BUENOS AIRES (Dec. 9)
Symbols of purity and hope were on display at this week’s tribute to the Jews who “disappeared” during Argentina’s last dictatorship. The symbols of purity were the white scarves worn by Mothers of the Plaza of Mayo, a group of women known for their protests against the government during and after the 1976-1983 military junta, when at least 1,900 Jews were among the 30,000 people who went missing or were abducted, imprisoned and murdered.
The hope that Argentina will continue to come to grips with this messy part of its past was provided by the “K Coalition” — Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and the president of the AMIA Jewish center, Abraham Kaul.
The two led the tribute and were acclaimed by local Jews, who welcomed Kirchner’s ongoing commitment to human rights and Kaul’s initiative in organizing Tuesday’s event.
Since taking office 18 months ago, Kirchner, who lit the first night’s Chanukah candle at the event, has demonstrated a commitment to lead Argentina in that direction.
He has encouraged the army to abandon a clandestine center where thousands of men and women were tortured during the dictatorship and transform it into a museum, a process that is underway. Kirchner also has decided to create a memorial at El Olimpo, a former detention center.
At the tribute, Kirchner said that “if the generation of missing weren’t absent, the economic debacle wouldn’t have happened,” a reference to the crucial role those young people who disappeared might have played in the country.
The relatives of Jewish victims — as well as those of the victims of 1992 and 1994 bombings that devastated the Jewish community — were among about 300 people who attended the event.
Though Jews weren’t the only ones imprisoned during the dictatorship, several former non-Jewish prisoners later testified that Jews received special punishment.
“It is proper to point out that during the last military government, there was anti-Semitic violence comparable to Nazi times,” Rabbi Daniel Goldman wrote in an opinion article published this week in the Pagina 12 newspaper.
Goldman, a rabbi of the local Bet El synagogue and an active supporter of human rights causes, also wrote that “the organized Jewish community did not react as it should have and, in many cases, closed doors and acted against Jewish ethics.”
Relatives of those who disappeared said their search for their loved ones’ bodies — in order to bury them according to Jewish tradition — has been a lonely quest.
At a Dec. 3 news conference at AMIA, Marcos Weinstein, leader of the Missing Argentine Jews Relatives’ Association, discussed what he sees as a lack of help in the search for relatives form both local and international groups.
Two years ago, an interministerial commission was created in Israel to investigate the matter. It has published reports on the relatives’ testimonies and now is cooperating with Weinstein’s group, which is visiting Jewish high schools to talk about the disappeared Jews.
At the AMIA tribute, artist Sara Brodsky unveiled a bronze sculpture of a Jewish candle-holder, that will remind anyone entering the AMIA Jewish central institution that 1,900 Jews are missing.
Brodsky’s son Fernando Ruben Brodsky, a 22 year-old psychology student, disappeared in August 1979.
Rosa Roisinbilt, 85, a member of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, another group of victims’ relatives, was applauded when she said her grandson was one of 79 children her organization recovered. Those kids were born to pregnant mothers in captivity and given to adopted families, many of them linked to the military torturers.
Two popular Argentine singers, Leon Gieco and Victor Heredia, sang to the emotional audience.
“Their songs made me cry. They just brought me back to my youth, to all the people who disappeared around me,” said computer expert Daniel Kurlat, 52.
Kurlat’s cousin, Claudio Braverman, was a 17-year-old student in 1977 when he disappeared.