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Argentina re-examines ties to Nazi funds, war criminals

BUENOS AIRES, Dec. 9 (JTA) — Recent revelations about the routes used to move Nazi funds to South America have revived speculation about Gen. Juan Peron’s role in allowing Nazi war criminals to settle in Argentina. After the war, scores of former Nazi officials disappeared and resurfaced under assumed names in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Brazil. Among the best known were Joseph Mengele, Klaus Barbie, Erich Priebke and Adolf Eichmann. According to Argentine journalist and historian Jorge Camarasa, author of two books on Nazi refugees in South America, “There are indications that Peron received Nazi funds and access to secret Swiss accounts in payment for allowing people like Eichmann a new start.” Many former Nazi officers served as military trainers and advisers under Peron. The Peronist Party, today headed by Argentine President Carlos Menem, has consistently refused to throw light on this period of Argentine history. Party officials complained that opposition parties wanted to investigate the era “to slander the memory of General Peron and his wife, Evita.” Gaston Luna, Radical Party representative, who has proposed the formation of a congressional committee to investigate the matter, said, “We have to know the role our country played in the issue. This is not petty politics.” Argentine officials are also studying allegations that important national and multinational companies may have been created with Nazi wealth smuggled into the country during and after World War II. According to Ruben Beraja, president of the Argentine Jewish umbrella organization DAIA, Nazi money was invested in “real estate, ranches, insurance companies and banks.” “I would not dismiss the possibility that some businesses got their start with Nazi money laundered by Swiss banks,” Beraja said. “We expect that an investigation will expose a gruesome plot of fund smuggling.”