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Focus on Issues Nazi in Argentina: Justice at Last?

Argentine authorities now have no excuses, legal or otherwise, for further delay in bringing Nazi war criminal Walter Kutschmann to justice. Almost a year has elapsed since the government of West Germany formally requested his extradition.

The last obstacle was overcome on July 28 when Federal Judge Jorge Segreto received authenticated documents that prove that Kutschmann fraudulently obtained Argentine citizenship using the alias Pedro Ricardo Andres Olmo. The documents, which include fingerprints and a death certificate issued in Spain, show that Pedro Ricardo Andres Olmo was a Carmelite monk who died in 1967.

The Kutschmann case, which has actually been crawling through the Argentine courts for II years, is now at its most critical point, with two different courts involved, one criminal and the other civil. Judge Segreto, of the civil court, must decide the question of Kutschmann’s identity and whether he obtained his citizenship fraudulently by pretending to be the Spaniard, Pedro Olmo. Judge Fernando Archimbal, of the criminal court, can then rule on the West German request for extradition.

Segreto’s decision is crucial to the case. If he decides that fraud was involved, Kutschmann can be stripped of his Argentine citizenship and will then be subject either to extradition, or simply being turned over to Interpol on the German warrant for his arrest.

If Segreto rules that the man who speaks Spanish with a heavy German accent and claims he is Olmo did not obtain his citizenship fraudulently, then it is virtually certain that Kutschmann will not be extradited, because Argentine citizens cannot be extradited. Theoretically, he could be tried in Argentina for his crimes, but that seems unlikely.

RECEIVED CERTIFIED DOCUMENTS

The certified documents which Segreto and Archimbal received show that the man claiming to be Olmo is really Kutschmann. Those include the fingerprints of both Olmo and Kutschmann, as well as Kutschmann’s birth certificate, his SS file, and many photos of him. Some of these documents were initially given to Argentine authorities in 1984 and 1985 by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

In 1983 the ADL first asked them to reopen the Kutschmann case. Elliot Welles, head of the League’s Task Force on Nazi War Criminals, obtained the documents from the Berlin Document Center which is operated by the U.S. Department of State.

One reason for delay has been the fact that the Argentine courts refused to accept the documents as authentic solely on the basis of the Berlin Document Center seal. Subsequently, the Argentine Embassy in Washington requested and received another set of documents directly from the Berlin Document Center. It then submitted them to the State Department in Washington for certification. Archimbal and Segreto now have in their possession these certified documents.

Despite the conclusive evidence in hand, one still wonders whether Nazi sympathizers will be able to prevent Kutschmann’s extradition from Argentina. There are indications that they are doing their best.

How else explain the report in the respected Buenos Aires daily newspaper La Nacion that Kutschmann, who has been a prisoner since his arrest on November 15, 1985, was sent to Hospital Hernandez without a guard and lodged in a second floor room, with a balcony overlooking the street, from which he could easily flee? The paper also reported that a staff doctor who examined Kutschmann found him to be in perfect health.

Why the unusually long delay in acting on the German request for Kutschmann’s immediate preventive detention? The West German government dispatched the official document, requesting his arrest and extradition, on September 16, 1985 but police officials told reporters that they did not get the order of arrest until November 3. By then, Kutschmann had been tipped off.

When police went to both of his homes, they learned that he had not been seen for about a month. Apparently, Nazi sympathizers in the government bureaucracy warned him that an arrest warrant had been issued for him. He was finally located living at the home of his sister in a Buenos Aires suburb.

EARLIER ARREST CITED

This was not the first time that Kutschmann had been arrested. He was detained on June 29, 1975 when Simon Wiesenthal first publicized the fact that the man who lived in Argentina under the name Pedro Ricardo Olmo was really Walter Kutschmann. However, he was released after six hours and went into hiding. Less than two months later the West Berlin Justice Department announced that the arrest warrant for Kutschmann had been revoked.

The Kutschmann case was reopened in Argentina in 1983 after the ADL provided Argentine authorities with new evidence. However, in November 1983, when Kutschann appeared before civil court Judge Enrique Carlos Schlegel, after a three-minute hearing, the judge ruled that Kutschmann was Olmo.

At the same time, Welles provided West German authorities evidence and located new witnesses, in Israel and Germany. This was sufficient, under German law, to warrant the Berlin judge signing the order of arrest.

Kutschmann is charged with the murder of 20 Polish professors and members of their families in Lemberg, the assassination of his house maid and the mass murder of more than 2,000 Jews. Interpol, which does not get involved with political crimes, arrested him on the charge that he murdered his maid, who was a Jewish prisoner.

At the time of his arrest last November, Kutschmann tacitly admitted his identity. He told the arresting officer, Pedro Aybar, “Well, the hunt is over. I will not run.” He also admitted his true identity in 1975. At that time, Kutschmann was employed by the Argentine branch of Osram Electrical Company of Munich, West Germany.

A company spokesman said that “Olmo” admitted to Harry Dauter, the manager of Osram in Argentina, that he was Walter Kutschmann, but “categorically denied” being a Nazi war criminal. He was immediately placed on pension by Osram.

Now, Kutschmann is again contending that he is Olmo, in order to retain his Argentine citizenship, which serves as a barrier to extradition. There are various proofs, in addition to his own statements, that “Olmo” is Kutschmann:

The fingerprints of both Olmo and Kutschmann.

The Spanish death certificate of Olmo whose name Kutschmann took when he left Spain enroute to Argentina.

Argentine doctors found two scars on his upper thigh at the precise location where his SS biography, which he wrote by hand, indicates two machine gun bullets hit him while he was fighting in Franco’s Morocco Legion in the Spanish Civil War.

Kutschmann’s SS file shows that in 1942 he applied for a license to marry Geralda Baeumler. Olmo’s wife also has the very distinctive name, Geralda.

A TEST FOR AGENTINE GOVERNMENT

The Kutschmann case is a test for the government of Argentine President Raul Alfonsin. In the 1940’s General Juan Domingo Peron actively recruited Nazis and offered them a haven in Argentina; their number is estimated at more than 7,500. Since then, various Nazis have surfaced in Argentina. A few were detained for very brief periods of time, only to be permitted to go free, under one pretext or another. No Nazi war criminal has ever been extradited from Argentina.

Within the Argentine bureaucracy, as in the Argentine society at large, there are numerous individuals who sympathize with Nazis. They will do their best to help Kutschmann avoid being brought to trial. The Argentine courts have an unusual opportunity to break the shameful tradition of providing a safe haven from Nazis. However, they must act quickly.

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