The naming of a room in Argentina’s National Library in honor of a notorious anti-Semitic pamphleteer of the 1930s has outraged the Jewish community here.
The center of controversy is the first new building added to the library in nearly 30 years, which Argentine President Carlos Menem dedicated this month.
A room in it is named for Gustavo Martinez Zuviria, who wrote several anti-Semitic novels as well as pro-Nazi pamphlets under the pen name of Hugo Wast.
B’nai B’rith of Argentina telegraphed a strong protest to the secretary of culture, Jose Maria Castineira de Dios. There was no immediate reply, but the news media picked up the story.
The honor given Martinez Zuviria “insults all of those who support democracy and fight against prejudice,” the B’nai B’rith message said.
“To walk into any room of the National Library or any other repository of culture that bears the name of the author of ‘El Kahal’ (The Secret Government) and ‘Oro’ (Gold) is to stir in us, and in many other Argentineans, deep feelings of uneasiness and discomfort over a bad memory and insensitivity to human dignity.”
The books mentioned were fiction derived from “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semitic forgery that originated in czarist Russia.
Martinez Zuviria was made director of the National Library in 1935, at about the same time he published the novels which became classics of their kind. Though a mediocre writer, he was admitted to the Academy of Literature and to the PEN Club.
Far from being relegated to the fringe, he successfully entered politics with a strong boost from the Catholic establishment. He was elected to Congress and appointed minister of education after the extreme-right military coup in 1943.
But Martinez Zuviria quit the government when Argentina declared war on Nazi Germany shortly before the end of World War II.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.