SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Nazi hunters arrived in Chile on Monday on the trail of Aribert Heim, nicknamed Dr. Death for killing hundreds of inmates at an Austrian concentration camp during World War Two, who they believe may be lurking in picturesque Patagonia.
Heim, who kept the skull of a man he decapitated as apaperweight, is the most wanted Nazi war criminal still thoughtto be alive. He would be 94 and his family says he died in1993.
"We are not here thinking that his capture is imminent, butwe have to bolster a campaign that we launched a few monthsago," Sergio Widder, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in BuenosAires, told Reuters on his arrival in Santiago.
Widder was accompanying Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff, whohead's the Wiesenthal Centre's Jerusalem office. The centre isoffering a bounty of around $450,000 (228,000 pounds) for Heimas part of a new drive to catch aged Nazi fugitives before theydie unpunished.
Heim, an Austrian who killed hundreds of inmates at theMauthausen concentration camp by injecting gasoline or poisonin their hearts, has been on the run for 46 years since evadingpolice in Germany in 1962 prior to a planned prosecution.
A doctor with Adolf Hitler's SS, Heim removed organs fromvictims without anaesthetic.
Holocaust survivors remember him relishing the fear ofdeath in his victims' eyes. After administering lethalinjections, he timed death with a stopwatch.
The centre believes Heim is likely in Chilean or ArgentinePatagonia, the region between the Andes and south Atlantic.Heim's daughter lives in the scenic southern Chilean town ofPuerto Montt 657 miles (1,058 km) south of the capitalSantiago.
Hundreds of Nazis sought refuge in Latin America afterWorld War Two, many lured to Argentina thanks to the open-doorpolicies of Gen. Juan Domingo Peron, as well as to Chile andBrazil.
Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death" at Auschwitz, escapedto Argentina and also lived in Paraguay before he died inBrazil in 1979.
(Reporting by Simon Gardner; Editing by Patricia Zengerle)