Argentina steps up search for Nazi submarine

It is an image that has fascinated and haunted Argentines since the end of the Second World War - Nazi officers dropped from U-boats, wading ashore with suitcases of gold ingots and disappearing into the night to take up new identities.

Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele and Martin Bormann were among those who fled to South America, aided by a network partly fictionalised by Frederick Forsyth in The Odessa File, to be welcomed by such leaders as Juan Domingo Peron.

Now, Argentina's President, Carlos Menem, has pledged to back efforts to prove the stories were true.

At the weekend he said the government would provide technology to try to find a U-boat believed to be embedded in shallow waters near the southern port of San Antonio. The navy and coastguard would join the search.

Locals say they saw the submarine arrive in an area known as Parrot's Cove, disgorge groups of shadowy figures and disappear. Jewish community leaders believe the Nazis were carrying gold and other treasures, much of it looted from victims of the Holocaust.

The U-boat has been spotted a few times since, during particular weather conditions and low tides, and by a pilot, Mario Chironi, 15 years ago. He flew over the same area at the weekend to guide divers but so far they have found nothing.

A local paper broke the story when it published a photograph of the boat, said to have been taken when it arrived in the cove, 1,300 miles south of Buenos Aires. It got the picture from a member of a neo-Nazi group while researching a series on such groups' activities.

A San Antonio resident, Gisella Bochi de Paesani, said she saw the submarine in 1945 when she looked out of her window to rest her eyes from knitting. "It disappeared soon afterwards, then I heard a plane go over, perhaps looking for the submarine."

Jewish sources said some of the Nazi booty arrived as gold, carried by hand or laundered through Swiss banks by melting and remoulding, while much also came in bank transfers via the "Evita trail".

The sources said that Peron sent his then lover, Eva Duarte - later to be his wife, "Evita" - to Switzerland to arrange and oversee the transfers.

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