The five German coins minted between 1938 and 1941 and a fragment of porcelain plate bearing the inscription “Made in Germany” unearthed in the remote Argentine jungle was just the start.
Archaeologists have now found 2,000 items believed to have been cast aside by Nazis who fled Germany for Argentina after the Second World War. They were found at the ruins of Teyu Cuare in the northern province of Misiones, where there had been a Jesuit settlement.
An Argentinian archaeologist, Daniel Schavelzon, is leading the dig by a team from the University of Buenos Aires which is examining ruins of three buildings it believes to be hideouts for top Nazis to escape to, a project organised by the Luftwaffe.
“The ruins of Teyu Cuare were originally a Jesuit settlement, and their existence has been known about for years,” Mr Schavelzon told The Independent. “What nobody had thought to investigate until now were these other structures contained within the same site and which architecturally bear no relation whatsoever to the Jesuit ruins which date from 17th and 18th century. We’ve been visiting and photographing the site quietly since last year but only this year sourced private funds to begin the excavation. There had been no formal study carried out of the area.”
Adolf Eichmann, one of the Holocaust’s primary architects, was captured in Buenos Aires in 1960 by an Israeli commando team and taken to Israel to be tried and hanged there. Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz “Angel of Death”, also fled to Argentina.
The buildings at Teyu Cuare now appear to have been prepared in advance, either by a low-ranking Nazi, or Argentinian sympathiser of the fascists.
“It would appear that these shelters were only inhabited temporarily, the likelihood is that they were built towards the end of the Second World War, perhaps by a Nazi envoy sent to orchestrate the construction of these hideaways should they be needed,” Mr Schavelzon said. “Or they may have been erected by local sympathisers.” Misiones was one of the largest and oldest German communities in Argentina, established by a significant wave of immigrants who arrived in the early 20th century. One theory even suggests that Hitler was able to escape from his Berlin bunker with wife, Eva Braun, through a secret tunnel and flee on one of the last Luftwaffe flights out of Germany, bound for Argentina. In 1945, Juan Domingo Peron’s government sent identification cards and blank Argentine passports to Germany destined for Nazis attempting to flee the country.
Many former SS officers and Nazi party members were free to settle in middle-class suburban neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. “The five Nazi coins and porcelain dish fragment were the findings we disclosed publicly, but the reality is that we have over 2,000 objects, which we’ve stored in boxes and which will now need to be carefully studied and catalogued,” Mr Schavelzon said.
“All this will take time. We don’t predict there is much of value. What we have unearthed are empty tins of food, bottles, refuse from that time, and what might have been worth something has long gone.”
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