In 1945 and 1946 the Argentine government, under great pressure from the United States State Department, seized approximately 250 German-owned businesses. In the fullnes of time some were restored to their owners; others—whose assets had been gutted—were allowed to disappear; still others were auctioned off in 1958, the state taking about a third of the proceeds. The final odds and ends of the legal tangle were cleared up only in 1966.1 Similarly, at war’s end, from Allied lists, which included, at first, 900 names, the Argentines deported 60 “spies and undesirables,” most of them German nationals; almost all would be back in Argentina by mid-1948.2 And beginning in September 1945 the government closed the schools and civil associations of the German-speaking collectivity, seizing the property of many. All but a few reopened by the early 1950s, but property issues remained in dispute for a decade longer. In July 1946 George Messersmith, the United States ambassador to Argentina, reported to Washington that, in the matter of the suppression of the German-Argentines, at least, the Argentines had “substantially complied” with their obligations under the Chapultepec Agreements. He wondered why, he said, “in this particular field the Argentine Government proceeded with more vigor and effectiveness than it has so far [shown with respect to] enemy property and subjects”; but he supposed it was simply “easier [for Perón] to take this action ….”3 Messersmith’s observation, I shall argue, was but the tribute of one cynic to another.

This article is a study of paired, almost symmetrical, hubris: that of the Germans in Argentina from 1933 until about 1941 or 1942, and that which overcame the North Americans involved in Argentine affairs from about 1939 to 1947. The North Americans loom large for two reasons. One is that at war’s end in 1945 neither Argentine officialdom nor the British ally perceived any “threat” from the German-Argentines. The attempt to destroy the latter’s institutions and economic base and thereby to hasten their absorption into the general Argentine population was entirely a North American initiative. It was taken in part to exact a victor’s retribution for the German-Argentines’ support of the clandestine Axis war effort in Argentina and for their role, however obscure, in the endless frustrations experienced by the United States’ foreign policy establishment in bringing successive Argentine regimes to heel. The North Americans’ interest in uprooting German economic competition in Argentina was also perfectly obvious.4 The State Department insisted, nevertheless, that its overriding concern was for “Western Hemisphere security.” In 1944 and 1945 it alerted the world to the specter of the Fourth Reich, sometimes referred to more elegantly as “Germania Resurgens.” This was the thesis, for which it adduced alarming evidence, that German Argentina, a self-renewing reservoir of resentment and antidemocratic attitudes, had become a redoubt to which the political, military, and industrial leaders, the technicians and mad scientists, of the disintegrating Third Reich were being evacuated, there to continue to menace the stability and progress of the American republics.

This thesis was, unfortunately, a huge taradiddle, a fraud. It grew out of earlier North American proposals for a sweeping policy that would have obliterated the cultural autonomy of German-speaking groups throughout the Americas; it became the rationalization for United States policy, however, through a bizarre failure of liaison between the British and American allies. When the truth was at last discovered in the spring of 1945, the State Department’s discomfiture was worsened by the very success of the covert propaganda campaign it had waged in the Americas with the enthusiastic and all-too-uncritical aid of the North American press. Thus, the menace of the Fourth Reich, though no longer advanced as a rationale for policy, was never specifically abjured either. Aspects of it continued to serve United States interests in the postwar era, particularly in the effort to impede the migration of refugee European technicians to the industrializing areas of Latin America. In time the Fourth Reich entered the realm of pure fantasy—though it remains, perhaps, what most North Americans know about Argentina in World War II.

Hence the second point. Historians, axiomatically, should treat materials born of wartime passion and hoopla with especial reserve, and should be as skeptical of the claims of the victors as of the laments of the vanquished. It happens, however, that until recently most of the documentation available to us concerning the Axis menace in Argentina not only has been of questionable wartime parentage but has been refracted mainly through a North American prism as well, whether as journalism, polemics by anti-Fascist exiles or criollo politicians seeking United States support, or the memoirs of government officials. Indeed, this historiography is triply compromised, for it is strewn with a remarkable number of forgeries capable of tripping up unwary historians; most of these are the work of a prolific anti-Hitler Nazi named Heinrich Jürges, whom the British and North Americans employed often, albeit with a long pair of tongs.5 Only the expiry of the thirty-year rule in British and American archives, the Freedom of Information Act, and the indexing and publication of the captured German records allow us to begin, finally, to dispel the fogbank of misperception and misrepresentation that has obscured the subject since war’s end.

Argentina in the 1920s exerted a great pull on the German imagination. A major trading partner since before World War I, a neutral during the war, Germany’s sponsor in the League of Nations in 1926, Argentina was seen as a Zukunftsland, a “land of the future.” During the decade, it attracted sizeable movements of German capital and branch-plant industry; above all, it attracted German-speaking immigrants, perhaps 140,000 of them before the beginning of the Great Depression, not only from the Reich but also from Austria, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Most were speedily stripped of their illusions: 55 percent of the Reichsdeutsche and probably a third to a half of the remainder reemigrated. For those who stayed, peasants and white-collar workers especially, gaining a foothold in Argentina was a long and arduous business; many began to find ground under their feet only in the 1930s. Against Argentina’s promise of opportunity and material abundance had to be set the reality of a harsh plutocratic order carelessly exploitative of labor but responsive to the least twitch in the international fabric of trade, often enough to the injury of the small entrepreneur or farmer. The urban German communities, they found, were dominated by a remote and snobbish patriciate of old-line merchants, bankers, and landowners, managers of the more recently established branches of the great German combines, and the diplomatic mission. This powerful German-speaking elite had never fully accepted Weimar; its governing ideology was monarchism tempered by opportunism. Among the plebs, a populist resentment had smoldered since 1918, a resentment of the social pretentiousness, ruthlessness, and lack of national feeling among the well-to-do (many of whom were believed to have traded with the Entente during the war). To social insecurity was added cultural insecurity. The worth of German identity had been put into question by the Treaty of Versailles and Germany’s status as a pariah nation; the future of German identity was being jeopardized by the difficulty of maintaining a living standard appropriate to European Kulturvölker and of ensuring that one’s children, for want of adequate schooling, did not “sink into Kreolentum.” At the same time, it was evident, a creole middle class was rising to occupational and socioeconomic levels once almost exclusive to the European-born.6 The first wave of Nazi organizers understandably saw Argentina as splendidly fertile ground, but the outcome of their work would be ambiguous.

Beginning soon after Hitler’s accession to power early in 1933, agencies of the Third Reich dispatched several dozen operatives to Argentina; the objectives of some of them remain unclear even today. By early 1939 they appeared to have gained impressive results. They had annexed—or gleichgeschaltet—the organizational structure of Argentina’s German-speaking communities to Nazism: with few exceptions the communal organizations—religious, educational, welfare, musical, sport, social—had declared their formal adhesion to Hitler’s New Order; often this was accomplished when Nazi party members gained control, by vote or otherwise, of the executive committee. In the German-language schools the Nazi revolution brought hope to those who labored to hold the young to Deutschtum, but the price was high: teaching cadres in the larger schools came to be dominated by recently arrived apostles of the New Germany, most of them party members, the children of leftist and Jewish parents were driven off, and finally (and fatally) the Argentine federal school authorities were aroused from their habitual torpor. The German Labor Front organized the employees of many German firms; it won an especially loyal following among white collar workers and merchant seamen, occupational groups that had hitherto been routinely victimized by employers. Parents were pressed to send their children, even those born in Argentina and hence Argentine nationals, to Germany for military or labor service. Under the guise of “winter relief” or other charitable causes, much money was extracted from the German-Argentines. Some of it went to finance local Nazi party activities, including propaganda in both German and Spanish; the remainder was remitted to the Reichsbank to serve as invaluable foreign exchange. Intimidation and in a few eases violence were used to keep waverers in line and to try to silence the growing colony of anti-Fascist exiles.7

It is telling, however, that the Argentine Landesgruppe of the Nazi party did not gain an especially large membership: 2,110 at its peak in late 1936; 1,557 at the end of 1939. The decline owed partly to the German government’s encouragement to technicians and reservists to return home in the last years of peace; in part, however, it owed to the party’s equivocal reputation among German-Argentines. Its beginnings in the country from 1931 to 1933 had been marked by rowdyism and violent antiestablishment propaganda. Even after the working-class firebrands were driven out in 1933 and 1934 (some to form the local branch of the anti-Hitler Black Front) the party leaders continued to affect a plebian style and to feud publicly with conservative community leaders. Most important, perhaps, while the average German-Argentine could draw strength from identification with the puissance of Hitler’s new Reich so long as this entailed little sacrifice beyond time and money, when the scandals of 1938 and 1939 drew public opprobrium on the community and raised the possibility that its institutions would be suppressed, it was time to consider the wisdom of jeopardizing a position that might have been won only with years or decades of toil.8

But Nazism was also propagated in non-Germanic circles—this despite assurances from Hitler, Erich Wilhelm Bohle (Gauleiter of overseas Germans), and their Argentine deputies that Nazism was entirely a German matter, one “not for export.” The Germans bought covert influence with such respected journals as La Razón and Caras y Caretas and provided funds and copy for a gaggle of openly pro-Fascist, often virulently anti-Semitic, publications. As to anti-Semitism, by 1938 ambitious young Nazi agents-on-mission were boasting to Berlin that they had created the phenomenon in Argentina: an exaggeration, surely, but not a large one.9 Goebbels’s Propaganda Ministry in Berlin and the Argentine-German Cultural Institute in Buenos Aires organized cut-rate tours of the Third Reich for hundreds of criollo academics, scientists, journalists, and politicians: many physicians, for example, returned to Argentina bearing diplomas of membership in German learned societies created especially for the purpose. German cultivation of such leading criollo authoritarian nationalists as Manuel Fresco, Matías Sánchez Sorondo, and Juan B. Molina was notorious, as were their contacts within the Argentine military, which had been absorbing Germanic techniques and doctrine since 1900.10

Most disturbing of all was the reluctance of President Augustín P. Justo’s administration to disoblige the Germans—this coupled to its readiness to harass anti-Fascist exiles and the native left. The Roberto M. Ortiz administration, which succeeded it early in 1938, though more liberal, also required much prodding from the boulevard press and such lobbies as the Comité contra el Racismo y el Antisemitismo before it would move against the Germans; it also took several major scandals. The Nazis appeared to have Friends in High Places. The world had not yet heard the name “Quisling,” but the “fifth column” had become an international obsession since General Mola’s advance on Madrid in the fall of 1936. In Poland and Czechoslovakia, German minorities, alleging intolerable persecution at the hands of their Slavic rulers, were calling on the German Reich for succor. To newsmen and diplomats recently stationed in Europe, to refugees recently fled from there, it all seemed nightmarishly familiar.

Yet, in the end, the Nazi menace came to very little. In the first half of 1938 the Germans’ position was shaken by scandals arising from their high-handed conduct of a plebescite on the Austrian Anschluss and the nazification of many of Argentina’s 200 or so German-language schools. In March 1939 the Patagonia Affair produced an even greater uproar. An ad-hoc group of British intelligence officers, Argentine communists, and, probably, North American newsmen concocted a huge hoax based on forged documents that purported to reveal a German scheme to annex Patagonia.11 Although President Ortiz was skeptical of the “evidence” and was in any case in the midst of an important barter deal with the Germans, he felt compelled to decree, in May, far-reaching restrictions on foreign-language associations within federal jurisdiction. The Nazi party, henceforth known as the Federation of German Circles of Beneficence and Culture, prepared to go underground.12 In December 1939 the Graf Spee affair left little doubt of the Royal Navy’s ability to dominate the Atlantic. Just as in World War I, when with great resourcefulness and opportunism it had withstood Entente economic warfare and a close brush with nationalization, the German business establishment was once again on its own. Business and community leaders sought the support of pliable politicians; German firms began to disappear behind criollo cover. The German embassy was required to provide diplomatic cover for a score or more Auslandsorganisation13 operatives when war began in September 1939; it was seldom able to discipline them. This problem grew more acute in following years as Axis agents forced out of other Latin American republics congregated in Buenos Aires. One consequence was a continuing state of alarm in the boulevard press—which was, indeed, capable of manufacturing incidents if none were at hand.14 Fear of a Fascist coup backed by Germany (and conceivably supported by German-Argentine storm troops) reached its height at the time of the fall of France in June 1940. Nothing of the sort occurred, nor was there an uprising of German and Japanese communities a year and a half later when Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war. Thereafter the British mission in Buenos Aires concluded that the German-Argentines were “an embarassment and a nuisance but no threat,”15 and devoted much of its energy to keeping a wary eye on its North American ally.

However much inflated by journalists and politicians, the Nazi menace was surely a legitimate source of concern. Much of its fearsomeness derived from its ambiguities. In the first place, it was far from clear what sort of society Argentina was to become. That the Germans, once among the most prized of immigrant groups, should now be overcome by a revolutionary and racially exclusive ideology, was indeed disturbing; but no consensus existed, nor could exist, on a cultural policy to be undertaken in response. Argentina was a new society, one that comprised many imperfectly assimilated minorities. Since the 1920s the rhetoric of nationalism had blossomed; advocates of a countervailing ethnic or cultural pluralism were seen as special pleaders and not heeded. Nevertheless, the country’s rulers in the 1930s were chary of going beyond rhetoric, and with good reason: to share an Argentine nationality without distinction of persons must mean all too soon to share power without distinction of persons. For this they were no more prepared than any other elite passing rapidly into obsolescence and holding power by force and chicane. Then, too, in a regime of special interests some were, of course, more special than others: it was hardly insignificant that the German-Argentines were backed by a great power, one that—should the European war end in German victory or a negotiated peace—stood to become a major purchaser of Argentina’s exports.

The second great ambiguity lay in German intentions. The febrile organizing activities of Nazi agents-on-mission, their occasional fits of boasting, seemed comprehensible only if one assumed them directed toward large and well-defined ends. Cordell Hull, the United States secretary of state, was especially prone to terrifying visions—“scenarios, they are called nowadays—of a German military advance southward via the Vichy French colonies in West Africa, or the surrender of the Royal Navy followed by German annexation of Latin America’s raw-material-producing economies to the industrial economy of a Europe reorganized under the New Order; North America’s economy would wither.16 Since 1945, however, the fitful search by historians through the surviving German records has failed to substantiate these notions; rather the contrary. By now, forty years on, we are obliged to believe those German Foreign Office officials interrogated just after the war who admitted freely that they sought to expand the German economic enclave in Argentina but denied any far-reaching strategic aims.17

The confusion in German aims is partially explicable in more homely terms. To many young Germans coming of age circa 1930 the Nazi revolution meant, as the French Revolution had meant to the young Jacobins, the carrière ouverte aux talents. Much as the young eagles of the French Republic had gone out to Italy or the New World to show their audacity and make their name, so the young Nazi agents-on-mission dispersed to find circumstances appropriate to their talents, to make a name, to return to Germany to claim a marshal’s baton or its equivalent. To Argentina, which continued to intrigue the German imagination in the 1930s, the principal feudalities of the Nazi regime sent agents: not only Bohle’s Auslandsorganisation but also Robert Ley’s German Labor Front, Heinrich Himmler’s Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst, Joseph Goebbels’s Propaganda Ministry, Wilhelm Canaris’s Abwehr, the Hitler-Jugend, the Verein für das Deutschtum im Auslande, the Faupels’ Ibero-Amerikanische Institut, the armed forces’ attaché office, and probably the unofficial foreign offices maintained by Joachim von Ribbentrop and Alfred Rosenberg. However precise the agents’ instructions, many chose to regard their missions as open-ended; they intrigued against each other endlessly. Their rashness, immunity to discipline, and poor table manners were the despair of the diplomats. Their Jew-baiting,18 importunities for jobs for themselves and friends, and ceaseless fund-raising made them unwelcome to the business community. (The Landesgruppe was run on a shoestring in the 1930s; successful fund-raising was a sure route to reknown and power.) Confusion was heightened by the activities of private concerns such as I. G. Farben and Transradio, which also gathered intelligence and provided cover for funds and agents being sent to the Western Hemisphere. Ambassador Edmund Baron von Thermann, himself a notable careerist, lamented after the war that in the Third Reich there were three men for every job, usually all opposed to each other; this was why Germany had lost the war.19

Felix Schmidt-Dechert was one of the young eagles. Born simply “Schmidt” to a poor lower-middle-class family in Hanau, he migrated as a young man to Argentina, where he worked as a bank clerk. He soon seized the main chance, however, and returned to Germany to do a training course as a party bureaucrat. Once again in Argentina, he organized the Opferring (Ring of Sacrifice) among rural Germans. Opferring members were persons unable or unwilling to join the Nazi party who nevertheless wished to stand well with Nazi leaders, and contributed much money to do so. In effect, Schmidt—who now called himself more pompously Schmidt-Dechert—had found a way to milk the rural Germans, just as colleagues and rivals were working the more affluent but more sophisticated urban communities. He served for a time as Landesgruppenleiter for Uruguay and also made a film, Far From the Land of the Forefathers, designed to persuade Germans to return from the jungles and backwoods to the vibrant new Reich of Adolf Hitler. Its depiction of living conditions and its message that overseas Germans could not survive in a criollo environment without party protection scandalized Argentine officials for whom it was screened in Berlin, and occasioned a diplomatic protest. Gauleiter Bohle was impressed, however, and found Schmidt-Dechert a job broadcasting propaganda in Spanish from Berlin. Lightly wounded in Belgium in 1940, Schmidt-Dechert was excused from further military service. He divorced his first wife and married a second, a movie actress. The German debacle of 1945 found him still fighting the good fight from behind his desk.20

The impact of Schmidt-Dechert and his like on the fortunes of the German-Argentines was catastrophic. In January 1944 the anti-Nazi Argentinisches Tageblatt observed that, with the break in diplomatic relations and the dissolution of the German mission in Buenos Aires, the German-Argentines were now “führerlos.” After ten years of Hitlerism, most had forgotten how to think for themselves; but they would do well to develop new leadership, and quickly, for bad times were surely coming.21 Already during 1943 the cheering had stopped. The Nazi party remnant was dissolved under government pressure; the old-line German Welfare Society resumed the charitable work from which the Nazis had ousted it in the 1930s. Of the Nazi organizations, only the Labor Front remained active. The swastika virtually disappeared from German Argentina to be replaced by an oak leaf, traditional symbol of German nationalism, worn discreetly on the lapel. A number of observers reported that Germans were attempting to reestablish contact with Allied circles and create for themselves some sort of “anti-Nazi record.”22 Most, presumably, did the only thing possible: hoped for the best.

The Axis disasters at El Alamein and Stalingrad, the successful Allied landings in North Africa, by early 1943 ruled out even the remote possibility of an Axis advance on Latin America.23 No major acts of sabotage had occurred anywhere in the area; this owed in part to the alacrity with which local police, urged on by the FBI’s “legal attachés,” rounded up dangerous Axis nationals and deported them to internment camps in Texas.24 Nevertheless, in November 1942 Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles expressed to Kenneth Grubb of the British Ministry of Information his fear that German minorities in Latin America would retain political influence even after Allied victory. At about the same time, the Special Section of the State Department’s Division of American Republics25 began to study what it termed “the condition of German groups.” In July 1943, having queried the United States missions in Latin America for data and forecasts, it produced what can only be termed a masterpiece of doublethink. The absence of apparent subversive activity confirmed its worst fears: “to a remarkable degree the [replies] substantiate fears that the German problem is developing along precisely those lines likely to give rise to difficulties.”26 The author condemned the attempt of the Germans to retain their economic position in the American republics, viewed with alarm the probability that a Nazi underground existed, identified German nationalism with the Nazi ideology, and insisted that all this made it likely that German defeat in Europe would be only a passing setback for the United States’ enemies.

The free and orderly development of the other American republics is likely to be adversely affected by the postwar existence of defeated and embittered minorities. … In general … [the] policy most fruitful for the welfare of the hemisphere … [requires] an attempt to annihilate the remnants of German organization.

He went on to recommend that all important German enterprises be confiscated and placed under “native” control, deportations of spies and undesirables continue, German populations be transported away from the seacoasts (since “the mere shuffling about of the National Socialist citizenry is … a good thing”) and that there be a “more strenuous” education for patriotism:

Nationalization of the schools is an essential feature in the destruction of … Germanism… . The Germans have been so organized as to be unassimilable and as such are potential trouble. It is not enough to circumscribe: the groups must be forced to take a different form. Assimilation, which must be the logical goal for all foreign minorities in the American republics (with the exception of the Japanese), can take place only after a group organization has disappeared and only after the pre-war commercial, social, and political status quo of German groups has been eliminated.

These proposals had nothing in common, the author insisted, with the odious ethnic policies of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, for this was the New World.27

When approached for concurrence, the British Foreign Office reacted sharply: one official dismissed the document as “the old pernicious half-baked nonsense about [the Germans] ‘endangering hemispheric security’.” The Foreign Office was quick to appreciate that sauce for one was sauce for another and that the Anglo colonies in South America might be the next minorities to find themselves in the stewpot. They were also alive to the fact, as they had been since Pearl Harbor, that “the total elimination [of German businesses] would in practice lead to the replacement of German firms by U.S. firms at a time when we are not in a position to take our share.”28

The Special Section’s proposals were not transmuted directly into United States policy; they did, however, reflect and reinforce thinking that eventuated in developments in three related areas during 1944. They provided arguments for Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau and those who agreed with him that Argentine Fascism should be dealt with no less decisively than Morgenthau proposed to deal with a defeated Germany.29 They also echoed in the discussions that now began between London and Washington over the attitude to be taken in the postwar period not only toward German communities already existent in Latin America but also toward the anticipated large-scale immigration of Germans and other Europeans. British interest in this question was perhaps awakened by talks between British diplomats and Colonel Juan D. Perón, who in December 1943 made known his intention to import large numbers of German and other refugee technicians to further his plans for Argentine industrialization. The Foreign Office considered the matter very carefully; by 1945 most officials (Lord Halifax, the British ambassador in Washington, was an exception) had adopted the view that once the expansionist and criminal regime in Berlin was destroyed, the Germans in Latin America would be of the greatest positive benefit to orderly development. They also found that many Latin American statesmen agreed with them; thousands of skilled Germans and Austrians should be encouraged to migrate to Latin America in the postwar—so that industrialization, when it should come, would not be dominated by the North Americans.30 Correspondingly, in Washington, officials of the State Department, the Foreign Economic Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were hard at work in the fall of 1944 to develop tactics that would prevent the postwar employment of German technicians in Argentina— “employment” rather than “movement to there,” according to one memo, “because we do not have sufficient evidence [of the flight of Nazi capital and leaders] at this time.”31 The North American planners would shortly invent the device that would permit them to gain their ends: Resolution Seven of the Chapultepec Conference.

The third sequel to the Special Section’s proposals was the accumulation of evidence that a South American redoubt for the die-hard Nazis was not just an unpleasant possibility—it was actually taking shape.

Although the two issues were separate, planning for the postwar treatment of the Germans meshed inevitably with the United States’ effort to compel the refractory Argentine regime of the colonels to conform to hemispheric solidarity. By early 1944 this campaign had drawn forth a large miscellany of bureaucratic resources. The United States mission in Buenos Aires was swollen in size, fragmented into competing satrapies, and vague but grandiose in its aims; in all this it resembled the German establishment of a few years earlier. The embassy staff included supernumerary commercial attachés recruited from among the local North American business community (one was Warren Delano Robbins, a cousin of Eleanor Roosevelt); local businessmen were also represented on the Coordinating Committee set up under Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. The Coordinator’s Office, the FBI, the War and Navy Departments, Joint Intelligence, the Federal Communications Commission,32 the Treasury, the Bureau of Economic Warfare and its successors, the War Shipping Administration, and the Department of Agriculture—all had personnel in Buenos Aires; the businessmen and Rockefeller’s and Morgenthau’s people were especially difficult to hold to the State Department’s policy line of the moment. In February 1943, Eric Johnston, president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, undercut State with speeches in Buenos Aires which suggested that North American businessmen had the government’s backing in seeking a high volume of trade with Argentina; State at the time was applying economic sanctions to try to extract a more pro-Allied policy from the Castillo administration.33 The Army Air Corps conducted what amounted to its own foreign policy, with important implications for postwar military cooperation. It did so through the dashing person of Kenneth Cavanagh, who was contracted directly to the Argentines. Cavanagh was a first lieutenant when he arrived early in 1942, a colonel by 1944, a general by 1946. Both the Bureau of Latin American Research, with its network of Italian anti-Fascists, and the International Telephone and Telegraph Company served as ancillary intelligence agencies. The North American press corps in Buenos Aires served, with what seems today dismaying complacency, as a propaganda organ.34 By May 1946 the Buenos Aires embassy was twenty-two officers overstrength, the most overstaffed mission in the world.35 One agency not represented was the Office of Strategic Services; J. Edgar Hoover had succeeded in preempting Latin America for the FBI’s “legal attachés.”

Despite divided councils, by mid-1944 the North Americans had arrived at a consensus that Argentina was to become the heartland of something called “Germania Resurgens” or “the Fourth Reich.”36 This horrific vision was responsible for, among other things, a campaign of vilification against the Austrian industrialist Fritz Mandl. The press and such journals as Reader’s Digest and Collier’s, using material fed to them by State and the FBI, attacked Mandl (who was, under Nazi racial law, a Jew) for allegedly (1) attempting to create an autonomous Argentine arms industry, and (2) preparing refuge and business opportunities for fleeing Nazi hierarchs, whose fiscal agent in Argentina he had been since the late 1930s.37

The Allies’ attempt to “spare Argentina from the scourge of the arms race” (as one Foreign Office specialist put it)38 will be considered below. The second indictment derived from one of the larger hoaxes of the Second World War: the Great Nazi Bugout of 1944-45. From mid-1944 onward an increasing number of stories of capital transfers through Swiss banks and midnight landings on remote Patagonian beaches began to reach Allied intelligence and turn up in the Allied press. On September 26, the Montevideo embassy reported that it was investigating a rash of recent sightings and rumors: a Luftwaffe colonel working in the Aircraft Specialty School in Córdoba, a Luftwaffe general directing construction of an airbase in Córdoba, two Graf Spee officers preparing in Patagonia to receive U-boats carrying fugitives and valuable cargo, etcetera.39 On November 7, it was learned that “an important Nazi” would come ashore in a few days near Necochea. This “important Nazi” turned out to be Alfred Rosenberg who, after eluding watchers at the shore, went by auto to a ranch in Córdoba; from there he phoned his sister Raichel in Buenos Aires, but Raichel refused to have anything to do with him. At the United States Embassy extra investigators were assigned and photos of Rosenberg were rushed from the United States to aid in identification. Driven by reports of new sightings and snide comments from Moscow about the Allies’ laxity in allowing criminals to escape their grasp, the North American investigators worked ferverishly through the last months of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, but came up empty-handed.40

The dénouement can be found in the Public Record Office. On April 20, 1945, Gerald Warner (temporarily detached from the Buenos Aires embassy’s intelligence unit) wrote from the United States Embassy in London to Mr. Dunn of the Foreign Office to inform him that for the past seven months North American officials had expended much energy and money running down tales concerning the escape of prominent Nazis to the Western Hemisphere, especially to Argentina. Having found all these stories baseless, they had then (also at great trouble and expense) traced them back to their source. This turned out to be a transmitter called “Radio Atlantic” or “the German Soldier’s Station” located, of all places, near London. What, Mr. Warner inquired somewhat stiffly, did the Foreign Office know about this? Quite a lot, in fact (one regrets to report that the holograph notes on the file virtually quiver with amusement). The North Americans, it seems, had stumbled across a British black propaganda operation, one originated in the fertile brain of Sefton Delmer to persuade the average German soldier or civilian that his leaders were deserting the sore-beset Volk. You mean no one told the North Americans? Oh dear. Well, OSS was supposed to tell them…. But OSS, the reader will recall, had been barred from Latin America.41

Understandably enough, the embarrassing mess was never revealed to the world. On the contrary, it put flesh on the skewed and manic vision of Argentina nurtured by the Cordell Hull-Spruille Braden faction of the State Department. Delmer’s flights of fancy are reflected in the Department’s instructions for the “Safehaven” investigations in Latin America. They assume lurid form in a document entitled “German Plans for World War Three,” part of the Department’s indictment of Argentina presented to the Chapultepec Conference in February 1945. German plans, according to the Department, included “[assisting] small nations in fulfilling their industrialization plans … by furnishing German technicians, … processes, [and] advisers in manufacturing, finance, and commerce." The North Americans countered this threat by pushing through the conference Resolution Seven, under which the nations bound themselves “to intensify efforts to eradicate remaining centers of Axis subversive influence and to take measures to prevent now and after the cessation of hostilities the admission of agents of the Axis powers and their satellites.” Resolution Seven, which did not cover fleeing war criminals (Resolution Six did), is surely responsible for the entry under assumed identity of thousands of postwar refugees into Latin America.42

After hostilities ended, the rapid revision of the United States’ foreign-policy priorities and, in some quarters, the onset of common sense prevented the implementation of the sweeping ethnic policy the Department had contemplated in 1943. Fanaticism coupled to bureaucratic inertia died slowly, however. In June of 1946 the United States, grown impatient with Latin American footdragging, dispatched a decommissioned troopship, Marine Marlin, on a tour of Latin American ports to pick up some 1,824 dangerous Germans, whom it was then to dump on the dock in Bremerhaven. Peru and Chile declined Marine Marlin’s services, however; the Paraguayans were unable to collect their contingent of fifteen undesirables in time; all the remaining governments concerned— Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba—drew upon vast reserves of guile to frustrate the North Americans. The only passengers were a handful of merchant seamen and other voluntary repatriates.43

Elsewhere, the anti-German program was implemented only with respect to Argentina, where it remained entangled in the Braden faction’s protracted attempt to unseat Perón and exact compliance with the Chapultepec Resolutions; the last vestiges of Argentina’s wartime flirtation with Fascism would thereby—presumably—be eliminated. “Compliance” took three forms. The Argentines were, first, to liquidate Axis-owned or -controlled firms—the “spearhead” firms, in the State Department jargon of the time. The Argentines began this process early in 1945, kept it cloaked in secrecy throughout, and created a tangle that required, as noted earlier, twenty years to straighten out. Elsewhere in Latin America the elimination of Axis firms during wartime had been accompanied by consultation between the Allies on means of “replacing” vital goods or services. In Argentina the “replacement” of German firms took place in circumstances of the relaxation of wartime controls and the clamorous importunities of British and North American suppliers to regain access to a market swollen with wartime earnings and starved of commodities. The “security” aspects of the elimination of German business tended to get lost in the hurly-burly of commerce.

This occurred also in the deportation program, perhaps the most instructive aspect of the great anti-Nazi purge in Argentina. By June 1946, 39 persons had actually been expelled and the list of potential deportees had shrunk from 900 to 227. The United States mission no longer considered deportation a “security” matter but a “political” one; under the new ambassador, George Messersmith, it became an increasingly important factor in the principal issue between the two countries: provision of the military weapons the Perón regime so desperately wanted. In contrast to Braden—now, as assistant secretary of state for Latin America, his superior in the Department hierarchy—Messersmith was less concerned to tidy up old unhappy battlefields than to open Argentina fully to North America trade and investment and to enlist Perón in the great anticommunist coalition aborning in the Americas. He strove to present the Perón regime in the most favorable light to United States opinion; Perón himself had no difficulty making appropriate anticommunist pronouncements on cue.44 In Washington, the War and Navy Departments were eager for arms sales to Argentina; the new secretary of state, George C. Marshall, was known to favor a hemispheric defense alliance; the British, who since fall 1945 had observed a gentlemen’s agreement not to sell weapons to Argentina, were growing restive. In December 1946 British Ambassador Sir Rex Leeper told Messersmith that Britain, which owed huge sterling debts to Argentina for wartime purchases, “must have the Argentine arms trade to feed itself.”45 Braden and Dean Acheson led the liberal opposition stubbornly, however. Arms sales to dictators (they argued) represented a waste of funds better directed toward social projects; the arms aided those dictators to repress their own people; for a number of countries the sales would have to be financed in the United States— and the gain in strengthened defenses for the hemisphere would be negligible.46 As the debate reached its height in the spring of 1947, the Department’s Frederick Lyon reported to Braden on a visit to the Buenos Aires embassy. “Few people [including North American businessmen] realize that our relations with Argentina are completely normal short of selling arms,” he observed. “The Ambassador is confident some sort of compliance will be forthcoming soon. He will shortly start preparing us to accept deportation of a relatively small group of National Socialist agents including [Hans] Harnisch.”47 And, indeed, in May 1947 eight more spies and undesirables were expelled from Argentina. This, the last such expulsion, coincided with Marshall’s announcement of his decision to sell arms to Argentina and preceded by a few days Braden’s resignation. All the deportees were interrogated by United States occupation officials in Germany, who became increasingly incensed at the cynicism of the Argentines. They considered the men in custody to be “quota-fillers” whose roles in the secret war had been negligible to nonexistent. The most disturbing case was perhaps that of one Heinz Beckedahl, whose crime consisted in having lived, seven years earlier, in the same rooming-house as the chief of the Sicherheitsdienst in Argentina, Siegfried Becker. In 1945 Beckedahl was arrested and tortured to make him reveal the whereabouts of Becker, whom he had not seen since 1938. Becker, the fount of much largesse to Argentine officials and repository of many of their secrets, was never deported.48

In September 1945 the government decreed the elimination of German and Japanese nationals from the administration and faculty of foreign-language schools. “Public opinion … is cynical about the long-term effect,” reported Kenneth Oakley at the United States Embassy. “[The schools] admittedly will be open for the next school year and few believe that all German influence will really be eradicated.”49 Surprisingly, the campaign gathered intensity in March 1946, at the opening of the school year. Police evicted school children from German schools in the larger cities and ordered their parents to send them to the public schools. In most cases, however, teachers and parents organized private facilities, in which they were left unmolested. The public authorities used facilities seized from the German and Japanese communities to accommodate an expanding public-school population, and rested content. Other foreign language associations were as thankful as the Germans that a potentially devastating campaign for nationalistic education had so easily run into the sand. Other communal institutions experienced similar caprice. Anti-Fascist journals such as the Tageblatt and Das Andere Deutschland, as well as a gardening magazine, were closed by the same decree of September 11, 1945, that shut down Die Freie Presse, heir to the staunchly reactionary Deutsche La-Plata Zeitung (which had suspended publication at the end of 1944). German Protestant churches in Entre Ríos Province were harassed by the same federal interventor, Colonel Ernesto Ramírez, who had earlier attempted to shake down the Jewish colonies there for ten and a half million pesos.50 The attractive premises of upper-status clubs were seized for use by public entities; the old German Club of Buenos Aires on Avenida Córdoba remained in the possession of the Secretariat of Aero nautics for decades. By 1951, when diplomatic relations with West Germany were established, juridical personality had been restored to virtually all the associations that had been suppressed; as noted above, the recovery of property took much longer. The institutional continuity of Argentina’s German-speaking collectivity had certainly been broken but it could hardly be said that argentinization had thereby been assured; for under Perón and even more under his successors, argentinization remained as elusive a goal as ever.

In a larger sense, the hubris of the Germans had brought about just the situation they had sought to avoid: their displacement in many areas of Argentine life by the North Americans. Indeed, with the retreat of British influence, the North Americans were, by 1947, the supreme foreign influence in Argentina. Their manipulation of the Axis menace had been clumsy, and graced by the odd pratfall, but ultimately successful. Their hubris was now carrying them on to the confrontations of the Cold War, in which similar exaggeration and manipulation of threats would not be unknown. Aside from a few bureaucratic careers, the price of this learning experience was paid chiefly by the German-Argentines.


Research for this article was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the President’s Research Fund of Simon Fraser University, and the Nuffield Foundation of London; to all of them, my thanks.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt/Main), May 1–2, 1964; Werner Hoffmann, “Die Deutschen in Argentinien,” in Hartmut Fröschli, ed., Die Deutschen in Latein Amerika: Schicksal und Leistung (Tübingen/Basel, 1979), pp. 125-144.


Report, Office of Naval Intelligence. Buenos Aires, June 24, 1948, with Dept. of State to PolAd Germany, Washington, Aug. 12, 1948, U.S. National Archives Washington (hereinafter USNA), Record Group 59, 862.20235/8-1148.


Embassy 429 to DS, Buenos Aires. July 24, 1946, USNA, RG 59. Argentine Blue Book docs., box 2, file 30.


As ever, it is difficult to disentangle United States’ "strategic" and "economic" interests in the Western Hemisphere, but the argument that the determination to oust the Germans originated in the bitter trade rivalries of the 1930s seems irrefutable. Readers should note: (1) Latin American markets for manufactures, less protected than in the industrialized nations, were seen as vital to the industrial recovery of both Germany and the United States from the depression; hence both countries launched export drives. (2) Germany enjoyed two important advantages in southeast South America: (a) the apparent capacity to purchase more of the area’s temperate-zone exports than the United States, which was hamstrung by its farm lobbies, and (b) the aid of long-established German settlement colonies that provided local business expertise, professionals who acted as introducers of new medical, industrial, engineering and other technology, and direct consumers of German goods. (3) Insofar as Germans and North Americans sought to go beyond simple trade and exploitation of natural resources to the development of branch-plant manufacturing they were competing for the same criollo clientele, a technologically progressive middle class restive under the domination of traditional landed interests. (4) In Argentina the British remained aligned with just those interests and continued to discourage native manufactures. When industrialization became inevitable, however, many British appeared to prefer to collaborate with the Germans rather than with the North Americans. British and Germans had collaborated in Argentina since before World War I, the Germans worked within well-defined spheres of influence (chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metallurgicals, electrical equipment, heavy construction) and understood such things as cartels and gentlemen’s agreements; they were subject to the ultimate restraint of the Royal Navy. The North Americans, in the British view, wanted everything. See Michael Grow, The Good Neighbor Policy and Authoritarianism in Paraguay: United States Economic Expansion anti Great Power Rivalry in Latin America during World War II (Lawrence, Kansas. 1981), pp. 5-41; Ronald C. Newton, "The German-Argentines between Nazism and Nationalism: The Patagonia Plot of 1939.” International History Review. 3 (Jan. 1981), 81-82; Hans-Jürgen Schröder, "Das Dritte Reich, die USA and Lateinamerika 1933-1941,’’ in Manfred Funke, Hrsg., Hitler. Deutschland und die Mächte: Materialien zur Aussenpolitik des Dritten Reiches (Düsseldorf, 1976), pp. 339-364; Schröder, “Die neue Deutsche Südamerikapolitik: Dokumente zur nationalsozialistischen Wirtschaftspolitik in Lateinamerika von 1934 bis 1936,” Jahrbuch für die Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas (hereinafter Jahrbuch), 6 (1969), 398-450; Schröder, “Die Vereinigten Staaten und die nationalsozialistische Handelspolitik gegenüber Lateinamerika 1937/1938,” Jahrbuch 7 (1970), 309-370; Ryszard Stemplowski, "Castillo’s Argentina and World War II: Economic Aspects of the Argentine-British-United States-German Quadrangle,” Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Band 8: Wirtschaftskräfte und Wirtschaftswege V: Festschrift für Hermann Kellenbenz, 1981, 801-823.


Prominent criollo anti-Fascists (Fernández Artucio. Damonte Taborda, Sommi) were undoubtedly subsidized by the United States. Contemporary works by North Americans (Bradford, Rennie. Chase, the Greenups) should also be treated with caution. In addition to North Americans’ memoir material (Berle, Braden, Hull, Morgenthau) there are useful memoirs by Sir David Kelly (The Ruling Few, or, The Human Background to Diplomacy [London, 1952]), Eduardo Labougle (Misión en Berlin, [Buenos Aires, 1946]), and Heinrich Volberg (Auslands-Deutschtum und Drittes Reich: der Fall Argentinien, [Köln, 1981]). The recent studies I have found most useful are: Arnold Ebel. Das Dritte Reich und Argentinien: Die diplomatischen Beziehungen unter besonderere Berücksichtigung der Handelspolitik (Köln, 1971); Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Nazionalsozialistische Aussenpolitik 1933-1938 (Frankfurt/Main, 1968); C. A. MacDonald, "The Politics of Intervention: the United States and Argentina. 1941-1946,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 12:11 (1980), 365-396: Reiner Pommerin, Das Dritte Reich und Latcinamerika: die deutsche Politik gegenüber Süd-und Mittelamerika 1939-1942 (Düsseldorf. 1977); Robert A. Potash. The Army and Politics in Argentina, 1928-1945: Trigoyen to Perón (Stanford, 1969); Mario Rapoport, Gran Bretaña, listados Unidos y las clases dirigentes argentinas: 1940-1945 (Buenos Aires, 1981). On historiography, see: Hans-Jürgen Schröder, "Hauptprobleme der deutschen Lateinamerikapolitik 1933-1941.” Jahrbuch, 12 (1975). 408-433. For Jiirges. see: Newton, "Patagonia Plot,” pp. 76-77, 83-92. Jürges returned to Germany in 1947, there to continue his trade: Volberg, Auslands-Deutschtum: pp. 121-122.


Ronald C. Newton, German Buenos Aires, 1900-1933: Social Change and Cultural Crisis (Austin, 1977), pp. 123-183.


Newton, "Patagonia Plot," pp. 97-109; idem, "Indifferent Sanctuary: German-Speaking Refugees and Exiles in Argentina. 1933-1945." Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, 24 (Now 1982), 395-420.


Jacobsen, NS Aussenpolitik, pp. 661-665; U.S. War Department. Nazi Party Membership Records, 4 vols, (Washington, DC., 1946), I, 16. 45. 47-48. Volberg attributes low numbers to the Landesgruppe’s rigorous selection criteria and heavy demands on members (Auslands-Deutschtum, pp. 37-38). In 1937 it was the fourth largest overseas party (after Brazil, Holland, and Austria) but in the ratio Reichsdeutsche to party members (28 : 1) it was far down the list. Jacobsen, NS Aussenpolitik.


T. H. Tetens in El Diario (Buenos Aires), Apr. 12, 1938.


Anonymous, “La situation en Argentine," Mar. 22, 1938; distr. by Centre Israelite d’information, Amsterdam. In Wiener Library, London (hereinafter WL).


Newton, “Patagonia Plot,” passim.


Under the new designation, it accepted non-Reichsdeutsche members, but no membership figures are available. It was dissolved in 1943, having played little role in the clandestine war. The party was even excluded from the community operation led by Naval Attaché Dietrich Niebuhr and Thilo Martens to aid Graf Spee crewmen to escape internment.


On the A-O, see Donald McKale, The Swastika Outside Germany (Kent, Ohio, 1977).


E.g., the discovery of a “Nazi arms cache near Apóstoles, Territory of Misiones, in 1940. This was in fact engineered by two Argentine newsmen who borrowed weapons from the Provincial Museum in Posadas for the purpose. Report, S. R. Robertson, press attaché, British embassy, to Ambassador Kelly, Sept. 4, 1943, with Kelly to Foreign Office. Buenos Aires, Sept. 17, 1943, in Public Record Office, Kew [hereinafter PRO], FO 371, file 33548.


Overseas Planning Committee, London, “Plan of Propaganda for Argentina,” 1st suppl., Oct. 18, 1943, PRO FO 371/33548.


Anon., “Argentina, General, 1932-46," Cordell Hull Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, 62/32/261; anon., “Latin American Totalitarian Activities, Oct. 1, 1941, ibid., 79/45/331; T. H. Tetens, “Dakar: NS Springboard for Latin America,” n.d., same file; anon., “NS Activities in Latin America, 1940-41,” n.d., same file. See also Duggan to Hull, Sept. 10, 1940, USNA, RG 59, 862.20210/330.5; minute by Perowne, May 9, 1941, FO 371/26012. Tetens was a rightist German exile who attached himself to Braden at the Chaco Peace Conference in Buenos Aires and later seems to have acquired considerable influence with Hull. Between the fall of France in June 1940 and Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the British missions also sought to persuade the North Americans of the fifth column menace in the Americas (Perowne minute).


Interrogations of: Erich Wilhelm Bohle, Sept. 5-8, 1945, USNA, RG 59, ABB docs., box 21; Dr. L. S. Pamperien, Jan. 27, 1946, ibid., box 24; Edmund Freiherr von Thermann, Jul. 11, 1945, ibid., box 26.


German Jews held important positions in the German-speaking business world of Buenos Aires; releasing them caused severe disruptions. The bankers Eduard Herrmann and Leopoldo Lewin were among those harassed; the latter, when dismissed from the Banco Alemán Transatlántico, was compensateti with 200,000 pesos. The big businessman Richard Staudt fought a bitter and unsuccessful battle with the party and foreign office in 1940-41 to retain a Jew named Wetzler as manager of one of his companies. The extensive correspondence is in Politisches Archiv, Auswärtige Amt, Bonn [hereinafter PA/AA], Ha Po 9b, Vertretungen deutscher Firmen in Argentinien, Bd. 3(1940-41).


Interrogation of Thermann, May 10, 1945, USNA, RG 59, ABB docs., box 26. As consul in Danzig in the late 1920s. Thermann was known as an anti-Nazi. Late in 1932, however. he joined the party and SS. He was posted as minister to Buenos Aires at the end of 1933 when the incumbent, von Kaufmann-Asser, was discovered to have Jewish antecedents and was hurriedly removed. Although Thermann was an able diplomat, he and his wife were hated by the local Nazis for their patent snobbery and social climbing. His connections with Nazi hierarchs in Germany (Lorenz and Himmler) protected him and probably procured his promotion to ambassador in 1936. The Argentine Landesgruppe never ceased to intrigue against him, however, and when he was recalled in 1942—declared non grata by the Argentine Chamber of Deputies and without further assignment by the Wilhelmstrasse—he ascribed his downfall to their machinations.


Newton, “Patagonia Plot,” p. 104; passim for similar biographies (Thermann and Frau Thermann, Müller and Frau Müller, Volberg, Sandstede).


AT (Buenos Aires), Jan. 27, 1944.


Deutsche La-Plata Zeitung (Buenos Aires) (hereinafter DLPZ), Aug. 19, 1943; Dus Andere Deutschland (Buenos Aires) (hereinafter DAD), 6:79 (Dec. 15, 1943), 8; FBI to DS, Washington, Jan. 26, 1944, USNA, RG 59, 862.20235/1365; British embassy 322 to FO, Buenos Aires, Oct. 30, 1943, PRO FO 371/33517; ibid. 346 to ibid., Nov. 17, 1943, ibid./34480.


On Mar. 31, 1943, John C. Dreier, chief of the American Republics Affairs Division of the State Department, noted that the positive aspects of the Good Neighbor policy should be stressed “now that the threat of an Axis invasion of Latin America is largely eliminated.” USNA, RG 59, ARA General Memos, box 8.


By the summer of 1943, 3,500 Axis nationals had been brought to the United States, of whom about 2,000 had been repatriated. In addition, some 1,300 were repatriated directly from Latin America. Deportation to the United States and repatriation continued to the end of the war, at which time 970 Germans from elsewhere in the Hemisphere remained in United States camps. Memo, Special Division, DS, May 28, 1943, USNA. RG 59, 740.00115EW1939/6987; Att’y Gen to DS, Sept. 6, 1943, ibid.,/7290; Memo, Analysis and Liaison Division, DS, Sept. 14, 1945, ibid., ARA Gen Memos, box 10; Memo, ARA, Aug. 22, 1945, ibid., box 16.


Prof. Laurence Lafore, a member of the Special Section, writes that the Political Warfare Unit (as the section was known within State) was the brain-child of John Toop and Selden Chapin, consisted at most of six officers, and was “without status or importance, … influence or—most emphatically—power. … I think that almost no one in the Division … paid much attention to the oceanic flood of paper and bright ideas that came from our office….’’ (Letter, Lafore to the author, Iowa City, Iowa, Feb. 7, 1983). Perhaps. There are indications, however, that the project of an ethnic policy began during or shortly after the Rio Conference of early 1942. Its authors were Sumner Welles and Carl Spaeth, who remained with the Committee for Political Defense of the Hemisphere at Montevideo. A letter from Spaeth to Toop of Oct. 23, 1942, suggests a far-reaching change in policy, “one with consequences even in the postwar.” Toop/Chapin Special Memos, Nov. 5, 1942, USNA, RG 59, DRA Gen Memos, box 66. A year later, Spaeth was using the Special Section’s arguments in a letter to Lawrence Knapp, his deputy in Montevideo: Oct. 14, 1943, ibid., Records Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense, box 4. The proposal was passed not only to the British but also to OSS “as a subject for research": Memo, DRA, Dec. 1, 1943, ibid., 810.00N/1837. I continue to believe the Special Section’s proposal reflected broader thinking among United States officials, and had consequences, albeit indirect ones.


Memo, "Condition of German Groups in the Other American Republics," Jul. 24, 1943, USNA, RG 59, Special Section, DRA, Reports, vol. 5, box 14. Replies had been received from Santiago, Lima, Quito, San José, Guatemala, Habana, Caracas, and Rio. On July 31 Buenos Aires replied and on Aug. 13, Montevideo. Their answers provoked an even more alarmist memo on Aug. 28.




British embassy 867 to FO, Washington, Oct. 9, 1943, with minutes by Gallop, Troutbeck, and Perowne. PRO, FO 371/33910; reply FO to British Embassy, London, Dec. 9, 1943, ibid. This file also includes reference to the earlier Welles/Grubb exchange: A959/348/51, which has not been located.


John J. McClov, Asst. Sec. War, described to a British diplomat Morgenthau’s tirade against Argentina early in Jan. 1944. British embassy 134 to FO, Washington, Jan. 9, 1944, PRO, FO 371/37666. Gary Frank, Juan Perón vs. Spruille Braden: The Story behind the Blue Book (Lanham, Md., 1980), pp. 19-20.


British embassy 378 to FO, Buenos Aires, Dec. 8. 1943, PRO, FO 371/37666 [Perón’s views on postwar German immigration]; British embassy to FO, Washington, Jan. 6, 1944, ibid./38164 [with Allen’s minute on desirability of German immigration]; Canadian legation 352 to Ext Affairs, Buenos Aires, Dec. 23, 1943, ibid./38160 [statement of United States’ position on postwar German threat]; British embassy to FO, Buenos Aires, Mar. 3, 1944 [Green Paper 55], ibid./37726 [opposing United States’ policy]; British embassy 345 to FO, Washington, Mar. 31, 1944, ibid./38160 [Halifax supported United States’ policy]; Min. Econ Warfare to FO, London, Apr. 17, 1944, with minutes by Allen, Chaplin, and Roberts, ibid./38164 [on positive encouragement to postwar German migration to South America]; British embassy 487 to FO, Washington, May 19, 1944, ibid./37702 [on United States’ plans for postwar industrialization of Latin America “which have left out of account the hungry, hopeless, yet technically well-equipped Germans, Austrians, and Italians likely to emigrate there”]; British embassy 764 to FO, Washington, Jul. 19, 1944, with Gallop minute, ibid./38162; British embassy 1308 to FO, Washington, Nov. 4, 1944, with Hadow minute citing Aranha on Brazilian view, ibid./37680; Memo, Dept. Osea Trade, FO, Feb. 16, 1945, with minutes by Allen and Perowne, ibid./44822; British embassy to FO, Washington, Jun. 27, 1944, with Gallop minute, ibid./45011 [on discussions with Latin American diplomats at San Francisco Conference]; British embassy to FO, Buenos Aires, Jul. 19, 1945, ibid./44757 [Kelly: “Argentina needs German methods and discipline”].


Memo, Wendelin to Armour, Oct. 16, 1944, USNA, RG 59, ARA Memos, box 19.


John de Bardeleben, the FCC technician who located the clandestine German radio transmitters, which the Argentines then suppressed, wrote that the embassy and FBI warned him not to trust the personnel of the Naval Attachés office: “they had peacetime positions with Argentine shipping companies and were too anxious to retain such contacts for their personal benefit after the war … actually, we had no direct contact with any of them. It seemed apparent that the naval officers were too busy with social affairs to handle other matters.” De Bardeleben to Stirling, Kingsville, Texas. Mar. 12, 1944, USNA (Suitland), RG 173, box 11, file “de Bardeleben.”


British embassy 162 to FO, Buenos Aires, Mar. 4, 1943; ibid. 58 to FO, ibid., Feb. 27, 1943, with Simon memo; British embassy 1547 to FO, Washington, Apr. 1, 1943 [confirming State Department annoyance with Johnston]. All in PRO, FO 371/33558.


Newsmen who collaborated with the mission could expect favors: e.g., the New York Times’ Arnaldo Cortesi, whose anti-Perón reporting won him fame in mid-1945, was not yet a United States citizen and worried about completing his 5-year residency. Braden recommended his difficulties with Immigration be smoothed. Memo, Aug. 13, 1945, USNA, RG 59, River Plate Memos, box 19. The same newspaper’s Clyde Kluckholm filed a story in December 1946 unfavorable to ITT President Sosthenes Belin and about the same time uncovered the proposed sale of 4 United States frigates to Argentina. The Department was outraged: C. B. Lyon was directed to suggest to Arthur Krock at the New York Times that Kluckholm be transferred “or we are in for very serious trouble,” for "Kluckholm is not in a normal state of mind.” Memo, Dec. 10, 1946, ibid., box 20.


Memo, May 23, 1946, USNA, RG 59, RPA Memos, box 19.


Term first used by Lord Halifax reporting conversations with Washington officials. British embassy to FO, Washington, Mar. 31, 1944, PRO, FO 371/38160.


Stanley Ross, “Nazi Nest Eggs in Argentina,” Collier’s (Apr. 21, 1945); Francis Rufus Bellamy, “Poison from Europe,” Readers Digest (Feb. 1945), 72-76. The following month the British RD republished the Bellamy article, thereby exposing itself to the stiff British libel laws. In 1950 Mandl won a sizeable judgment and an apology from RD’s British editors [High Court of Justice (London), Law Reports, Nov. 14, 1950]. No similar action was taken against the North American RD [letter, David Otis Fuller, Jr., Legal Dept., Reader’s Digest Assn., NYC, Oct. 30, 1981, to author]. The USNA holdings of the State Dept./RD correspondence appear to have been purged of this affair [RG 59, 811.917 READER’S DIGEST].


FO to United States embassy, London, Jul. 27, 1944, PRO, FO 371/37720.


United States embassy 4864 to DS, Sept. 26, 1944, USNA RG 59 862.20235/9-2644. Heinrich Jürges aided in spreading these stories. Perhaps for that reason the Buenos Aires embassy treated them skeptically and by November found them all false: United States embassy A790 to DS, Buenos Aires, Oct. 15, 1944, USNA, RG 59 862.20235/10-1444; ibid. 16737 to ibid., Nov. 29, 1944, same file/11-2944. Coincidentally, in September Argentina joined Sweden and other neutrals in assuring the UN that it would not give asylum to war criminals nor permit them to deposit capital or acquire property.


On Rosenberg: United States embassy 16756 to DS, Buenos Aires, Nov. 30, 1944; DS 6555 to United States embassy, Washington, Mar. 10, 1945: both USNA, RG 59 862.20235 under date. New Secretary of State Edward Stettinius found the numerous reports difficult to trace, "but there has been so much smoke … there must be some fire.” DS to United States embassy (Montevideo), Washington, Dec. 6, 1944; also to United States embassy (Buenos Aires), Dec. 13, 1944: both in ibid. under date. Soviet attacks reported in British embassy 3808 to FO, Moscow, Dec. 23, 1944, PRO, FO 371/37716. The search continued as late as the end of March 1945: Naval Attaché, United States embassy A176 to DS, Buenos Aires, Mar. 29, 1945, USNA (Suitland), RG 84, Bs As Post Records, box 172.


United States embassy to FO, London, Apr. 20, 1945, PRO, FO 371/46766. In the second volume of his autobiography, Black Boomerang [London, 1962] Delmer skirts far around the affair; a vague reference appears at pp. 92-93. Warner’s implication that the stories had been circulating only since mid-1944 is incorrect; they began to appear in April 1943: London Evening Standard, Apr. 24, 1943. In May the account of a U-boat mission to transport cases of German gold to La Plata first appeared; it would have a long life in various versions. A German-Argentine named Ernst Hoppe was arrested at Gibraltar in October in connection with this mission; he was said to be charged with distributing the funds. Hoppe sat out the remainder of the war in Camp 020 near London, the British jail for politically sensitive prisoners. When returned to Argentina at the end of 1945, Hoppe went gunning for Heinrich Jürges, who he believed had denounced him. The OSS’s role remains unexplained. William Casey, present head of CIA (1983), was OSS station chief in London at the time; Maurice Halperin was head of the Latin American section in Washington.


Italics added. That this was carefully prepared is suggested by Spaeth’s memo, Nov. 9, 1944, USNA, RG 59, ARA Gen Memos, box 9; and Lockwood’s memo of Apr. 10, 1945 (after Chapultepec): “whatever plans for such migration before, they have now been diminished.” Ibid., River Plate Memos, box 19. “Safehaven” was a worldwide operation designed to uncover Axis removal of funds, negotiable assets, or artworks; the instructions for Latin America, dated Feb. 27, 1945, are in ibid., 835.00/2-2745, which also contains “The Argentine Case, Exhibit V: Plans for World War Three.” That several hundred—possibly many more—Europeans sought on serious war crimes charges found sanctuary in Argentina is attributable not only to Argentine officialdom’s greed and taste for low company; it was almost certainly a payoff for the German funds that aided Perón to be elected president in 1946. But readers should note that many or most who entered with false identity did so because they had little choice; they came under contract to Perón’s new industries and in hopes of starting a new life. For the chaotic conditions in which the hunt for war criminals was pursued in Europe, and the ambiguous British attitude toward them, see Tom Bower, Blind Eye to Murder: Britain, America, and the Purging of Nazi Germany—A Pledge Betrayed (London, 1981); for descriptions of life in clandestinity, the memoirs of Hans-Ulrich Rudel, especially Zwischen Deutschland und Argentinien (Göttingen, 1953). In view of United States and Soviet recruitment of German weapons scientists, French recruitment of ex-Waffen SS for the Foreign Legion in Indo-China, and recent revelations concerning United States sheltering of war criminals such as Barbie and the Ukranian ex-militiamen, virtue would seem to be no less evenly distributed than usual.


NY Times, Jun. 15, Jul. 10, 194; British embassy 237 to FO, Montevideo, Jul. 25, 1946; ibid. 57 to ibid., Buenos Aires, Jul. 24, 1946; ibid. to ibid., Rio de Janeiro, Aug. 16, 1946; ibid. to ibid., Lima, Aug. 16, 1946; all in Pro FO 371/52103. Also referred to as Marine Merlin.


E.g., NY Times, Sept. 2, 1946.


British embassy to FO, Buenos Aires, Dec. 16, 1946, PRO FO 371/51819; ibid. 538 to ibid., Washington, Jan. 27, 1947, ibid./61122.


NY Times, Jan. 8, Apr. 16, May 21, 23, 24 and 27, Jun. 1, 9, and 24 [reporting conflict in March between State and War/Navy], Jul. 3, 6, Aug. 30, 1947. Sprillile Braden, Diplomats and Demagogues: The Memoirs of Spruille Braden (New Rochelle, NY, 1971), pp. 364-369; Roger R. Trask, “The Impact of the Cold War on United States-Latin American Relations, 1945-1949,” Diplomatic History, 1:1 (1977), 274-277.


Memo, Apr. 18, 1947, USNA, RG 59, DRA Gen Memos, box 13. Harnisch, who worked for both Abwehr and Sicherheitsdienst, had been responsible for the fiasco of the Hellmuth arms-buying mission in 1943, the exposure of which led to the Argentine break in relations with Germany in January 1944.


USPolAd Germany 9902 to DS, Berlin, May 15, 1947; ibid. 10523 to ibid., Jul. 23, 1947; ibid. 10549 to ibid., Jul. 25, 1947; ibid. 10577 to ibid., Jul 31, 1947 [re Beckedahl]: all in USNA, RG 59 862.20235 under date. A recently found memo from British intelligence, Buenos Aires, to their North American counterparts throws ironic light on the situation. Dating from early 1944, the note states, “we possess almost complete information about … the German intelligence setup here …" but only a fraction can be passed on to the Argentines because we must “protect our sources”: ie, the cracking of Enigma and suborned local German agents, especially “Aguilar," “Quevedo,” and “Antonio.” The British feared that some Germans might break under Argentine police methods—at least 4 agents died in police custody—and stated they intended to keep “Antonio” (who was perhaps Wolf Franczok, Becker’s second-in-command and head of Orga T, the radio organization) in place and reporting to them—whether on Penón and his friends or on the communists is unclear. Memo with letter, Millard, United States embassy, to Hanley, Foreign Correlation, DS, Buenos Aires, Feb. 8, 1944, USNA (Suitland), RG 84, Bs As Post Records 1944, box 51, 820.02 “Axis Espionage Activities.”


United States embassy 1491 to DS, Buenos Aires, Dec. 3, 1945. USNA, RG 59 800.20210/12-345. See also J. M. Cabot, “Axis Schools: Argentine Record regarding Resolution VII of the Mexico City Conference" [United States embassy 2441 to DS, Buenos Aires, Apr. 5, 1946, USNA, RG 59 862.20235/4-546]; ibid., “Balance Sheet of Argentine Elimination of Non-economic Axis Subversive Influences” [ibid. 2483, Apr. 10, 1946, same file under date]; G. Messersmith, “Complete Summary of Argentine Actions [regarding] Axis Schools and Institutions” [ibid. 1859, Feb 17, 1947, same file under date].


United States Mili Attache Argentina R-802-45 to DS, Buenos Aires, Dec. 14, 1945, USNA, RG 59, ABB docs., box 28, MID/ONI file. On Ramírez (brother of former junta president Pedro) and the Jewish colonists, see Newton, “Indifferent Sanctuary,” 414-415.