew a blank on Brunner. Even more         must stop protecting Alois Brunner, the
32   New    YORK/JANUARY 13, 1992
last major Nazi criminal at
large. He must be delivered
to justice.
    "No criminal is here,"
the interrogator retorted.
"The criminals are in Israel,
where they kill Palestinians
    Klarsfeld handed him a
f u l l dossier on Brunner.
"Please read it," she said.
"And please arrange for me
to see President Assad so
that 1 can explain to him
why it is in Syrian interests
as well as in the interests of
justice to expel Brunner."
She was surprised to see
that her interrogator also
had a dossier on her, includ-
ing articles from the Beirut
press. He chastised her for
entering the country under
a false name.
   "I'd have preferred to use                        AFTER THE PROTEST. A WELCOME FROM BEATE'S HUSBAND. SERGE. BACK B PARIS.
my own passport," Klars-
feld answered. "But then you'd have         husband had once answered the same             sured the Klarsfelds in private that he
barred me. What choice did I have? Don't    question bluntly. "Syria protects Brun-        would pursue the matter, this was the first
make me the criminal here."                 ner," said Serge, "because Assad must          time he'd gone public.
   Klarsfeld was then taken to the offices  like having around an old Nazi who killed         That announcement didn't sit well with
of a Syrian army general. She again de-     so many Jews."                                 Syria. It abruptly canceled Dumas's meet-
manded the expulsion of Brunner. The           I returned to Paris early the next morn-    ing with Assad. Once again, the Syrians
general's response was to order her placed  ing. Hours later, Klarsfeld was summoned       insisted that the war criminals—notably,
under hotel arrest until further notice.    to the hotel lobby with her luggage. Secu-     Ariel Sharon—were in Israel. This diplo-
   Hours of Syrian interrogation couldn't   rity officers drove her directly to the air-   matic contretemps, the Syrians grumbled,
have been fun, but Klarsfeld seemed un-     port, even though she'd hoped to have an       was the fault of the Klarsfelds. The couple
fazed by the experience. Only the ride      interview with Assad. "The president has       took it as a compliment. (The Syrians
back to the hotel, escorted by the French-  no time," she was told, "because he is so      stand to lose $ 172 million in aid from the
speaking security officer in a chauffeur-   busy receiving congratulations on his re-      European Community, which has formal-
driven Peugeot, had bothered her.           election."                                     ly requested Brunner's extradition.)
   "He drove much too fast," she said. "1      She was confined in a hotel overnight
was really frightened."                     before being put on a two-stop Syrian Air                    T SUMMER'S END IN 1943,

   She stayed in her room that evening, flight to Paris. Her own German passport                         Adolf Eichmann sent a Son-
content to wash her itchy scalp now that had been returned to her. Trudy Baer's                          derkommando team to Nice
she no longer had to wear the wig. I passport, she was told, would be returned                           to arrest lews. Heading that
brought her a spicy lamb schwarma from to its rightful owner.                                            team was "best man" Brun-
a food shop near the hotel. She didn't         She smiled broadly as some 50 mem-                        ner, then the commander of
have much appetite. If the Syrians had bers of the press surrounded her that eve-                        the Drancy transit camp.
treated her less courteously, she'd have ning at Orly Airport. Serge Klarsfeld                           Among those arrested during
been happier. That would have made kissed her in the glare of TV lights and                brutal sweeps of hotels and homes on the
Brunner's privileged situation seem all the then stood to the side while she was inter-    night of September 30 was Arno Klars-
more unfair. It did cheer her up to watch viewed. In the privacy of the taxi that took     feld. He'd gone to the door to meet the
the evening news from Paris; it reported them home, he held her hand tightly.              Gestapo, so that they wouldn't look for
accurately that she was confined to her        It was almost ten o'clock when the fam-     his wife, daughter, and eight-year-old son,
Damascus hotel after having been de- ily's two collies leapt up to lick Beate. She         Serge, hiding in terror behind a false clos-
tained for demonstrating against Alois examined her husband's shirts, draped               et wall. Arno Klarsfeld was murdered at
Brunner.                                    over a chair, to see which needed wash-        Auschwitz.
   At eleven o'clock that evening, Klars- ing. Then she put on her apron and made             Almost 50 years later, Beate Klarsfeld
feld had an unexpected visitor: Chris dinner from leftovers, just like any woman           raised a poster against Brunner for a few
Hedges, the energetic young New York arriving home late from work. Except that             seconds in Damascus. It was a small ges-
Times Cairo bureau chief who was in Da- for her, work wasn't quite over. The BBC           ture whose only power lay in the force of
mascus to cover the final chapter of the called at eleven o'clock for a radio              its message—reported more thoroughly in
hostage drama. He'd known n o t h i n g interview.                                         Europe than in the U.S. Time is short, but
about Klarsfeld until a Syrian contact         Earlier that day, a spokesman at the        because of her lone act of courage Alois
tipped him off "at great personal danger." Syrian embassy in Paris had again denied        Brunner may yet be called to answer for
What did it say about the Assad govern- the presence of Alois Brunner in his coun-         his crimes.
ment, Hedges asked, that it continued to try. But the denial had a hollow ring. And           "We don't care about revenge," the
harbor a criminal like Brunner?             Roland Dumas, the French foreign minis-        Klarsfelds said the morning after Beate's
   The question invited pontification. ter, had announced that when he visited             return from Damascus. "We just don't
Klarsfeld is more comfortable with facts, Syria later in the month, Brunner would          want Brunner to die knowing he got away
and she hesitated to answer directly. Her be on his agenda. While Dumas had as-            with his crimes."                         ^
Photograph by Ilhami Uncuoglu/Sipa.                                                                   JANUARY 13, 1992/NEW YORK     33

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