A trove of Nazi artifacts have been uncovered in a “secret room” in Argentina, located behind a bookshelf in a Buenos Aires home. Evoking Indiana Jones-esque images of World War II mysteries, the find has stoked the embers beneath long-held rumors of war criminals who escaped to South America.
The New York Times reported that among the items discovered had been a bust of Adolph Hitler, as well as a plaque featuring the Fuhrer’s profile. A large German silver eagle, positioned above a swastika, was also among the discoveries, which included the addition of a number of children’s toys, and even a collection of harmonicas emblazoned with symbols of the Third Reich.
Perhaps one of the more unusual items in the collection had been a magnifying glass used by Hitler, which included a photograph appearing to show the Nazi leader holding the same item.
The collection of Nazi artifacts, consisting of more than 75 individual pieces, were recovered from the home of a suburban collector outside of Buenos Aires. The individual in possession of the collection, purportedly kept in a “secret room” on the premises, has not been named, with further questions remaining about the origin of the objects.
It is believed, however, that the objects in likelihood were brought to Argentina by fugitive Germans after the end of World War II. The appearance of the objects in the collection is suggestive of high-ranking members of the Nazi party having owned them at one time. Officials did acknowledge that the collection turned up as part of a broader investigation into art that was featured in a display room near Buenos Aires. Officials believed the art to have been of “questionable origin.”
During the Second World War, untold amounts of Nazi plunder were hoarded, particularly after the capture of France. Much of the Nazi’s collection of priceless art and other valuable items of wealth and cultural significance were taken to Neuschwanstein Castle, a remote castle home and former home of Ludwig II which sits on a mountain above Hohenschwangau, southwest Bavaria, Germany.
The items uncovered in Argentina were showcased by the country’s federal police recently at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires, where photos of the unusual trove were obtained by international media agencies.
It is known that after the end of the War, a number of Nazi war criminals escaped to South America. Among these had been Joseph Mengele, notorious for his inhumane medical experimentation during the war. Well-deserving of a more cruel punishment and death, Mengele died while swimming off the Brazilian coast in 1979, and for years remained unaccounted for due to having been buried under a false name.
Above: Argentinian identification photo of Joseph Mengele
Another famous escaped Nazi war criminal that made his way to South America was Klaus Barbie, the so-called “Butcher of Lyon”, who was aided in his escape by U.S. intelligence agencies, who later employed him as an informant. He was eventually extradited to France, where he was tried and convicted of the war crimes committed in the same country after which his nickname was derived; Barbie died in prison in 1991.
Without question, the most controversial theory involving Nazis who escaped to South America involves the idea that Hitler himself may have done so, rather than dying in the bunker on April 30, 1945. A range of theories, which include speculative scenarios where Hitler secretly made his way out of Berlin, then traveled (possibly by U-boat) to South America, have been proposed over the years. Such theories were once explored at least peripherally by the FBI shortly after the war, though countless private investigations have ensued over the years, some maintaining that Hitler and Eva Braun made their way all the way to Argentina. An extensive examination of the various theories was presented by investigative authors Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams in their book, Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler.
In 1971, dental analysis conducted by UCLA scientist Reidar Sognnaes seemed to show conclusive evidence, based on analysis of x-rays of Hitler’s skull held in the U.S. National Archives, which positively identified the remains found in 1945 as belonging to Adolph Hitler. Though scant as far as evidence goes, this study remains the accepted conclusion regarding Hilter’s ultimate fate, due to a lack of convincing proof to the contrary, and despite some debate which remains over Russian information pertaining to the destruction of Hitler’s remains.
Regardless, the Nazi presence in South America after the war was indeed very real. With the discovery of massive collections like that which turned up recently in Buenos Aires, the presence of the numerous escaped post-war fugitives throughout South America remains a loose historical thread for which new evidence continues to emerge.