News of Nazi's Secret Life Sheds Light on Egypt's Sensitive Past

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Nazi hunters urged Egypt on Friday to come clean about how much it knew about a fugitive dubbed "Dr. Death," who reportedly lived here for decades until he died in 1992. But Egypt has long kept a strict silence about former Nazis reported to have taken refuge on its soil.

The discovery of Aribert Heim's secret life throws light on how the Arab world took in members of the Nazi regime after World War II, said Efraim Zuroff, head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The region's role as a haven has gone little examined while researchers focused on the larger, better known influx of Nazis to Latin America.

A number of Nazis are believed to have been welcomed in the 1950s by the Egyptian regime of then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who was locked in an intense rivalry with Israel that erupted into wars in 1956 and 1967. Nasser enlisted some Nazis to train Egypt's military or produce anti-Israel propaganda — and Israel feared they were involved in building a rocket program.

The Egyptian government has been silent since Heim's presence in Egypt was first reported by The New York Times and Germany's ZPF television Thursday. Government officials and several former Nasser-era officials approached by The Associated Press refused to comment on any aspect of the reports.

One current security official would say only that if Heim was in Egypt, he was let in under a previous government. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Egypt would look into the reports.

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