How Argentina Became A Hideout For Former SS Members

April 12, 2017

|Alejandro López

According to the official narrative we all learned in school, the Third Reich signed the German Instrument of Surrender in Berlin on May 8, 1945, bringing an end to the war and fascism in Europe. Only eight days before, their leader, Adolf Hitler, committed suicide with his wife Eva Braun in his underground bunker. 

What only few know is that, after the fall of the regime and the death of their leader, Nazi survivors sought haven far from the Nuremberg Trials, which would begin in November, 1945. These were a series of trials conducted by the Allies to prosecute Nazi military leaders and officers in order to hold them accountable for the crimes they committed during the war. However, only a ridiculously small amount of officers and supporters of the Nazi regime were prosecuted, since most of them escaped. Thus, a vexing question spread all over the international community: Where did all the men and women who endorsed the Third Reich go?

nazi fugitives hitler

Only a few years ago, archaeologists found the ruins of what appears to have been a lair designed for Nazi fugitives in the jungle of Argentina. In 1946, several Nazi officers and party members, unwilling to sink with their regime's ship, fled to Argentina and founded the ODESSA (Organization of Former SS Members) network. It's main purpose was to help former Third Reich members escape from international justice. 

Uki Goñi, an Argentinian journalist specialized in ODESSA topics, claims that the network, along with Argentina's president, Juan Domingo Perón, also helped German, Belgian, and French officers escape to other South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and Paraguay. The hideout located in Argentina, ODESSA's main headquarters, is close to the Paraguayan border, which provided a convenient and quick means to escape.

nazi fugitives lair

The Argentinian government also sent agents to Europe in order to provide them with travel documents, and even help with travel expenses. Since most Argentinians were of Spanish, Italian, or German families, several influential businessmen, including the president himself, openly favored the Axis. However,  the country remained in a neutral position during most of the war. In the years following the war, Perón secretly ordered diplomats and intelligence officers to establish escape routes through ports in Spain and Italy. There, they would smuggle thousands of defeated SS officers and party members out of Europe. 

Perón also served as adjutant in ​Benito Mussolini's army in the late thirties, where he was drawn by Nazism and Fascism. Quite similar to the United States and the Soviet Union, who poached scientists from the Third Reich to assist them in the Cold War, he invited fugitive Nazis with military experience to join the Argentinian army because he thought they could help his country. On several occasions, Perón referred to the Nuremberg trials as "an infamy," and he couldn't believe the international community would allow them. Perón's smuggling operations started in 1947. A key figure in all these operations was Carlos Fuldner, a German-Argentinian officer who served as captain (Hauptsturmführer) for the SS. He managed the main escape routes known as "ratlines."

nazi fugitives former mebers
Two notorious fugitives were Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann and Doctor Josef Mengele (also called the "Angel of Death"). The former devised transportation routes to concentration camps, and the latter conducted gruesome human experiments at Auschwitz. In the end, escaped Nazis had very little impact on Argentina. Many of them fled to Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay after the fall of Perón's government in 1955, since they feared the new administration —hostile to the former one— might send them back to Europe if they were too visible. Many of them led quiet lives from that moment on and were identified after their deaths, like Mengele, who moved to Paraguay in 1959, and then to Brazil. He lived with a fake name, until his death in 1979, and remained like this until his true identity was confirmed by forensic testing in 1985 .

nazi fugitives group


If you want to know more stories about the Second World War, don't forget to check out:
Hitler, Cocaine, And Meth: The Nazi Euphoria At Its Peak
The Forgotten Bengali Famine That Great Britain Will Not Speak About

The Day War Devastation Led To The Birth Of A New Kind Of Cinema

Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia

Alejandro López

Alejandro López

Editor de Historia y Ciencia