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Anne McDermott: The search for Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller

Mueller was head of Hitler's Gestapo  

Anne McDermott is a correspondent for CNN's Los Angeles bureau. She reports on the background behind the recent release of previously classified CIA files on top Nazi officials.

Q: Why has the CIA released the files? What were they expecting to find?

MCDERMOTT: They've had many requests over the years for additional information on anything that might be known about the disappearance of Heinrich Mueller. Mueller during World War II was Hitler's Gestapo chief, and he was also one of the architects for the so-called "final solution" and himself was directly involved in rounding up Germans for execution. They want to know what happened to him. He virtually disappeared at the end of the war. At the time, there were numerous differing accounts. One said he had been briefly in US custody, another said Mueller committed suicide, and still another report contained sightings of him through the years in unlikely places such as New Hampshire.

The people who want the information on what happened to him want to know where is he, is he alive, is he dead, did he ever live in freedom? Now it's important to note that if he were alive he would be a very old man, 101 years old to be exact. Few people believe he's alive, but it is a mystery. They want the mystery of Heinrich Mueller solved.

Q: Are they looking to bring about justice, or fill in some historical gaps?

MCDERMOTT: It's a bit of both. They primarily now want justice, and this is a man who is considered one of the most notorious Nazis under Hitler, and people feel he should be held accountable. I spoke with several people in connection with this story, including one woman who is a survivor of Auschwitz, and she said it's not so much any desire for vengeance on her part, but she wants him brought to justice, just so the world can see that such things must never, ever happen again.

Q: Why is it so important to continue the hunt for former Nazis?

MCDERMOTT: Some people say these events took place so long ago, in some cases they go back more than 60 years, so why should we care, why not just let these things be, it's a historical curiosity now. But there are many more people who believe these matters, these killings, these murders, the torturing of people, all the atrocities under Hitler and the Nazis, they cannot be forgotten and nor should they be, because as one person put it, "who knows how many Hitlers are out there now, and should be stopped before they ever get under way?"

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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