More than 50 years after the end of World War II, Argentina may still be a haven for Nazi war criminals.
According to Shimon Samuels, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Europe and Latin America, up to 17 wanted war criminals may be alive and at large in the South American nation.
In a recent interview with a major Argentine newspaper, Samuels said he had surrendered “again and again” a list of Nazi officials allegedly living here to “three interior ministers of the Carlos Menem administration.”
Argentine authorities took no action to find and extradite those on the list.
In the immediate postwar era, Col. Juan Peron, who became the president of Argentina in 1944, transformed the nation into one of the world’s principal sanctuaries for Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann.
Samuel’s list includes two Dutch nationals, Abraham Kipp and Jan Olij Hottentot, wanted by Dutch authorities on charges of genocide for their role in the deportation of Dutch Jews and anti-fascist activists during the German occupation of Holland.
Hottentot is also charged with torturing war prisoners in the Russian front and with killing Jews are commanding an extermination group.
Hottentot was seen in 1992, when a reporter from the local Clarin newspaper took his picture at his home at a Buenos Aires suburb.
Shortly after that, he disappeared.
Also included on the list is Croatian national Ivo Rojnica, who lived in Argentina under the name of Ivan or Juan Rajcinovic, and who became notorious here in late 1991 for being named Croatian ambassador to Argentina by President Franjo Tudjman.
Rojnica never assumed his diplomatic officer because he had by then became an Argentine citizen and because the Argentine government was then opening its files relating to Nazi officials and war criminals living here.
Although there were no formal charges brought against Rojnica, his past, which includes service as a Ustashi officer and allegations of his persecuting Jews and Serbians, proved to be too embarrassing to the then-new Croatian government.
Samuels’ allegation coincide with a British investigation on the only wanted British war criminal, Thomas Cooper.
According to The Sunday Times, the Scotland Yard War Crimes Unit is on the trail of Cooper, who left London in 1939 to seek what he called “a better life” in Germany.
Cooper fought on the Russian front, was wounded and was promoted to commander of an SS police unit. Captured by Allied troops in 1945, he was tried and convicted, but his sentence was commuted in 1953, when he was released and vanished.
The British government recently requested Cooper’s extradition from Japan, but according to a story in the Argentine English-language newspaper The Buenos Aires Herald, Scotland Yard is also investigating allegations that “Cooper lived in Argentina for the past 40 years.”
British sources quoted say the 76-year-old Cooper is “in good health and is a Buddhist convert.”
In addition, Samuel’s allegations come in the wake of reports that a passport belonging to German Nazi official Martin Bormann surfaced last week in the northern Patagonia resort city of Bariloche.
Bormann allegedly lived by many years in Argentina and Chile using an Uruguayan passport under the name of Richard Bauer.