Did Martin Bormann die in Argentina? After years of speculation, the discovery of a passport may bring an end to the mystery surrounding Adolf Hitler’s personal aide and treasurer of the Nazi Party.
Bormann, who was first thought to have died in Berlin at the end of World War II, was long believed to have actually fled Germany for South America.
Last week, a man who remains anonymous gave the newspaper La Manana del Sur (Southern Morning) in the northern Patagonia resort city of Bariloche a Uruguayan passport bearing the name of Richard Bauer, an Italian national.
Bauer was one of the names allegedly used by Bormann during his exile in South America.
The man, who was identified only as “a middle-age, German man,” told La Manana del Sur that in 1973 he bought property from “a man I suspected was a Nazi exile.” The property was located in a Chilean town near the border with Argentina.
After taking possession of the house, he found the passport and tried to return it.
“He told me he was moving to Argentina for good, and he would not be needing it anymore,” the man told the newspaper.
“He said he always spent long spells in Argentina, and that he was moving there because Gen. [Juan] Peron was returning to power,” the man said.
Peron returned from exile in Spain on June 20, 1973, and died in office on July 1, 1974.
Bauer died in Buenos Aires in 1975 of liver cancer, the unidentified man told the newspaper.
He said he was telling the story now because he wanted “the truth about Bormann to be known.”
Sergio Widder, the Simon Wiesenthal Center representative in Argentina, said of the report about Bauer’s passport that “all this is one more version about Barmann.”
“We do not discount it, nor do we endorse it,” he said.
Bauer’s passport bears the number 9892 and was issued at the Uruguayan Consulate in Genoa, Italy, on Jan. 3, 1946. The beare’s photo, of a balding man wearing a dark jacket, a white shirt and no tie, shows a remarkable likeness to the last available pictures of Bormann.
Bormann was one of the most powerful men in the Nazi regime. Toward the end of the war, he was secretary general and treasures of the Nazi Party, held the second-ranking position in the government and was executor of Hitler’s will.
Some believe that Bormann died May 1, 1945, a day after Hitler’s suicide.
Witnesses said he was killed by a Soviet artillery barrage hours before the Soviet Army stormed Hitler’s bunker.
Others have long questioned this account.
Bormann was judged “in absentia” during the Nuremberg trials, because Allied authorities believed that he was alive, even though he was not in their custody.
For decades, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal searched for proof that Bormann was alive, saying that the war criminal was living in Argentina under the name of Richard or Ricardo Bauer.
But after an autopsy was performed in 1977 on a body found buried in Hitler’s bunker grounds, Wiesenthal said Bormann had died in Berlin in 1945.
Over the years, other sources have maintained that Bormann was alive and had personally negotiated with Peron, when he first led Argentina and let several Nazi officers into the country.
Among them were Joseph Mengele, Adolph Eichmann, Franz Schwamberger and Erich Priebke, who also had been living in Bariloche and was recently deported to Italy where he is on trial for participating in the 1944 massacre at the Ardentine Caves near Rome.
The Bauer-Bormann connection was reported in 1972 by the British newspaper Daily Express, which said Bormann had left Germany in 1946 under the assumed name of Richard Bauer.
And, in 1993, Paraguayan newspapers published a police memorandum dating from early 1959 claiming that Bormann had entered the country in 1956 and died in Asuncion in 1959.
The memorandum, signed by police officer Pedro Procchuk, a Polish immigrant and survivor of the war, said Bormann was buried at a cemetery in the small town of Ita, 25 miles north of Asuncion.
“When it comes to Bormann, the stories always have a nugget of truth,” Jorge Camarasa, an Argentine journalist and author of two books on Nazis who moved to South America, said in an interview.
“When it was said he died in Buenos Aires in 1975, we found medical records under the name of a Richard Bauer who suffered of cancer to the liver.”
Camarasa found it noteworthy that the Bauer passport was issued in Italy, not in Uruguay.
“The Uruguayan government of the time was not so friendly to Nazis as the Argentine government was,” Camarasa said. “Bormann would not have been able to get a Uruguayan passport in Montevideo, but he might have bought one from a consulate official in Genoa.”
Meanwhile, a copy of the passport has been sent to Israel for examination, according to an Israeli Embassy official in Buenos Aires.