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Walter Rauff former SS Nazi Colonel

Walter Rauff (born June 19, 1906, died May 14, 1984), former SS Colonel (SS-Standartenführer) in the Nazi SS in Germany.

As a member of the Reich Security Main Office, RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt), a department of the SS created by Heinrich Himmler in 1939, Rauff was involved in the development of "Gas Vans": mobile gas chambers used to fatally poison Jews, persons with disabilities, and communists, who were considered by the SS as enemies of the German State.

According to declassified C.I.A. documents: "as an official of the Criminal Technical Institute of the Reich Security Main Office, Rauff designed gas vans used to poison Jews and persons with disabilities."

Rauff was later involved in the persecution of Jews in North Africa during 1942 and 1943. As part of their long-term aim to export the Holocaust to the Near and Middle East (including the British Mandate of Palestine, British-occupied Iraq, French-occupied Syria, the Lebanon, Egypt, and Libya), and capture the regionís oil fields.

A month after German Field Marshal Erwin Rommelís defeat of the British at Tobruk in June 1942, the SS set up a special extermination unit to follow in the wake of Rommelís Afrika Korps. The unit was commanded by Rauff who was empowered to carry out "executive measures on the civilian population", the Nazi euphemism for mass murder and enslavement.

Rauffís mission to exterminate the Middle East's Jewish population was brought to an abrupt halt by the British 8th Army's defeat of Rommel at El Alamein in October 1942. Rommel was forced to withdraw the remnants of his army to Tunisia, where it sustained a bridgehead until May 1943.

A British Security Service (MI5) file records that Rauff was posted to Tunis in 1942 as head of the Sicherheitsdienst, where he led an Einsatzkommando (an SS task force) which conducted a well-organised persecution campaign against the country's Jews and Partisans. More than 2,500 Tunisian Jews and Partisans died in a network of SS slave labor camps before the Germans withdrew. Rauff's men also stole jewels, silver, gold, and religious artifacts from the Tunisia.

Rauff was then sent to Milan in 1943 where he took charge of all Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst operations throughout northwest Italy. The MI5 file states: "In both these postings Rauff rapidly gained reputation for utter ruthlessness. In Tunis he was responsible for the indiscriminate execution of both Jews and local Partisans. His work in Italy involved imposing total German control on Milan, Turin. and Genoa. His success in this task earned him the congratulations of his SS superior, who described it as "a superb achievement"". Rauff remained in Italy until the end of the war.

"Near the end of the war Rauff, then the senior SS and police official in northern Italy, tried to gain credit for the surrender of German forces in Italy, but ended up only surrendering himself. After escaping from an American internment camp in Italy, Rauff hid in a number of Italian convents, apparently under the protection of Bishop Alois Hudal. In 1948 he was recruited by Syrian intelligence and went to Damascus (only to fall out of favor after a coup there a year later).

"According to one report, he tortured Jews in Syria. He and his family then settled in Ecuador, later shifting to Chile, where he may have served in Chilean intelligence. C.I.A. officials could not determine Rauff's exact position. The C.I.A. report adds: "In any case, the government of General Augusto Pinochet resisted all calls for his extradition to stand trial in West Germany".

Rauff was arrested in December 1962 after Germany requested his extradition, but was freed by Chile's Supreme Court five months later. In 1972, Chilean President Salvador Allende, at the request of the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, asked the Chilean Supreme Court to extradite Rauff to Germany. This application was again denied.

After settling in Chile, Rauff worked as a manager of a king crab cannery in Punta Arenas, one of the southernmost towns in South America. After his release by the Chilean Supreme Court, Rauff disappeared. He was discovered by the documentary filmmaker William Bemister in Los Pozos, Santiago, Chile in 1979, and interviewed on film. This interview was included in the Emmy-winning film "The Hunter and the Hunted" and shown on the PBS Network in the United States on October 21, 1981. Rauff died in 1984 of a heart attack. His funerals were the occasion of a Nazi celebration

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