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The following articles contain information about Argentina's involvement with Nazi agents during and after World War II. Recently, Argentina has made efforts to disclose information pertaining to its affairs with World War II Germany - including the opening of vital bank account records (see articles from Reuter News Service, and The Associated Press) as well as beginning a search for a supposed Nazi submarine (see The New York Times article.)
By David Haskel
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 27 (Reuter) - Jewish investigators trying to track down gold transfers to Argentina by Nazi agents said on Wednesday the government handed them vital bank account information dating back to the Second World War.
Officials from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which hunts Nazi war criminals, said the Central Bank provided them with five volumes detailing funds transferred from banks in Switzerland, Spain and Portugal between 1939-1949.
"Argentine archives will help us flesh out the global picture, " Shimon Samuels, director for Europe and Latin America, said in a statement.
Argentina's Jewish community, one of the largest in the world, believes part of the huge wealth that was plundered from Holocaust victims found its way to the country.
"Exposing collaboration in these crimes is a pedagogical lesson in justice for the victims," said Samuels, adding that bank information will be matched with data gathered in Europe.
Argentina was a safe haven for such notorious Nazi war criminal as Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann and SS Captain Erich Priebke , who last year was extradited to Italy.
More recently it has been criticized for failing to find the authors of two major anti-Jewish bomb attacks - one at the Israeli Embassy in 1992 that killed 29 people and another at a Jewish community centre in 1994 that killed 86 people.
Another Wiesenthal Centre official said Nazis set up ghost companies in Switzerland, Spain and Portugal to funnel funds to Argentina and other countries.
In an interview with the daily La Nacion, Samuels was confident the ruling Peronist Party, which ruled Argentina when it sheltered Nazi war criminals, would seek to repair errors of the past by cooperating fully.
"I am not talking to (party founder General Juan) Peron but to people who understand that a country's image is important and that image depends on transparency," he said.
The World Jewish Congress, which has launched a drive to recover Jewish property, held a two-day meeting in Oslo this week in which it made plans to penetrate Swiss bank secrecy.
Switzerland is said to have laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen assets, including gold taken from the teeth of Holocaust victims and from the central banks of German-occupied Europe.
(c) Reuters Limited 1996
by William Heath
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The Central Bank has turned over archives covering several hundred World War II fold transfers from neutral European countries to Argentina, a Jewish official said Wednesday.
Sergio Widder, local director of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the records will be studied in a continuing effort to track wealth stolen by the Nazis from Holocaust victims.
Widder said the archives consist of five volumes containing approximately 400 transactions between 1939 and 1949. They were turned over Tuesday by Central Bank vice president Martin Lagos to Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal Center's director for Europe and Latin America
"It was a good start," Widder said, adding the Lagos guaranteed the bank's full cooperation in the center's investigation.
The Argentine transactions will be compared with archives supplied by banks in Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Sweden, neutral during the war, in an effort to track stolen Jewish property.
Widder said the investigation also could clarify speculation that former Argentine President Juan Peron and his second wife Eva may have been involved in the transfer of Nazi gold to Argentina.
Eva Peron, popularly known as "Evita," made a highly publicized trip to Europe in 1947, one year after her husband became president. Anti-Peronists and jounalists long have speculated that she made a stop in Switzerland to arrange for transfers of gold to Argentina for surviving Nazi leaders.
"So far, there is no proof that this is true, but we don't know what we will find," Widder said.
President Carlos Menem, seeking to dispel his country's reputation as a post World War II haven for fugitive Nazis, ordered in 1992 that all state archives be opened to Jewish investigators.
Samuels, in an interview published Wednesday in the Buenos Aires daily Pagina 12, said that up until now all they have received "were seven folders that reveled nothing."
"The information was more revealing for what it didn't contain than what it did contain," Widder said. "For example, the folders contained no information on Eichmann."
Adolf Eichmann, who oversaw the deportation of millions of Jew during World War II, fled to Argentina after the war. He was kidnapped by Israeli agents in 1960 and taken to Israel, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged.
In Stockholm on Wednesday, the president of the World Jewish Congress met Sweden's foreign minister on the same issue - gold sent to Sweden by the Nazis during World War II.
"We're very pleased," WJC president Israel Singer said of his talks with Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen. He declined to give details.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Magnusson said Singer "had no concrete claims, but wanted to see if we would cooperate" on tracking down possible assets stolen by the Nazis from Jewish Holocaust victims.
"We will certainly do so," Magnusson said. "We need some substantive claims, some documentation."
Singer urged Sweden to follow Norway's example by setting up a commission to track stolen Jewish property. He said it was too early to estimate the value of possible unreturned assets in Sweden.
However, once-secret Allied documents say the Nazis sent gold to Sweden. The gold, some of it probably stolen from Jews, would be worth $150 million to $200 million at today's prices.
"All gold that Germany sold after a certain date, probably from early 1943, was looted gold, since her own reserves...were exhausted," said a 1946 Allied report, declassified this year.
(Copyright 1996 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Friday, November 29, 1996
BUENOS AIRES, Nov. 28 - In the decades after World War II, rumors swirled through Argentina that German submarines carrying Nazi war criminals and booty landed in Patagonia, Argentina's vast southern wilderness.
Few took them seriously.
But a few days ago, a small local newspaper, The Southern Morning, published a photograph the paper says was taken in the late 1940's that appears to show a Nazi submarine in a Patagonian bay. Then, several people came forward and said that in past years they had seen the submarine, at times half submerged, near San Matias Gulf in the southern province of Rio Negro, about 1,300 miles from Buenos Aries.
This prompted the Government to take notice.
Last week, Coast Guard boats and divers began searching the waters facing San Matias Gulf, but came up empty-handed. Coast Guard officials said they had temporarily suspended the search until they could obtain the appropriate underwater detection equipment.
Today, President Carlos Saul Menem promised his full support to help locate the submarine and lay to rest, once and for all, the rumors. Mr. Menem, who has acknowledged that Argentina, under Gen. Juan D. Peron, welcomed Nazis who fled after World War II, said that his Government was prepared to give whatever cooperation necessary to determine if the Nazi submarine exists.
The President spoke after returning to Buenos Aires from Rio Negro Province, which is suffering from an outbreak of a lethal virus transmitted by rodents.
"That's fantastic news if the Government really plans to devote the necessary funding to do a meaningful, open search," said Sergio D. Widder, the Latin American representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is devoted to bringing Nazis to justice.
"But so far all we have seen are a few inflatable boats and divers with limited equipment."
Mr. Widder said that it was no secret that General Peron was an admirer of Hitler and had set aside thousands of blank passports and identity cards for Nazi fugitives.
"It's important for Argentina to look for the submarine so that once and for all we can confirm what really happened and stop relying on rumors," Mr. Widder said.
In 1992, Mr. Menem announced that Argentina was "paying its debt to humanity" by releasing all secret files on Nazis who fled here after the war.
After studying hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, investigators said they found more than a thousand names of suspected Nazi war criminals who found refuge in Argentina, many times more than had previously been documented.
Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the campaign to kill European Jews, hid in Argentina until he was captured and hanged by the Israelis.
Josef Mengele is known to have found a home in Argentina, and many believe that Martin Bormann also lived in Patagonia.
Mr. Menem has worked hard to dispel the notion that Argentina continues to harbor Nazis war criminal and hide their deeds.
Last year, his Government approved the extradition to Italy of Erich Priebke, a former SS captain who lived in Bariloche, an Andean resort town, for 50 years and admitted taking part in the killings of 335 Italian civilians, many of whom were Jews.
This month, the Argentine Government provided Jewish investigators with bank account records that may help them track down gold transfers to Argentina by Nazi agents.
Eyewitness accounts of the Nazi submarine from people living near the gulf have dominated new reports in Argentina. Vidal Pereyra, 60, a retired technician, said that he saw the submarine in the 1980's.
"I think it was in March 1980," Mr. Pereyra told local newspapers, "A couple of friends suggested we go down to the beach and see the half-sunk submarine." The submarine, he said, "was corroded by water and had snails attached to the steel plates."
Mr. Pereyra said he never saw the submarine again because the tide was always too high.
Gisella Boche de Paesani, 80, who lives near the gulf, said she remembers seeing a submarine through the window of her house near the end of the war. "It disappeared after a while and then an airplane passed, and I suppose it was looking for the sub," she said. "I knew it was a German sub because there were reports on the radio that German boats were in the area."
Ruben Bogi, a senior editor for Southern Morning, said the paper had obtained the photograph of the submarine while doing research on the Nazi movement in Argentina after Mr. Priebke was extradited last year. He said the photo was supplied by a member of a neo-Nazi group that operates in southern Chile and Argentina.
"The photo is authentic and it shows a submarine in the bay," Mr. Bogi said. "But we cannot confirm that it's actually a Nazi sub, although we believe it is."