NEW YORK (Jan. 15)
When Alejandro Deutsch was released after nine months in a concentration camp and a prison in Cordoba, Argentina, he asked one of his captors why he, his wife, and their three children had been imprisoned. “You must have done something, otherwise you wouldn’t have been here,” was the reply of the captor, an army colonel, Deutsch said yesterday.
The 59-year-old Jewish businessman and artist described his ordeal to some 30 persons at a reception at the headquarters of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) where an exhibit of his oils, sketches and watercolors is on display this week. Some of the paintings and drawings were done while in prison while others are recollections of prison life created since Deutsch settled in Reseda, California.
Dr. Luis Avila, a Paterson, N.J. doctor who comes from Cordoba and is active in the Argentine Information Service Center, said that more than 15,000 persons have “disappeared” in Argentina since the present ruling junta took over on March 24, 1976. He said the Argentine government has adopted a law, based on a similar one in Nazi Germany, which allows the government to declare “juridical death for disappeared persons.”
JEWS ARE 10 PERCENT OF THE PRISONERS
David Hyatt, president of the NCCJ, said the present regime in Argentina is a “ghastly and horrible reincarnation of Nazi Germany.” He noted that although Jews make up only 1 1/2 percent of the population they are 10 percent of the prisoners.
Deutsch, who has been painting since the age of 13, described his family in Cordoba, some 500 miles west of Buenos Aires, as an ordinary middle-class family. He said he could not understand it when his wife, Elena, a pediatrician; his three daughters, and himself, were abducted from their home on Aug. 27, 1977 and placed in a concentration camp operated by the army. He said, they became part of the “disappeared,” most of whom are never heard of again.
But Deutsch said they were taken from the camp after 50 days and put in a prison where they no longer were part of the “disappeared.” He credits this to his sister, Mrs. Marta Alberts of Beverly Hills, Calif., who, when she learned her brother and his family disappeared, began urging American Jewish organizations and U.S. government officials to help the Deutsches.
Deutsch’s wife and their two daughters, Susana and Elizabeth, were released after 40 days. But their youngest daughter, Liliana was to spend more than a year in prison.
During his seven months in the prison, Deutsch said he was frequently interrogated, beaten and tortured. He and other political prisoners were not allowed any communication with the outside world, no newspapers, tobacoo or candy. But he noted that since criminals were also in the prison they were able to smuggle items in and out. He said in this way his wife sent him drawing material and he was able to smuggle out his drawings.
Deutsch said that political prisoners only hope is that “somebody outside will care for us.” He said it was the efforts of the U.S. government, particularly Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Patricia Derion and several Senators and Congressmen; Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and Catholic organizations, that helped secure his family’s release. Deutsch met with ADL leaders here last Friday to express his gratitude.
“Thank you with all my heart,” he told the ADL. “I would like to ask you to help to save other unfortunate people still in Argentina.” He repeated his plea yesterday. “Please help other persons who are suffering,” he said.
Avila urged that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance be prodded to take a stand on the Argentine law allowing the “disappeared” to be declared juridically dead. He also said the U.S. should increase the parole visas for Argentineans from the present number of 500.