Museum of horror: largest-ever trove of Nazi artefacts found

news
21 June 2017

The international police agency Interpol along with Argentine police this month discovered one of the largest and most disturbing sets of Nazi artefacts ever found, in a northern suburb of the capital Buenos Aires.

Officers found the trove of Nazi artefacts, including a bust of Hitler, in a hidden treasure room dedicated to celebrating the Third Reich, believed to have been taken to the country by fugitive Germans.

The police said on Tuesday that they had uncovered more than 75 artefacts in the home of a collector whom they have not yet named.

The authorities said they had uncovered the collection in the course of a wider investigation into artwork of suspicious origin found at a gallery in Buenos Aires. Interpol agents became aware of a collector of historical artefacts. Using a judicial order, they raided the collector's house, according to local media. Behind a bookcase, a secret passageway led to a room where they found the biggest trove of original World War II-era artefacts in Argentina's history.

They were put on display at the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations in Buenos Aires on Monday.

''This is a way to commercialise them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects,'' Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told the Associated Press.

Many Nazi higher-ups fled to Argentina in the waning days of the war, and investigators believe that officials close to Adolf Hitler brought the artefacts with them. Many items were accompanied by photographs, some with Hitler holding them.

''After investigating,'' said Marcelo El Haibe, Argentina's federal police commissioner for the protection of cultural heritage, ''we were able to discover those objects that were hidden behind a bookcase. Behind the bookcase there was a wall, and after that a door.''

Among the items, the police said, were a magnifying glass and photo negatives that appeared to show Hitler holding the same lens. ''We have turned to historians, and they've told us it is the original magnifying glass'' used by Hitler in the photograph, said Nestor Roncaglia, the head of Argentina's federal police.

The police also found toys and musical instruments, including a box of harmonicas, emblazoned with swastikas and Nazi symbols, that would have been used to indoctrinate children.

''There are Nazi objects used by kids, but with the party's propaganda,'' Commissioner El Haibe said. He added, ''There were jigsaw puzzles and little wood pieces to build houses, but they always featured party-related images and symbols.''

Agents of Argentina's federal police and Interpol raided the collector's house on 8 June. The collector was not at the house at the time, and has not been charged, but is under investigation, the police said.

The authorities also found medical devices associated with the Nazis' eugenics programmes, including a tool used to measure people's heads as a way of assessing their supposed racial purity. The pseudo-science of eugenics, now long discredited, was popular in the early to middle 20th Century.

''We know the history, we know of the horrible experiments conducted by Josef Mengele,'' said Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the Delegation of Israelite-Argentines Associations, the country's largest Jewish organization.

Masterminds of the Nazis' Holocaust Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann both fled to Argentina as their counterparts were put on trial for war crimes in Germany. Both lived in houses near Béccar, the suburb where the new trove was found.

Mengele, a notorious Nazi doctor, fled to Argentina to avoid prosecution for war crimes in Europe. He lived in the capital for a decade and eventually died in Brazil in 1979.

''When I see these objects,'' Sabban said, ''I see the infamy of that terrible era of humanity that has caused so much damage, so much sadness.''

The 75 artifacts found in this passageway provide more evidence of similar crimes. Police are now investigating how exactly the artifacts made it into Argentina, thinking, perhaps, about which other Nazi leaders may have entered the country unbeknown to the world.





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