The Real Odessa: how Perón brought the Nazi war criminals to


Argentina by Uki Goñi


The secret history of the Fourth Reich

By Toby Green

12 February 2002

When I visited Valparaiso in Chile last year I found a restaurant called Hamburg owned by an elderly German emigré. Hamburg's walls abounded with memorabilia of the Nazi era. Ageing fascists sat there reminiscing about the "glory years" – evidence if it were needed that South America still hides Nazi collaborators.

Until recently the manner of their escape has remained obscure but now The Real Odessa exposes how Argentina's General Perón conspired with Nazis and the Vatican to rescue thousands of war criminals from Europe. Uki Goñi begins his shocking history by uncovering a directive from Buenos Aires that prevented Jews emigrating to Argentina. This was approved in July 1938 and thereafter many Jews were sent back to Germany.

To ensure Argentina's "racial purity" the ruling class established a "Human Potential Commission". But with the war turning against Hitler Argentina sided with the Allies – if only so that its troops could legitimately enter Germany to protect the friends of its élite.

Thereafter Perón set up an organisation to bring war criminals to Argentina. Using powerful families allies in Switzerland and friends in the Catholic Church it provided Nazis with false passports and bundled them out of Europe. The extent of this network is deeply troubling. Goñi mentions that his grandfather had been one of the many consuls to deny Jews visas for Argentina.

This illustrates the strength of The Real Odessa: Goñi's meticulous research shows how everyone was complicit. There were routes to Argentina from Spain Sweden Denmark and Switzerland and companies such as KLM made huge profits from the Nazi flight. The roles of cardinals and Vatican officials is particularly repellent but the British also admitted asking the Vatican to help some escaping collaborators while the Americans arranged Klaus Barbie's safe passage to Bolivia in return for anti-communist information.

As Goñi trawls through archives his grisly account is accompanied by signs of the official destruction of evidence. In Buenos Aires Menem's Peronist government burned immigration files as recently as 1996. The history of the Nazis in Argentina resonates with many recent events whether through the disturbing echoes of Blair's Third Way in Perón's "Third Position" or the role of the escapees in the politics of South America.

Goñi notes that the Catholic Church's support of murderous regimes in Argentina was merely an extension of its assistance to fleeing Nazis while some German "emigrés" sold arms to dictators including Pinochet. His book allows us to see that the Allies' abetting of the Nazi flight in return for anti-communist intelligence contributed to the atmosphere in which the brutal governments of the 1970s arose in Latin America.

When riots broke out in Buenos Aires last December the world was shocked. But Argentina had been on a downward economic spiral for years exacerbated by Menem's recent government. Menem's Peronists embodied many of the qualities of Perón's own regime including rampant corruption and a growing anti-Semitism that culminated in two bombs planted against Jewish targets in Buenos Aires.

Some critics see official involvement in these crimes which killed over 100 people and have never been solved. As Argentina tries to stay afloat The Real Odessa shows that the legacy of her dirty wars is still being played out.


Open door to evil

Richard Gott on a dreary version of Argentina's welcome to wanted men in Uki Goñi's The Real Odessa: How Perón Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina

Saturday January 26 2002
The Guardian

The Real Odessa: How Perón Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina
Uki Goñi
393pp Granta £20

When I lived in Israel at the time of Adolf Eichmann's execution in 1962 I told Aviva my Hebrew teacher that I had been opposed to his capture and trial. I thought then that more attention should have been paid to the presence of Nazi criminals within West Germany's government and judiciary than to pursuing isolated individuals who had made harmless new lives for themselves in distant lands. Aviva argued that it would be wrong to single out Germany which had made amends by paying reparations to Israel but I was not convinced. Later when I was reporting from South America I made a mental note not to write about the frequent sightings of former Nazis the staple diet of many foreign correspondents. The subject seemed to provide no assistance in understanding the continent whose ingrained racism and intolerance long predated the Nazi era.

Uki Goñi a deracinated Argentine journalist from a diplomatic family has made no such self-denying ordinance. He graduated from writing the inevitable non-stories requested by the Sunday Times about possible Martin Bormann passports found in southern Chile to spending five years researching a book about the postwar Nazi escape routes to Argentina a story more readably and imaginatively reconstructed in fictional form by Frederick Forsyth in The Odessa File.

So I came to The Real Odessa with a slightly jaundiced sense of déjà vu. Is this excitable footnote to history necessary and does it add to our understanding of Argentina's development in the 20th century? While the story's outline is familiar Goñi's obsessive research and interviewing has produced a huge amount of new material some of it interesting. Yet the answer to both questions has to be no.

General Perón opened up a highway for ex-Nazis in the years after 1945 outdoing all other countries (including the US) in his eagerness to capture new immigrants from Europe with technical qualifications. Perón was an enthusiast and believed in what he was doing. He did not relish the outcome of the war was opposed to the Nuremberg trials and enjoyed hobnobbing with the powerful German-Argentine community which supported his regime. Goñi does not have much of a feel for the politics of the first Perónist era and has little notion of what motivated the populist general. But his reporter's eye winkles out a number of unsavoury individuals who played a significant role in ensuring that many of Europe's ex-Nazis - from Belgium and Croatia as well as Germany -received a safe passage and a happy landing courtesy of the presidential palace. Even more enthusiastic than Perón were the prelates of the Catholic church in Argentina Spain France Belgium and the Vatican itself. Nazi criminals and collaborators from all over Europe survivors of Catholicism's flirtation with the far right in the 1930s were privileged recipients of Vatican support and provided with flights to Buenos Aires.

All this is grist to Goñi's mill but the final product is a dreary badly written and poorly edited book a blot on the reputation of Granta its publisher. Goñi is so obsessed with his pursuit of Nazis that he fails to fill in the historical to explain the nature of the existing German society in Argentina or to examine the causes of the triumph of Perón. Characters are introduced carelessly and then disappear without trace. No attempt is made to measure the impact on Argentina or on the ex-Nazis themselves of this distinctive immigration. Some became prosperous; others like Eichmann lived rather modestly.

Goñi touches on Argentine anti-semitism and the campaign to prevent Jewish immigration but fails to do justice to the subject. He has a tendency to tar everyone with the same brush. José María de Areilza Franco's ambassador to Buenos Aires in the postwar years was a close friend of the Belgian fascist Pierre Daye and gave a helping hand to many Catholic collaborators. Yet later - from a progressive Christian Democrat perspective - he was to be one of the architects of the post-Franco apertura in Spain.

Goñi's interest in the Nazi immigrants and the political purpose behind his book was generated during Argentina's "dirty war" of the 1970s and its disillusioning aftermath. He came to believe that Argentina suffered from its long history of "turning a blind eye to evil" and that it had failed to come to terms with the horror of its own recent past. He felt that his country had been damaged by its inability to recognise the role played by its Perónist government and the Catholic church in channelling Nazi criminals to the country. If his fellow citizens knew more about what had been done in their name they might be able to begin the long process of reconstruction.

These were noble intentions but far beyond Goñi's capacity as a writer to realise. There is no suggestion in this book that he has much inkling of the real nature of the settler society to which he belongs. Argentina had its very own holocaust in the 19th century still unrecognised as such by the present population. The slaughter of Indians and their removal from the land made room for new settlers Jews and Nazis alike. It is not really surprising that successive Argentine governments should have taken so little interest in a distant holocaust in Europe.

· Richard Gott is writing a history of Cuba for Yale.


Argentina Juan Perón e Eva Perón

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O caso Eichmann

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Outras páginas sobre Eichmann








NOVEMBER 9 1998 VOL. 152 NO. 19

Peron's Nazi Ties
How the European fascist sensibility found new roots and new life in the South Atlantic region

Since the 1930s the political culture of Argentina has been afflicted by periodic spasms of covert violence secrecy and denial. As in the case of Vichy France memory can be an inconvenience or an embarrassment; faced with incidents that require explanation too many Argentines instinctively reach for the words borron y cuenta nueva (Let's forget it all and start over with a clean slate). As a result even today nobody knows exactly how many people disappeared during the "dirty war" against subversion (1976-83) nor the number of victims in the left-wing guerrilla violence that preceded it. The 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the city's Jewish center causing the loss of 115 lives remain unsolved. Even events far more remote have had to wait decades for elucidation.

One of the most important of those events is Argentina's vaunted neutrality in World War II a posture it maintained long after other American republics broke off relations with the Axis. Only since the country's return to democracy in 1983 has the real story of Argentina's covert alignment with the Axis finally begun to emerge. A commission to investigate the activities of Nazism in Argentina appointed by President Carlos Menem and assisted by an international team of scholars started work last July. A preliminary report is expected in mid-November when the scholars meet in Buenos Aires and a final report a year later.

At issue here is not merely a matter of diplomatic taste. Throughout the war Argentina was regarded by U.S. diplomats and the U.S. media as the regional headquarters for Nazi espionage. After 1945 reports kept cropping up in the U.S. press that Argentina was the final redoubt of important Nazis and their European collaborators a point dramatically brought home as late as 1960 by the capture and forcible removal to Israeli justice of Adolf Eichmann principal director of the "final solution."

Over the years these allegations seemed at least superficially credible in light of the emergence in 1946 of Colonel Juan Peron as the leader of a defiant nationalist Argentina. Though in practice the Peron regime resembled hardly at all the defeated European fascist dictatorships Peron made no secret of his sympathy for the defeated Axis powers.

Argentina's and Peron's apparent preference for the Axis and particularly for Nazi Germany has muddied the country's relations with the Anglo-Saxon powers and poisoned its domestic politics. Anti-Peronists have often used the term Nazi (or Pero-Nazi) a bit too freely in attempting to discredit their opponents--not just Peron but also the administration of President Ramon S. Castillo (1940-43) who preceded him. Indeed Argentina's 1946 elections the first of three in which Peron was elected to the presidency were as much as anything else a plebiscite on the credibility of such accusations. In recent years the Canadian scholar Ronald Newton in his masterly The "Nazi Menace" in Argentina 1931-47 (Stanford) has suggested that much of the Nazi-fascist menace in Argentina was an invention of British intelligence fearful of the loss of historic markets in that country to the U.S. after the war and therefore desirous of straining relations between Buenos Aires and Washington.

Far in advance of the final report of President Menem's commission (of which Newton is a member) that theory has now been refuted in an extraordinary piece of investigative reporting--also a major breakthrough in historical scholarship--by Uki Goni whose Peron and the Germans has just been published in Buenos Aires. In this book the author who also works as a local correspondent for TIME establishes that for all the hyperbole Washington's darkest suspicions were if anything greatly understated. For one thing Goni demonstrates that the Castillo administration and particularly the Argentine Foreign Ministry was honeycombed with Nazi sympathizers as early as 1942--so much so that it is difficult to see why any of the most anxious partisans of neutrality such as found in the secret lodges of the Argentine army felt the need to overthrow the government at all!

For another Goni establishes without doubt that there was an Argentine-German conspiracy to detach neighboring countries from their sympathetic posture toward the Allied cause. This conspiracy reached its maximum point of success in Bolivia where a regime friendly to the U.S. was ousted by a military coup in 1943. Argentina was also active (if less successfully) in Brazil Paraguay and Chile. Goni demonstrates that operatives of Heinrich Himmler's Sicherheitdienst or SD the political-espionage service of the Nazi Party moved without difficulty throughout Argentina for the entire war. In spite of an Argentine parliamentary commission on un-Argentine activities and a special office of the Federal Police deputed to prosecute such agents of espionage Himmler's operatives were rarely disturbed and after they were finally jailed at the end of the war they were released as soon as possible.

As late as 1944 the Argentine military thought the Nazis were going to win the war and during the first months of 1945 tried to act as if they had. Having bet on the wrong horse Peron and his associates--far from reproaching themselves for their bad judgment or at least striving to correct it--closed ranks and came to the rescue of some of the most unsavory figures to escape Allied justice in liberated Europe.

After 1945 the Argentine consulate in Barcelona became a distribution point for false passports which enabled literally hundreds if not thousands of Nazi functionaries to escape to Argentina including the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. Eventually Argentina provided safe haven for such sinister personalities as Belgian Nazi collaborator Pierre Daye; Reinhard Spitzy the Austrian representative of Skoda in Spain; Charles Lescat former Vichy functionary and onetime editor of the scurrilous magazine Je Suis Partout; SS functionary Ludwig Lienhardt; German industrialist Ludwig Freude; SS functionary (for a time) Klaus Barbie "the Butcher of Lyons"; Eichmann; and Eichmann's adjutant Franz Stangl. Argentina also became home to dozens of Croats veterans of the bloodthirsty Ustashe as well as the wartime Prime Minister of occupied Yugoslavia Milan Stojadinovich.

Some of these people had an important afterlife in Peron's Argentina. Vichyite Frenchman Jacques de Mahieu drafted the doctrinal texts of Peron's movement and became an important ideological mentor to Roman Catholic nationalist youth groups in the 1960s. Daye became the editor of one of the official Peronist magazines; Freude's business ventures prospered and his son Rodolfo was the chief of presidential intelligence during Peron's first presidency. In 1951 Stojadinovich founded one of Argentina's main business dailies El Economista which still carries his name on its masthead.

Many of these people also benefited from the clandestine assistance of the Vatican in making their escape from Europe to Argentina. The one question Goni's book cannot answer is why either the Catholic Church or the Peron regime felt so strongly about the need to provide succor and assistance to partisans of a lost (and one would have thought thoroughly discredited) cause. Money did have something to do with it. Argentine officials in Europe were known to sell passports for large sums. But there appears to have been a vague confusing and still unexplained overlap between defeated Central European fascism preconciliar Catholicism and nascent Peronism. A case in point is the career of a Croatian priest based in Rome the Rev. Krunoslav Draganovic who was deputed by Peron to facilitate the escape of hundreds of Nazis and their collaborators to South America including the infamous Barbie. When the Butcher of Lyons asked the clergyman why he was going out of his way to help him Draganovic merely replied "We have to maintain a sort of moral reserve on which we can draw in the future." Thus the European fascist sensibility if not precisely the fascist system found new roots and new life in the South Atlantic region.

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. His books include Prologue to Peron: Argentina in Depression and War 1930-43.


22 de novembro de 1998

Livro mostra admiração de Perón pelos nazistas

Líder argentino era visto pelo 3º Reich como possível aliado para dominar o continente


Especial para o Estado

BUENOS AIRES - "A luta de Hitler na paz e na guerra nos servirá de guia. As alianças serão o primeiro passo. Temos o Paraguai a Bolívia e o Chile. Com a Argentina Paraguai Bolívia e Chile unidos será fácil pressionar o Uruguai. Logo os cinco países vão atrair facilmente o Brasil e suas grandes comunidades alemãs. Quando o Brasil cair o continente americano será nosso." A frase pronunciada pelo general Juan Domingo Perón em maio de 1943 ilustrava quais eram os planos argentinos. Nesse momento a Alemanha nazista e seus aliados do Eixo estavam no apogeu de seu poderio dominando a maioria da Europa dos Pirineus até as estepes ucranianas do deserto da África até os fiordes noruegueses. Hitler e seus assessores já pensavam na extensão de seu domínio para a América do Sul para distrair as forças dos EUA que começavam a chegar à Europa e atrapalhavam os planos do Japão no Oceano Pacífico.

Seu instrumento seria Perón na época secretário de Guerra e eminência parda do poder na Argentina. Perón que não era nem um pouco tonto também utilizou os nazistas como instrumento e no pós-guerra serviu-se de centenas deles que na Argentina trabalharam em campos variados: como técnicos para fábricas militares físicos nucleares e até torturadores e especialistas em propaganda política.

O então coronel Perón já vinha estabelecendo contatos com o 3º Reich desde o início da 2ª Guerra. Ele liderava o Grupo Oficiales Unidos (GOU) um punhado de oficiais que em 1943 desfecharia um golpe de Estado vitorioso. A anterior estada de Perón na Itália de Mussolini em 1940 sua visita à Paris ocupada e às multidões frenéticas na Piazza Venezia deixaram o futuro presidente argentino inspirado.

"Não diria que Perón fosse um nazista" explicou ao Estado o jornalista e historiador americano-argentino Uki Goñi autor do recentemente lançado Perón e os Alemães que traz à tona uma série de documentos sobre os vínculos do líder argentino com o 3º Reich. "As ideologias ou religiões não possuíam nenhuma importância. A única coisa que importava era o poder. Nazistas eram os que enchiam os estádios por Hitler. Peronistas eram os que enchiam a Plaza de Mayo. Perón não era peronista."

Goñi assinala porém que "Perón admitia sua admiração pelas idéias do fascismo e muito depois nos anos 70 ainda criticava o Tribunal de Nuremberg que definia como uma infâmia". Ele gabava-se de ter tentado resgatar o máximo de alemães de Nuremberg.

O ranço fascista dos militares argentinos chamou a atenção de Goñi que decidiu - após dois anos de investigações e a descoberta de documentos inéditos - escrever o livro.

A Argentina que se manteve neutra até semanas antes da vitória dos Aliados foi o principal centro da espionagem alemã na América do Sul. Grande parte da informação sobre os EUA passava por Buenos Aires. Com a ajuda discreta do GOU a espionagem alemã atuou quase livremente no país até o fim da guerra.

O principal elo da Argentina com o 3º Reich era Juan Carlos Goyeneche líder dos nacionalistas católicos que viajou dezenas de vezes para a Alemanha para reunir-se com o chanceler Joachin Von Ribbentrop com o líder das SS Heinrich Himmler e com outros líderes fascistas europeus como Mussolini Francisco Franco e Antonio Salazar. Goyeneche também teve dois encontros com o papa Pio XII. Goyeneche contudo era um enlace informal. Goñi considera que "a história da região poderia ter sido diferente se Osmar Hellmuth não tivesse sido capturado pelos ingleses". Hellmuth ao contrário de Goyeneche nascera na Alemanha colaborava com a inteligência nazista e foi o emissário especial nomeado por Perón para negociar com Hitler um apoio argentino em troca de armas. Foi detido pelos britânicos no meio do caminho e permaneceu preso até o fim da guerra sem que pudesse iniciar negociações oficiais de uma possível aliança argentina-germânica.

Goñi relata a surpresa de um chefe da seção latino-americana da Chancelaria do Reich que em agosto de 1944 após o desembarque aliado na Normandia e com Berlim sob constante bombardeio recebeu um telegrama de Perón no qual ele dizia que ainda acreditava na vitória alemã. "Na verdade os militares argentinos não acreditavam na vitória nazista mas consideravam que Hitler poderia obter uma paz em separado com os EUA e a Grã-Bretanha mantendo as mãos livres para continuar a guerra com a URSS" sustenta o historiador. Segundo Goñi Perón acreditava que era possível uma paz condicional mediada por Argentina e Vaticano.

Durante a guerra Perón planejava estabelecer uma faixa de proteção à Argentina constituída por países como Bolívia e Paraguai. Esse último foi um dos primeiros alvos de Perón: em 1943 tentou seduzir o general Higino Morigiño presidente paraguaio com uma cerimoniosa recepção em Buenos Aires. O mordaz jornalista Ray Joseph de The Buenos Aires Herald descreveu a visita de Morigiño como "o tipo de boas-vindas que Mussolini costumava oferecer a Hitler". Segundo Joseph os muros portenhos foram cobertos com cartazes com a imagem de Morigiño "uma imagem tão hollywoodiana que nem mesmo ele podia reconhecer-se nela". Apesar das lisonjas o paraguaio ficou do lado dos EUA que lhe ofereceu armas. Perón dedicou-se imediatamente ao outro alvo: a Bolívia. Ali o GOU e os agentes alemães articularam um golpe que derrubou o governo do general Enrique Peñaranda em dezembro de 1943. Em seu lugar foi instalado o general Gualberto Villarroel. Em troca a Argentina prometeu ajuda econômica e a construção de uma ferrovia. Mas a armação do golpe foi descoberta e frustrada pelos EUA. Villarroel ficou no poder até 1946. No pós-guerra foi difícil manter-se e foi derrubado por uma sangrenta revolução.

O Brasil era o objetivo seguinte. Perón assustava-se com a construção de bases aeronavais no Brasil e no Uruguai. Junto aos alemães Perón decidiu agir fortalecendo o Partido Integralista de Plínio Salgado que estava exilado em Lisboa. Integralistas foram convocados à Buenos Aires onde foram convencidos de que o Brasil precisava aderir à política de neutralidade aplicada pela Argentina.

Os integralistas Vicente Caruso e Jayr Tavares reuniram-se com Guillermo Lasserre Mármol o contato de Perón com a inteligência alemã para dizer-lhe que o integralismo contava com o apoio argentino para realizar um levante cívico-militar que derrubasse Getúlio Vargas e promovesse uma aliança com a Argentina. Posteriormente um dos líderes integralistas Rodrigues Contreras foi a Buenos Aires e passou aos argentinos valiosa informação sobre as bases americanas no Brasil.

Buenos Aires havia se transformado em um verdadeiro centro de peregrinação para os integralistas brasileiros que chegaram a alertar para a possibilidade de um choque militar entre Brasil e Argentina estimulado pelos EUA. O integralismo comprometeu-se a empreender uma vasta campanha propagandística em favor da Argentina no Brasil além de instalar uma rede de colaboração de espiões. Mas apesar dos projetos o avanço na negociação entre Perón e os integralistas foi lento e pouco depois a guerra terminou.




 Luz sobre un período oscuro

Por Uki Goñi
(Sudamericana)-307 páginas-($ 19)


POR décadas un fantasma (entre tantos otros) rondó la figura de Juan Domingo Perón: su relación con los nazis que tras la caída del Tercer Reich rumbearon hacia la Argentina bien lejos de los tribunales europeos donde se juzgaba a los responsables de crímenes de guerra.

Uki Goñi se ha propuesto desentrañar la maraña de documentos y testimonios que relacionaban al entonces coronel Perón con los hilos del espionaje alemán primero y luego con la corriente de los refugiados nazis que llegaron a la Argentina de 1946 en adelante.

¿Cómo lo ha hecho? Por una parte consultando todo el material que por décadas durmió arrumbado y olvidado en los archivos extranjeros (alguno desclasificado recientemente) y nacionales (especialmente fructíferos en el caso de la documentación hallada en el Archivo General del Poder Judicial de la Nación). Por otra entrevistando a un número importante de testigos y personajes involucrados en el tema recogiendo testimonios claves como el de Wilfred von Oven cercano colaborador de Goebbels y buen conocedor de la red de intereses alemanes en la Argentina durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

El libro sumamente documentado estudia los tiempos de la polémica neutralidad argentina en la Segunda Guerra Mundial y las intrigas de los espías y agentes de la Alemania nazi en el país. Estos se esforzaban por desarrollar una red de comunicaciones y por influir en lo posible en los poderosos círculos militares que tras la revolución del 4 de junio de 1943 iban a acercar todavía más al país a la causa germana que paradójicamente para esas fechas y luego del desastre de Stalingrado se deslizaba hacia un inevitable colapso.

Goñi reseña detalladamente (a veces el detalle puede resultar abrumador) las andanzas de los espías nazis y también las diferencias (que las había y serias) entre los distintos servicios de Inteligencia del Reich.

En la obra de Goñi la figura del entonces coronel Perón es vinculada -ya sea por sus simpatías personales o ideológicas o por simple pragmatismo político- a los enjuagues de los agentes nazis que operaban en la Argentina. Pragmatismo similar al que en la opinión de Goñi emplearía posteriormente el líder justicialista para librarse de ellos en la medida en que estorbaban sus objetivos políticos.

Perón y los alemanes constituye un minucioso buceo en un oscuro período de nuestra política exterior y demuestra un importante esfuerzo de investigación. Si bien algunas de sus conclusiones pueden parecer demasiado categóricas el libro atrapa por el detalle con que el autor ha seguido las intrigas por suerte para el interés del relato más como un detective que como un historiador.

Como siempre en la historia todo es demasiado enredado y complejo más próximo a las dudas que a las certezas. El minucioso y documentado libro de Goñi (que por momentos se lee como una densa novela de espionaje) ayuda eficazmente a arrojar luz sobre el asunto. No es poca cosa.

Ernesto G. Castrillón