Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister's Father Barred Nazi Officer's Deportation

In 1978, the then Attorney General Henrique Araújo denied requests from three different countries to bring fugitive Gustav Wagner to trial

Paula Sperb
Porto Alegre

In 1978, Former Attorney General Henrique Fonseca Araújo, father of current Foreign Affairs Minister Ernesto Araújo, actively avoided extraditing Gustav Franz Wagner, a Nazi officer responsible for 250,000 deaths between 1942 and 1943, and who was living in Brazil during the military dictatorship.

After being asked for comment repeatedly by Folha, Ernesto Araújo announced on Monday he would release a written statement on a later date. His father died in 1996.

Wagner was the deputy commander at the concentration camp in Sobibor, Poland. The sickening smell of burnt bodies was the prisoner's first impression when they arrived at the camp.

Gustav Franz Wagner, former Nazi officer who fled to Brazil after World War II and who was wanted for his crimes at the Sobibor concentration camp, in Poland

Cannibalism was typical because the Nazi soldiers offered human remains for the prisoners to eat. They also witnessed atrocious acts like a baby shot with a machine gun on his mother's lap. Sobibor survivor Esther Raab, whose story is recorded at the Holocaust Museum in the United States, described the scene.

Raab identified the man who shot the child as Wagner, also known as "The Beast.

"He was one of the most feared Nazi officials at Sobibor," said Chris Webb, author of "The Sobibor Death Camp" (Columbia University Press, 2017).  "Prisoners tried to stay out of his sight, fearing his cruelty. Given his role at Sobibor, he should have been deported. It's a disgrace he wasn't," added.

After World War II, Wagner fled Europe to avoid being captured. Years later, in 1978, he was discovered living in Brazil by the famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, aided by Brazilian journalist Mario Chimanovitch.

Chaimovitch published a piece in Jornal do Brasil saying that Wiesenthal recognized Wagner from a photo where some people appeared to be celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday. It was a ruse, but Wagner, 67 years old at the time, turned himself in, fearing getting captured by Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

The case made news all over the world. Many countries requested Brazil to deport Wagner so that he could answer for the crime of genocide.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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