The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron's Argentina

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The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron's Argentina

By Uki Goni
Granta Books, 2002
382 pp. $29.95
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A chilling, detailed story of one of Argentina's most shameful secrets: the enthusiastic role of dictator Juan Peron in providing cover for major Nazi war criminals as the Third Reich collapsed, allowing them to lead prosperous and protected lives after the war. Few characters get off easily in this passionate account, which untangles the networks and escape mechanisms that made it all possible. Coming to Peron's assistance were numerous institutions and individuals: the Vatican, the Argentinean Catholic Church, the Argentinean government, and the Swiss authorities who cooperated through a secret office set up by Peron's agents in Bern. Operatives from Heinrich Himmler's secret service arrived in Madrid as early as 1944 to prepare an escape route; in 1946, this operation moved to Buenos Aires, establishing its headquarters in the presidential palace. Eventually, this operation's tentacles stretched from Scandinavia to Italy, aiding French and Belgian war criminals and bringing in gold that the Croatian state treasury had stolen from 600,000 Jewish and Serb victims of the Ustasha regime. Ingrained antisemitism, anticommunism, greed, and corruption all fortified these clandestine protection rackets. Today, the stain remains, as does the secrecy. This astonishing book delineates in gripping detail what was long suspected -- and also hints at how much remains to be told.

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