Of­fi­cials dis­cover mas­sive col­lec­tion of Nazi ar­ti­facts in hid­den store­room

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY DEB­ORA REY

BUENOS AIRES, AR­GENTINA | In a hid­den room in a house near Ar­gentina’s cap­i­tal, po­lice be­lieve they have found the big­gest col­lec­tion of Nazi ar­ti­facts in the coun­try’s his­tory, in­clud­ing a bust re­lief of Adolf Hitler and mag­ni­fy­ing glasses in­side el­e­gant boxes with swastikas.

Some 75 ob­jects were found in a col­lec­tor’s home in Bec­car, a sub­urb north of Buenos Aires, and au­thor­i­ties say they sus­pect they are orig­i­nals that be­longed to high-rank­ing Nazis in Ger­many dur­ing World War II.

“Our first in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­di­cate that these are orig­i­nal pieces,” Ar­gen­tine Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Pa­tri­cia Bull­rich said in an in­ter­view Mon­day, say­ing that some pieces were ac­com­pa­nied by old pho­to­graphs. “This is a way to com­mer­cial­ize them, show­ing that they were used by the hor­ror, by the Fuhrer. There are pho­tos of him with the ob­jects.”

Among the dis­turb­ing items were toys that Ms. Bull­rich said would have been used to in­doc­tri­nate chil­dren, a large statue of the Nazi Ea­gle above a swastika, a Nazi hour­glass and a box of har­mon­i­cas. Po­lice say one of the most-com­pelling pieces of ev­i­dence of the his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance of the find is a photo neg­a­tive of Hitler hold­ing a mag­ni­fy­ing glass sim­i­lar to those found in the boxes.

“We have turned to his­to­ri­ans and they’ve told us it is the orig­i­nal mag­ni­fy­ing glass” that Hitler was us­ing, said Nestor Roncaglia, head of Ar­gentina’s fed­eral po­lice. “We are reach­ing out to international ex­perts to deepen” the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The pho­to­graph was not re­leased to the pub­lic, but was shown to The As­so­ci­ated Press on the con­di­tion that it not be pub­lished. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion that cul­mi­nated in the dis­cov­ery of the col­lec­tion be­gan when au­thor­i­ties found art­works of il­licit ori­gin in a gallery in north Buenos Aires.

Agents with the international po­lice force In­ter­pol be­gan fol­low­ing the col­lec­tor and with a ju­di­cial or­der raided the house on June 8. A large book­shelf caught their at­ten­tion and be­hind it agents found a hid­den pas­sage­way to a room filled with Nazi im­agery.

Au­thor­i­ties did not iden­tify the col­lec­tor, who re­mains free but is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a fed­eral judge.

“There are no prece­dents for a find like this. Pieces are stolen or are im­i­ta­tions. But this is orig­i­nal and we have to get to the bot­tom of it,” said Mr. Roncaglia.

Po­lice are try­ing to de­ter­mine how the ar­ti­facts en­tered Ar­gentina. The main hy­poth­e­sis among in­ves­ti­ga­tors and mem­ber of Ar­gentina’s Jewish com­mu­nity is that they were brought to Ar­gentina by a high-rank­ing Nazi or Nazis af­ter World War II, when the South Amer­i­can coun­try be­came a refuge for flee­ing war crim­i­nals, in­clud­ing some of the best known fugi­tives of the de­feated Ger­man regime.

As lead­ing mem­bers of Hitler’s Third Re­ich were put on trial for war crimes, Josef Men­gele fled to Ar­gentina and lived in Buenos Aires for a decade. He moved to Paraguay af­ter Is­raeli Mos­sad agents cap­tured Holo­caust mas­ter­mind Adolf Eich­mann, who was also liv­ing in Buenos Aires. Men­gele later died in Brazil in 1979 while swim­ming at a beach in the town of Ber­tioga.

Po­lice in Ar­gentina did not name any high-rank­ing Nazis to whom the ob­jects might have orig­i­nally be­longed.

Ariel Co­hen Sab­ban, pres­i­dent of the DAIA, a po­lit­i­cal um­brella for Ar­gentina’s Jewish in­sti­tutes, called the find “un­heard of” for Ar­gentina.

“Find­ing 75 orig­i­nal pieces is his­toric and could of­fer ir­refutable proof of the pres­ence of top lead­ers who es­caped from Nazi Ger­many,” Mr. Co­hen said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

A World War II Ger­man army mor­tar aim­ing de­vice (right) was dis­cov­ered in a hid­den room in a house near Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina. Au­thor­i­ties say they sus­pect the items are orig­i­nals and be­longed to high-rank­ing Nazis in Ger­many dur­ing World War II.

Mem­bers of the fed­eral po­lice show a bust re­lief por­trait of Adolf Hitler in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina, on Fri­day. Po­lice dis­cov­ered the big­gest col­lec­tion of Nazi ar­ti­facts in the coun­try’s his­tory.

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