Image: Efraim Zuroff
Santiago Llanquin  /  AP
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Center, speaks during a press conference in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday.
updated 7/15/2008 3:44:38 AM ET 2008-07-15T07:44:38

An international Jewish human rights organization is better positioned to find former SS Doctor Aribert Heim following a fact-finding mission in southern Chile and Argentina, the organization's director said Monday.

Efraim Zuroff, who heads the Israel-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, arrived in the region last Wednesday and has been conducting an investigation alongside the center's Latin American representative, Sergio Widder.

He wrapped up the trip on Monday.

"What we expected to do — and so far we have been successful — is to put in place the tools that will lead to his capture in the next few weeks — or at the most, months," Zuroff said.

"I think it is fair to say that we are in a better position today than we were before" the trip, he said.

Zuroff said center officials are "convinced that there are people who know the information and that this person can be found."

"A person this age cannot live on his own," he said. "Obviously people have to help him, they have to guard him, they have to be involved in this operation."

The center has insisted for years that Heim, who would be 94 if still alive, was in the Puerto Montt area in Chile, where a daughter of his has lived since the 1960s. San Carlos de Bariloche is located in Argentina, about 100 miles to the east of Puerto Montt.

Huge bank account still unclaimed
Supporting the belief that Heim is alive are a multimillion-dollar bank account in his name and other investments that no one has claimed, Zuroff said. To do that, the claimant would have to produce proof that Heim was dead.

A reward of $495,000 is being offered jointly by the center and the German and Austrian governments for information leading to his capture. Heim tops the Wiesenthal Center's list of most-wanted Nazi war criminals.

Image: Dr. Aribert Heim
AP file
This 1950 photo shows Nazi suspect Dr. Aribert Heim.
A number of Nazis sought refuge in South America after World War II.

Heim was indicted in Germany on charges he murdered hundreds of inmates at Mauthausen concentration camp, where he was camp doctor. He was known as "the Butcher of Mauthausen."

He was held for two and a half years by the United States military but was released without being tried and disappeared in 1962, when he was tipped off that the indictment by German authorities was imminent.

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