DATE=10/5/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=ARGENTINA/NAZI COMMISSION - PART I NUMBER=5-44418 BYLINE=BILL RODGERS DATELINE=RIO DE JANEIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT= INTRO: An Argentine government commission investigating Nazi activities has found evidence of gold transfers and government collusion in helping war criminals settle in the South American nation in the immediate post-war period. V-O-A's Bill Rodgers, who has just returned from Buenos Aires, reports from our South American bureau (with a two- part series) on the commission's findings. TEXT: It has long been known that Argentina was a haven for Nazi war criminals who managed to flee prosecution in Europe and disappear in the South American nation. The most notorious was Adolf Eichmann, who was seized in Argentina in 1960 by Israeli agents, and then tried and put to death in Israel. But other, lesser known Nazi murderers and collaborators also sought refuge in Argentina in the immediate post-war period. All this has been the subject of investigation by a government commission created in 1997. The panel, known as the Commission of Inquiry into Nazi Activities in Argentina [Comision Para la Esclaracion de las Actividades del Nazismo en Argentina - CEANA], is now ready to make its findings public after completing its mandated two years of work. The commission, made up of some 30 researchers, examined thousands of documents -- in Argentina and abroad -- to learn more about Nazi activities. Commission coordinator Ignacio Klich says the panel looked into three broad areas: /// 1st KLICH ACT /// The first one dealing with looted assets that may have come to Argentina, whether by gold or by way of artwork. A second theme was to arrive at a more trustworthy estimate of the number of war criminals that settled in Argentina and the conditions that made this possible. And, thirdly trying to assess the impact of Nazism and the influx of Nazis and other war criminals had on Argentina's political culture, society, and government. ///END ACT/// Argentina became a post-war haven for Nazis mainly because of one man, Juan Domingo Peron. A key participant in a 1943 coup that brought the military to power, Colonel Peron later was elected President in 1946 and governed the country until he was overthrown in 1955. A pro-Nazi sympathizer during the war, Mr. Peron and his government later smoothed the way for Germans and pro-Nazi collaborators to settle in Argentina after 1945. This is one of the main findings of the investigating commission, known as CEANA by its Spanish acronym. CEANA coordinator Klich says war criminals were allowed into Argentina through the intervention of a group of people who had influence in the government. This group, which later became formally known as the Argentine Society for the Reception of Europeans, advised Argentine immigration authorities about who should be allowed entry into Argentina. Mr. Klich says his researchers found evidence that President Peron was more than aware of the Society's activities. /// 2nd KLICH ACT/// This Argentine Society for the Reception of Europeans was created following a two-day meeting in December 1947 with Peron at the Presidential Palace. So if any war criminal came to Argentina under the auspices of the Argentine Society for the Reception of Europeans the buck stops at President Peron's desk [it happened under the authority of President Peron]. ///END ACT/// In all, the commission says 180 war criminals, including men like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, came to Argentina at one time or another. These 180 people, Mr. Klich says, are individuals who had specific war-crime charges leveled against them in other countries. Among them, he says, were a large number of Nazi collaborators from Eastern Europe. /// 3rd KLICH ACT/// I would say that in terms of hierarchical terms the foremost war criminals that came to Argentina were the heads of the former pro-Nazi governments of Byelorussia [Belarus] and Croatia: Radislaw Ostrowski and Ante Pavelic, respectively. Obviously, these are names that are less well-known -- either in Argentina or elsewhere -- but in terms of hierarchy they were the respective heads of state, the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in their own countries. ///END ACT/// // OPT // While the figure of 180 may seem low, Mr. Klich considers it a minimum. He says still unexamined documents in other countries may reveal more names. /// 4th KLICH ACT/// This is to say that Argentina received not less than 180 war criminals. But we do know that the number grows bigger. If we look at the archival material of other ... East bloc countries then obviously other names will crop up. We didn't work with the materials in the former Czechoslovakia, nor in Hungary, nor in Poland, nor in the Ukraine. So obviously there are areas that would, in and of themselves, add legitimate names. ///END ACT/// In addition to war criminals, others came to Argentina who had ties in one way or another with Germany's Third Reich. For example, the Peron government allowed scientists and engineers from Germany and other countries into Argentina -- despite their past work for the Nazis. But in this respect, Mr. Klich notes, Argentina was no different from other countries at the time -- including the United States. // END OPT // Another key finding by the commission involves the transfer of looted Nazi gold. While much less gold came to Argentina than to Switzerland, CEANA did find evidence of a 200- kilogram shipment into the South American nation by members of Croatia's pro-Nazi Ustashe government. Some of this looted gold consisted of jewelry -- presumably seized from Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution in the former Yugoslavia. // OPT // CEANA coordinator Ignacio Klich says some of the gold was used to resettle Ustashe Croatians in Argentina. /// 5th KLICH ACT /// Obviously, this is a substantial amount of money and we don't know as yet where it ended up in Argentina and whether it went into any of the Argentine government official institutions for keeping, whether it ended up under a mattress or whether they kept it in a safe. What we do know, from a 1952 document, is that Ante Pavelic, the former head of the pro-Nazi government in Croatia, wanted to sell some of the gold because those funds were not only used to re-settle Pavelic and his entourage and other Croatians that came in during that period, which Peron himself estimated at five-thousand, but also for their political activities, their anti-Tito political activities. /// END ACT /// As for looted art, the Commission did not find any Nazi- seized paintings in Argentina. But Mr. Klich says there are indications that Argentina was used as a center for re- selling or laundering looted Nazi art work. CEANA's mandate runs out in December, when the administration of President Carlos Menem leaves office. However, many more documents remain to be examined by the Commission -- including some Argentine government documents which researchers did not have access to. /// REST OPT /// In our next report, we'll hear about some of the difficulties faced by the Commission, and the impact of its work in Argentina. (Signed) NEB/WFR/KL/WTW 05-Oct-1999 18:27 PM EDT (05-Oct-1999 2227 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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