[Paleopsych] NYT: Half-Century Later, a New Look at Argentine-Nazi Ties
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Thu Apr 7 15:03:25 UTC 2005
Half-Century Later, a New Look at Argentine-Nazi Ties
By LARRY ROHTER
BUENOS AIRES - That scores of fugitive Nazis found their way to
Argentina after World War II, aided and abetted by Gen. Juan D. Perón,
is no secret. But according to a book just published here that draws
extensively on archival material only now being made available to
researchers, his government also offered a haven for the profits of
German companies that had been part of the Nazi war machine and whose
assets the victorious Allies would otherwise have seized.
In "The German Connection: The Laundering of Nazi Money in Argentina,"
Gaby Weber, a German journalist, argues that the Perón dictatorship
sponsored an operation to move illicitly obtained wealth to Argentina
and then back to Germany. For nearly a decade, her book asserts,
German-made cars, trucks, buses and even the machinery for entire
factories flowed into Argentina, paid for with dollars that were then
used to help finance the "German economic miracle."
To the chagrin of Argentines who still revere him and his wife, Evita,
the evidence she presents indicates that Perón and a few favorites
around him also took a cut. But Ms. Weber, who has lived and worked in
South America since the mid-1980's, said she was mainly interested in
what she described as two parallel but complementary money streams to
and from Germany, which were involved in and benefited from the
"One must make a distinction between the Nazi Party organization and
the companies, which had no interest in financing a Nazi resurgence,"
she said in a recent interview here. "My focus is on the official
Argentine government operation to help those companies launder their
money, but a lot of Nazis also did it on their own, hoping to
reconstruct the party" from their hiding places here.
Ms. Weber's book, published in German and Spanish, is based in part on
research in the corporate archives of Mercedes-Benz and on interviews
with Argentines and Germans who took part in the scheme. But she also
consulted government records of Germany, the United States and,
particularly, Argentina, where she found transcripts of interrogations
of participants after Perón's ouster in September 1955, and other
official documents that until now were generally off-limits to
According to the documents Ms. Weber cites, the laundering operation
involved both the consistent overcharging for goods exported from
Germany to Argentina and billing for nonexistent transactions. But the
Argentine Central Bank also cooperated by permitting transactions to
be conducted at an exchange rate unusually favorable to German
"The German Connection" focuses largely on Mercedes-Benz, the
automobile, bus and truck manufacturer that is today a unit of
Daimler-Chrysler. But others offered by Ms. Weber as beneficiaries of
the plan include German makers of electrical and railway equipment and
other capital goods, as well as producers of items as varied as
tractors and television sets.
"It is impossible to calculate the exact amount of money laundered in
Argentina between 1950 and 1955," Ms. Weber said. "But it probably
corresponds to well over a billion dollars."
According to Argentine documents seized after the overthrow of Perón,
about half of one large shipment of Mercedes sedans to Argentina went
directly to the president's office. Perón appears to have kept four
cars himself, but sent the others to judges and prosecutors,
politicians, journalists and others whose support he was seeking.
Ms. Weber also found documentary evidence that in at least a couple of
cases, entire factories were shipped to Argentina for reassembly here.
Perón envisioned Argentina as an industrial power and apparently saw
the importing of German equipment and experts as the best way to
jump-start aircraft, chemical and other industries.
"Most of the machinery came from Rotterdam, though we don't know how
it got there," Ms. Weber said. She added that most of the equipment
appeared to be German in origin, though some was probably looted from
Czechoslovakia or other conquered East European nations.
At one point, Ms. Weber also maintains, the Nazi Adolf Eichmann was
hired, initially under his own name but later under an alias, at the
Mercedes-Benz plant in the suburbs of the capital. In the interview,
she suggested that Mr. Eichmann, abducted by Israel in 1960 and then
tried and executed, might have functioned as a sort of paymaster,
"financing the movement and flight to Argentina" of other fugitive
Reached by telephone, a spokesman for Mercedes-Benz, Ursula Mertzig,
acknowledged that Ms. Weber had been "given free entrance to our
archives in Stuttgart and that we checked the names she gave us in our
personnel data." But she described the book as "a very strange story"
that lacked substantiation.
"She has no proof of money laundering and there is no proof," Ms.
Mertzig said. "We could find nothing that gives nourishment to her
reproach. This is her idea of what history was, but it is not
supported by other historians in Germany."
The publication of Ms. Weber's book follows the release here late last
year of a documentary film that caused debate on the same subject. The
film, "Nazi Gold in Argentina," contends that Swiss banks, the Roman
Catholic Church and Argentine politicians conspired to loot hundreds
of millions of dollars in cash and other valuable assets held by the
The film includes scenes of Nazi submarines filled with gold bars
unloading their treasure on the deserted beaches of Patagonia, events
that most experts dismiss as fanciful. But it also sheds light on the
activities of shadowy figures like Hermann Dörge, a German banker who
worked in Argentina's Central Bank during the 1940's and was
officially declared to have committed suicide after destroying
evidence of Nazi money transfers.
In his book "The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón's
Argentina," the Argentine writer Uki Goni documented how Croatian
fascists allied with the Nazis shipped over 500 pounds of gold bars to
Argentina after World War II. But he said that "regarding German or
Austrian Nazi money after the war, the trail is more diffuse."
During the war itself, "there is quite a lot of American documentation
about how the Nazis laundered money, seized from the banks of
conquered countries, in Argentina so they could buy raw supplies," Mr.
Goni said in an interview. He added that he found it "fishy" that many
Argentine Central Bank records from then and the postwar period were
either incomplete or said to be destroyed.
"I'm sure something happened, but the documents are still hidden," Mr.
Goni said. "A tremendous amount of research still needs to be done,
and the Argentine government needs to open up more records, especially
those of state intelligence."
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