BUENOS AIRES (May. 19)
The Argentine Jewish umbrella organization is set to publish a scathing report on Nazi activities in Argentina.
Controversy surrounding the report — including reported pressure from the government — almost prevented it from being published.
A source close to the report’s researchers said in an interview that it is “searing.” It carefully probes the role of former President Juan Peron in facilitating the arrival of Nazi officials here after the war.
The report also describes in detail the role of several other administrations in protecting former Nazi officials and blocking legal actions against them.
Last week’s decision to go ahead with it came as the result of a deal between the Jewish group DAIA, a team of researchers from a group known as the Witness Project and the independent board of supervisors of the project.
The Witness Project was established after President Carlos Menem ordered all official files about former Nazis who sought refuge in Argentina after World War II to be made public.
DAIA received a full set of documents and set up a $2 million fund to support a team of researchers to examine the files. The Witness Project team was headed by Beatriz Gurevich. The research went on for two years.
All went well until March, when DAIA President Ruben Beraja met with Argentine Interior Minister Carlos Vladimiro Corach and presented him with a copy of the Witness Project’s conclusions.
Corach, who is a close adviser to Menem, apparently did not like what he read.
Corach specifically objected to a long chapter describing how Argentina consistently fought the deportation of suspected war criminals to Europe.
In the 50 years since the end of the war, Argentina only deported three people — Gerhard Bohne, Josef Schwammberger and Erich Priebke — while successive governments actively protected the likes of Joseph Mengele and Adolf Eichmann.
Priebke, who was deported to Italy, is currently on trial there, accused of participating in a Rome massacre in 1944.
Corach reportedly asked Beraja to have the chapter removed from the manuscript.
Beraja flatly denies this happened. He maintains that the only reason he showed the report to Corach was to make the government realize the importance of making documents public.
Last week, the government created a national committee to probe how many Nazi officials arrived in the country after World War II, the level of protection extended to them by local authorities and the transfer of Nazi gold to Buenos Aires.
Beraja also said that he fired project director Gurevich, who had protested his meeting with Corach, because she had “unbridgeable differences with her colleagues in the project.”
Beraja denied “any pressure from the government” and called allegations that they had called for Gurevich’s dismissal “a fantasy.”
After a long silence from all parties concerned, an agreement was reached last week to publish a two-volume book later this year. It will contain the critical chapter on deportations, and Gurevich will receive full credit as head of the research team.