Document Source: An enlarged version of a paper read at the 47th Congress of Americanists in New Orleans (July 1991) – is an abstract of my dissertation: Holger M. Meding, Die Deutsche Einwanderung in Argentinien, 1945-1955, Cologne (Manuscript) May 1991. The publication is set for summer 1992 (Lateinamerikanische Forschungen. Beihefte zum Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas, vol. 20). With this article, I intend to present some of the results of my dissertation to a wider audience. (Doc Snafu: Final Check on September 12, 2022)
German Emigration to Argentina and the Illegal Brain Drain to the Plate, 1945-1955 – Holger M. Meding
In the course of European History, there have been successive waves of emigration and immigration – migrations that were, and are still today, the product of special conditions during particular periods in the spread of European civilization. German immigration to the Southern Cone of America after World War II was motivated by the catastrophic circumstances in a destroyed country and the demographic pressure, as well as the relative prosperity of the countries of destination. The political changes had led to rapid deterioration of living conditions without a medium-term prospect for change. The difference between the post-war emigration from earlier ones was its illegality: the victorious powers had imposed a general ban on German emigration. Exit permits were given only in exceptional cases after an extensive political check. But restrictions and sanctions had only limited effect on those who had nothing to lose. Several routes developed to escape from the Allies’ sphere of power; the chief destination was Argentina.
In the early morning hours of July 10, 1945, an unexpected incident caused great consternation at the Argentine naval base at the port of Mar del Plata. At 0700, a large submarine surfaced between the coast and outlying fishing boats (2). The information relayed to the base commander was nothing short of sensational: the submarine was German. And this was two months after the end of the war in Europe. The Argentines reacted quickly. A series of messages traveled back and forth between the naval base and the U-boat. Some hours later, the captain of U-530, Otto Wermuth, surrendered his ship to Argentine authorities who were not exactly pleased with this surprise gift. The world press was wild with speculation: leading Nazis – it was said – had escaped to South America, meaning people, treasures and documents had been secured before the German capitulation, evidently in preparation for the ‘Fourth Reich’. At the center of these rumors was Argentina.
The situation then grew worse. On August 17, 1945, Argentina celebrated the anniversary of the death of General San Martin. During the festivities, another German submarine surfaced at Mar del Plata. The commander of this vessel (U-977) Heinz Schäffer, transferred his ship in a military ceremony to Argentine authorities (3). By this time fighting in Europe had ended three months earlier and atomic bombs had already been dropped on Japan. Both vessels were escorted by a military convoy to another naval port. The Argentines made a detailed inspection of the submarines, interning and interrogating crew members and carefully inspecting the logs. Meanwhile, the press was having a field day: the U-boats, it was reported, were part of a massive ‘Ghost Convoy’: Hitler would be smuggled to Patagonia. Later, detailed publications of Hitler’s ‘Nuevo Berchtesgaden’ in the Antarctic were circulated (4).
The whole affair was most unpleasant for the Argentine Republic. In accordance with the Pan American Act of Chapultepec, which Buenos Aires had acceded to on April 4, 1945, the U-boats and their crews were delivered to the United States. Prior to extradition, the Argentine Navy threw a big party for the German cracks. The US Embassy criticized this display of friendliness toward the enemy. The two submarines certainly did exist, but apart from the world record of 66 days underwater by U-977, there was nothing so unusual about the episodes. There was no evidence to support rumors that the submarines carried valuables – e.g. the SS-Treasure – or Nazi Bigwigs. The last order of Grand Admiral Dönitz as commander in chief of the German Kriegsmarine on April 26, 1945, was: ‘Fight to the end’. Some days later on board U-977, the information was received that Germany had unconditionally surrendered. The crew made the decision to call to a friendly country. Spain seemed to be too dangerous and Argentina was the only Atlantic alternative (5).
During the First World War, Argentina retained its neutrality. Despite British, American, and internal pressure President Hipölito Yrigoyen, to preserve national interests kept his country out of the European troubles and, as a result, Argentina reaped huge profits. Yrigoyen’s strict correctness toward Germany was evident when he withdrew Argentina from the League of Nations after the Allies, in 1920, had refused the admission of their defeated enemy. This was a noble gesture to a beaten and humiliated nation. When, on one occasion, the name of Yrigoyen was mentioned in the Reichstag, representatives rose and cheered the Argentine president (6). And on July 9, 1921, what remained of the German Kriegsmarine, raised the Argentine flag for 24 hours in honor of this South American country’s behavior during and after the War (7).
In the years following Argentina attracted thousands of German immigrants, A number of German businesses gained a foothold in Argentina, and quickly rose to the top, particularly in the fields of electronics, chemicals, and optics. The Argentine Army was schooled in Prussian military doctrine. More than a few of the German instructors at the Superior War Academy were former members of the High Command of the German Empire. German arms were exported to Argentina; in military aircraft, Germany’s dominance was unquestioned (8). Therefore, at the start of the Second World War, Germany had influential advocates in Argentina, but the majority of the nation clearly sympathized with the Allies. There was a very important, nearly symbiotic economic relationship with Great Britain, and close cultural and intellectual links with France.
In December 1939, the war arrived at Argentina’s doorstep at the Rio de la Plata. The pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, with a crew of eleven hundred, had fought a naval battle with three British cruisers in the South Atlantic near Punta del Este. The German ship was seriously damaged and called to Montevideo for repairs. But massive British pressure forced the Uruguayan government to insist on the German commander, Hans Langsdorff, that his ship departs within 72 hours. This was not enough time for repairs; meanwhile, British naval forces had lined up at the end of the narrow channel of the estuary of the Rio de la Plata (9). At the end of the 72 hours Langsdorff, after consulting with Germany, decided not to lead his ship into a hopeless battle. He instructed the crew to mount the lifeboats and gave the order to scuttle the ship. This all went according to plan, and right before the eyes of perplexed Argentine authorities, over one thousand seamen came ashore in Buenos Aires. Langsdorff coordinated this coup with the German naval attache in Buenos Aires and with help of a friendly shipping company. Argentina was confronted with a fait accompli. After Langsdorff knew his crew was safe he committed suicide (10). Langsdorff’s death by his own hand had an extraordinary effect on Argentine public opinion, even among those who had not any sympathy for the German cause. Hundreds of thousands accompanied Langsdorff’s coffin to the German cemetery in Chacarita. The outpouring of emotion at the burial was comparable to the state funeral of the highly respected President Yrigoyen. One could read on posters, ‘Este Tipo Hizo Patria’s (11).
The crew members of the Graf Spee, all technical internees of war, were given complete freedom of movement. Argentina treated the sailors with great respect and firmly rejected all British claims of extradition (12). The policy of nonintervention in the First World War was the Argentine government’s guiding principle for the new conflict. However, once the United States entered the war Buenos Aires’ policy became more isolationist, and, in 1943, the oligarchic Castillo government yielded to external pressures and nominated a pro-Allied candidate for the presidency.
In the Army, there was great dismay over this shift in policy. Many regarded the change as a sell-out to the United States, the main rival of influence in South America. On July 4, 1943, ä military coup d’état deprived the government of its power. German influence in the putsch was never proved but was generally assumed (13). However, the event, to be sure, was favorable for the German Reich. The new government certainly had a different quality than its predecessor. It actively sought cooperation with the Third Reich; there were regular contacts with the German Embassy and arms trade negotiations between the countries continued right up to September 1944 (14). But US pressure remained strong and, reluctantly, Argentina broke off diplomatic relations with Germany in January 1944. With its declaration of war with Germany in March 1945, Argentina became the last country to do so. And the decision was not voluntary. For many Argentines, it was shameful for their country to declare war on a beaten nation.
The war decree technically satisfied the demands of the US government but diplomatically it was a slap in the face. It was written in such a way that Argentina did not declare war because Germany became an enemy but because of Germany being ‘aliada del Japon’, i.e. ally of Japan (15). The decree was signed by the War Minister, Juan Domingo Peron, who, less than a year later, in February 1946, assumed the presidency. The United States had done all it could to prevent this. The new Argentine president, having studied under German military instructors, had a great predilection for anything German. He himself had written a study on German strategy in the First World War. Undoubtedly sympathizing with the Axis, he cultivated contacts with the German Embassy, convinced the Axis would prevail in the Second World War. At a celebration given by the German community in Buenos Aires in his honor, the president expressed his personal gratitude toward Germany: ‘Perhaps there are just as good friends of Germany as I, but there are no greater friends of Germany than I’ (16).
After World War II, Argentina was the main destination of German emigrants. The nation’s neutrality during the war, the honorable treatment of German prisoners of war, the sizable German community of about 250.000 and, not least, the authoritarian regime of the Germanophile Perön, with his staunch opposition to both communism and capitalism, all contributed to this migration to the Rio de la Plata. But the immigrants seeking a new life were not only those who had seen their hopes perish in the fires of war but also those who had committed terrible crimes against humanity and could expect no mercy.
The relative prosperity of the La Plata nation was also an incentive. Argentina was therefore an obvious destination for post-war German emigrants and not just for crew members of U-boats. The conditions in Central Europe were so chaotic that the idea of emigrating was on the minds of millions of people; the terrible lack of housing, labor, and food only fueled this idea. Germany was crowded with uprooted, expelled, and displaced persons, many of whom were widows and orphans. The future was gloomy in the view of industrial dismantling, claims for reparation, and the de-industrialization plan of the US Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr., and fear of a new war.
(2) Archivo General de la Armada, Buenos Aires, SM caja 38 of PB; SM caja 64 of 4 PB. M.A. Moyano, ‘Submarinos alemanes en Mar del Plata’: Todo es Historia, 72 (Buenos Aires 1973), pp. 36-47. (3) H. Schaeffer (commander U-977). 66 Tage unter Wasser (Wiesbaden 1950, Buenos Aires 1950). Archivo General de la Armada, Buenos Aires, SM caja 64 of 4 PB. (4) E.g. L. Szabo, Hitler esta vivo. Nuevo Berchtesgaden en el Antartico (Buenos Aires 1947). (5) Schaeffer, U-977, 2nd ed., p. 211. (6) Y.F. Rennie, The Argentine Republic (New York 1945), pp. 209/210. To the reasons for Yrigoyen’s behavior cf. C. Stoetzer, ‘Deutschland und Argentinien. Der geistige Einfluß Krauses in der jüngsten argentinischen Geschichte’: Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas, XXV (1988), pp. 660-667. (7) Ibidem, p. 666. (8) A. Galland, Die Ersten und die Letzten. Die Jagdflieger im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Darmstadt 1953), p.6. (9) E. Millington-Drake, The Drama of the Graf Spee and the Battle of the Plate. A Documentary Anthology (London 1964), p. 322; F.W. Rasenack (a former Spee-officer), Panzerschiff Admiral Spee. Kampf, Sieg und Untergang (Biberach 1957). (10) Ο. Bayer, ‘El fin del ultimo corsario. Tragedia y supervivencia del Graf Spee’: Todo es Historia, 6 (Buenos Aires, 1967), pp. 74-93. (11) Interview with an eyewitness. (12) Interview with the former chairman of the ‘Kameradenkreis Admiral Graf Spee’, Friedrich Wilhelm Rasenack. (13) Especially the Congressman Silvano Santander (Tecnica de una traiciön. Juan D. Peron y Eva Duarte agentes del nazismo en la Argentina, Montevideo 1953). (14) R.A. Potash, The Army, and Politics in Argentina, vol. 1 (Stanford 1969), p. 252; E.B. White, German Influence in the Argentine Army, 1900-1945 (Ann Arbour 1989), p. 274; L. Rout – JF. Bratzel, The Shadow War. German Espionage and United Slates Counterespionage in Latin America during World War II (Frederick, MD 1986), p. 379 and p. 392. (15) Decree No. 6945/45, March 27, 1945. (16) Quoted from Der Weg, IX (1955), 5, p. 325.
Because of the demilitarization, the likelihood of soldiers and military technicians finding employment in Germany was remote, as it was also for the large number of people who had a national socialist background. For these groups, Argentina seemed to offer a new future. Under the direction of President Peron, Buenos Aires initiated a large-scale immigration program. This represented an important part of the country’s strategy to strengthen its position in South America. In the area of mass immigration, and in the area of selective immigration the Argentine government created institutions to direct the stream of people across the Atlantic. The path to the Rio de la Plata was carefully smoothed for Germans. German-Argentines who wanted to help their compatriots in Europe got support from national authorities (17). All those who fled from the Allied War Crimes Tribunals and applied to an Argentine consulate for help were given political asylum in the La Plata republic. For those nationalist Germans who believed it was not possible to exist in an atmosphere of reeducation, coupled with enforced democracy and occupation, Argentina seemed to be a refuge.
The routes of emigration and escape were generally improvised. The most frequently used route to South America was through Italy. Independently and without coordination, the first German emigrants and refugees set out for the south in 1945. The chaotic situation in Germany was very helpful in getting through the tight net of the Allies. The principle of comradeship in wartime helped nearly all those fleeing obtain food and lodging. Smuggling across Alpine borders was booming. In this post-war period of shortages, local authorities were very susceptible to bribery. With the extensive assistance of the Catholic Church in Italy and to a lesser extent in Spain, a functioning system developed. The church put its contacts and connections at the disposal of the emigrants, the International Red Cross provided identity papers, and Argentine consulates issued visas in consultation with the Direction de Migraciones in Buenos Aires. The Peron government was especially interested in scientists, technicians, and engineers, recruiting them and organizing and financing their transfers (18).
In Alexander von Humboldt, Germany had its most outstanding representative in Latin America, whose pioneering expeditions were recognized as the second discovery of America. As a result of Humboldt’s good name, other German scholars following his steps created a tradition of scientific investigation and academic instruction. German science in Latin America is, to this day, in high repute. In Argentina German scientific influence began with the arrival of Hermann Burmeister, professor of natural science in Halle and former student of von Humboldt. The failure of the revolution of 1848/49, in which he was involved, lead to his emigration from Prussia. For ten years the scholar traveled through the republic of the Plate, investigating flora, fauna, agriculture, cities, population, and economics, and he documented the results in several publications (19). Governor Bartolomé Mitre and the Minister of Education, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, supported him and in 1861 Burmeister was appointed director of the Museo Publico of Buenos Aires (20).
In this official position and later as head of the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Cordoba, Burmeister managed the first significant scientific exchange between Germany and Argentina. Through his influence, at least five German professors received chairs at the University of Cordoba (21). This led over the years to hundreds of German scholars finding their way to the Rio de la Plata (22). Some academic areas, for example, geology, were dominated by German professors. There was hardly an Argentine university that did not have any Germans on its staff. The frequent rivalries and even the wars among European states did not damage their reputations. So it is not surprising that the recruitment of German scientists and specialists in the military and civilian sectors had been a constant factor in Juan Domingo Peron’s plans years before the end of World War II. In December 1943, the ambitious colonel was already pushing his idea of getting German technicians to Argentina (23).
After the war, Argentina was one of the first countries trying to get a diplomatic foothold in Germany, although the Allied powers attempted to prevent this. Connections were established with German specialists hoping to bring them to Argentina (24). Long since, the elite of German scientists – especially in the military sector – had been seized by the occupying powers, chiefly the United States and the Soviet Union (25). Argentina, however, made generous offers to those who did not want to collaborate with the victors (26). Through its justicialist immigration policy, the Argentine government intended to pave the way for interested foreigners, especially Germans. Peron gave clear instructions to Argentine embassies and consulates in Europe (27) to, in many cases, overlook deficient or even missing travel documents and to reduce administrative formalities to a minimum. In addition, on behalf of political refugees, Peron created special institutions in Italy (28) which, in cooperation with local authorities, the Catholic Church, and the Red Cross, steered many who were in danger to Argentina.
Operating in the top-secret, these institutions appear to be beyond the reach of historiographical investigation. Official source materials do not exist or have not been released for inspection even now, 45 years later (29). Allusions from the German community in Argentina (30) provide strong evidence that high-ranking politicians, state officials, and especially the heads of the La Plata Deutschtum managed the migration project politically and logistically. Peron’s right-hand man in the secret dealings was the Director of the Immigration Authority, Santiago Peralta (31). On the government’s side was the secretary of the presidential chancellery, Rudi Freude, son of the so-called Nazi No. 1 of Argentina (32), Ludwig Freude, who smoothed the path to Argentina. He was assisted by Guillermo Staudt, the son of an Austrian-Argentine industrial magnate, as well as Horst Fuldner, the connection who supervised the clandestine movement in Italy.
In the first period after the war Rome was the center of the secret project: there the Argentines were able to fly people out quickly. After establishing an official immigration authority there in 1946 – with the aim of promoting a mass movement of Italians to the Rio de la Plata (33) – Rome remained the springboard for VIPs and later prominent scientists to Buenos Aires, whereas the mass immigration to Argentina was channeled through Genoa. Years after, when Spanish journalists interviewed the former and future Argentine president, Peron recalled with satisfaction the transfer of German scientists in his effort to bring Argentina up to the technological level of the industrialized nations. When Buenos Aires became convinced of an Axis defeat (34), appropriate authorities prepared for the transport of specialists from Germany to the Rio de la Plata with dispatch.
In 1970 Peron declared openly: ‘Quite sometime before the end of the war, we had prepared ourselves for its aftermath. Germany had been defeated, that we were sure of. The victors hoped to take advantage of the great technological advances that the country had made over the course of ten years. It was impossible to obtain their hardware; it had been destroyed. What remained were the men. We were also interested in this. We let the Germans know that we were going to declare war on them so as to save thousands. We exchanged messages with them through Switzerland and Spain. Franco quickly understood our intentions and helped us. The Germans were in accordance. When the war ended, those useful Germans helped us build new factories and improve the old. In the process, they helped themselves’ (35).
Some examples will be given – partes pro toto – to illustrate how this brain drain worked: In the middle of 1946, Prof. Dr. Hans Joachim Schumacher, a German scientist, indirectly consulted the Argentine Foreign Ministry. This is one of the rare cases that can be reconstructed by official documents. In his young days, Schumacher had already acquired an international reputation in the field of kinetics. At the age of 30, he was appointed professor and director of the Physical-Chemical Institute of the University of Frankfort on the Main, where he taught from 1935 to 1945 (36). During the war, he worked for the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) (37) which later resulted in his dismissal from the university.
Schumacher’s application for employment in Argentina passed through several offices of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto and, finally, given its perceived importance, was discussed by the foreign and war ministers. Argentine missions in Paris and Washington were consulted to verify Schumacher’s declarations. Meanwhile, the War Ministry expressed its unequivocal interest in employing Schumacher and considered offering him a position in the General Direction of military manufacturers and suppliers (Direccion General de Fabricaciones Militares) (38). Information received soon after from the Argentine Embassy in Washington that Schumacher was politically incriminated (39), had no consequence. Foreign Minister Bramuglia did not even mention this detail in his letter to War Minister Sosa Molina. He simply confirmed the scientific career of Schumacher and gave advice on organizing the transfer (40).
(17) Interview with Carlos Schulz, Buenos Aires. (18) Interview with scientists then brought to Buenos Aires; cf. H. Conradis, Forschen und Fliegen. Weg und Werk von Kurt Tank (Göttingen, Berlin, Frankfurt21959), pp. 323-339. (19) W. Lütge, W. Hoffmann, K.W. Körner, Κ. Klingenfuß, Deutsche in Argentinien (Buenos Aires 1981), p. 170. (20) Ibidem, p. 174. (21) W. Hoffmann, ‘Deutsche in Argentinien’: Η. Fröschle (ed.), Die Deutschen in Lateinamerika. Schicksal und Leistung (Tübingen, Basel 1979), p. 115. According to D. Abad de Santillän (ed.), Historia Argentina, vol. 3 (Buenos Aires 1965), p. 265 s., Burmeister was authorized to bring 20 scholars to Argentina and he mostly invited Germans. (22) Cf. Deutsche Wissenschaft am Rio de la Plata’: Lütge, op. cit., pp. 244-267 and: Hoffmann, ‘Deutsche in Argentinien’, pp. 115-124. (23) R.C Newton, ‘The United States, the German-Argentines, and the Myth of the ‘Fourth Reich’: Hispanic American Historical Review, 64 (1984), 1, p. 94. (24) M. Bar-Zohar, Die Jagd auf die deutschen Wissenschaftler 1944-1960 (original in French) (Berlin, Frankfort/M. 1966), p. 195 s.; also: H.U. Rudel, Zwischen Deutschland und Argentinien Fünf Jahre in Übersee (Gottingen 1954), p. 120. (25) Bar-Zohar, op. cit., passim; also: Ch. Simpson, Der amerikanische Bumerang: NS-Kriegsverbrecher im Sold der USA (US-Original) (Wien 1988), passim. (26) Rudel, op. cit., p. 123; also: Galland, op. cit., p. 7. (27) Perön in: T. Luca de Tena, L. Calvo, E. Peicovich (ed.), Yo Juan Domingo Perön. Relato autobiogräfico (Barcelona 1976), p. 86. (28) Ibidem. (29) Perhaps research into this matter will soon be possible. Following the sharp criticism by American Nazi hunters, in February 1992 a decree of Argentine President Menem opened secret Federal Police and intelligence files for consultation by historians and the public. Among those are files on Bormann, Mengele and Eichmann. (30) The persons interviewed by the author concerning this matter did not want to be mentioned. (31) Concerning Peralta, his antisemitism and the administration of his office cf. H. Avni, Argentina y la historia de la inmigracion judia, 1810-1950 (Jerusalem, Buenos Aires 1983). cap. V, 2. (32) Freude was mentioned several times in the polemic anti-Peron pamphlet: US-Government, Department of State (ed.), Consultation Among the American Republics with Respect to the Argentine Situation (Washington D.C. 1946) (Reprint, New York 1976). In 1945 the US embassy in Buenos Aires tried in vain to intern Ludwig Freude and considered its efforts a crucial test case of whether the ‘Nazi machine in Argentina’ could be broken (Rout/Bratzel, op. cit., p. 422). (33) Cf. E. Rissech, Migraciön europea, 1930-1952 (Manuscript, Buenos Aires s. a.) , passim. (34) ‘Consideractön politica-militar de los paises en lucha’, Memorial of General Carlos von der Becke, November 29, 1943, in: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, Archivo General, Buenos Aires (hereafter: AG MREC), Asuntos Politicos, Guerra, exp. 633, vol. Ill, 1945. (35) Taped interview of Tomas Eloy Martinez with Juan Domingo Peron, September 9, 1970, in Tomas Eloy Martinez, Perön and the Nazi War Criminals, Working Paper No. 144 of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington, D.C. 1984), p. 9. (36) Lütge, op. cit., p. 259. (37) Internal writing in the Foreign Ministry addressed to Foreign Minister Bramuglia, Buenos Aires, September 11, 1946, AG MREC, 1CT 3392/1946. (38) War Ministry to Foreign Minister Bramuglia, Buenos Aires, December 24, 1946 (secret), AG MREC. 1CT 3392/1946. (39) ‘Estä catalog a do come nazi’, ciphered telegram No. 1985 to Bramuglia, Washington, December 3P1, 1946, AG MREC, ICT 3392/1946.
In 1947, one of the most renowned aircraft designers in the world, Professor Kurt Tank, who had headed Focke-Wulf, the aircraft producer in Bremen, traveled with new blueprints via Denmark to Argentina. He convinced Peron that Argentina needed to build jet fighters. Tank requested money and the experienced Focke-Wulf team from Germany. Peron thought it over and gave his OK; Tank compiled a list of the desired engineers (41). On this list was aircraft designer Hans-Gerd Eyting. In June 1948, he was visited by some old colleagues who offered him the chance of joining new projects in Argentina. Eyting agreed (42).
Meanwhile, Argentine diplomats had contacted a Croatian priest named Krunoslav Draganovic, who was known to have helped a number of fugitive Croats escape. The Franciscan priest and theologian Draganovic had important connections in the Vatican and used them to help his Croatian compatriots flee from the Communist regime in Yugoslavia. All he lacked was money. The Argentines had money, so they made a deal. Information was passed to Eyting and others that a Croatian bar in Munich was to be their secret meeting place. In June 1948, at a prearranged time, the group was met by a Croat who had bribed American soldiers. The group then, accompanied by this Croatian liaison, crossed all checkpoints in American jeeps with American drivers into Austria. In Salzburg, they were put up in hotels. The Croatian contact arranged everything. He solved the problem of passports, which were issued by the Red Cross for Displaced Persons, with the personal signature of Draganovic, and he gave them residence permits, which were provided by the Italian Embassy of Vienna. The only thing left to do was to put photos in the passports. Soon Eyting was transformed into the Croatian refugee Antonio Kohav (43). The group made their way to Rome, and after a stay in a monastery in the Italian capital, a DC-4 Skymaster brought them to Argentina.
Argentine immigration registered them as Croats. With similar chutzpah, Argentina organized an exit via Denmark. There, Argentine General Consul, Carlos Pineyro, issued officially forged Argentine passports. Over a period of about six months, several dozens of German scientists were flown to Buenos Aires. Danish authorities then realized that these brand new Argentine passports had no Danish entry stamp. This caused a diplomatic scandal, and the consul was recalled (44). Therefore, Argentina had to rely on another avenue of transfer. With its signing of the Inter-American Chapultepec Act in 1945, Argentina was prohibited from letting in citizens of the defeated Axis nations without the Allies’ OK, after a political investigation. But Peron, as well as the Americans, through the projects ‘Overcast’” and ‘Paperclip’ (45), ignored these regulations; the legal principle of contractual fidelity was subordinated to the political principle of raison d’état.
The odds were unequal. In terms of recruiting highly qualified people, the United States had a variety of inducements at its disposal – from professionally and financially attractive offers to intimidating threats of being barred from working and worse. Argentina could only act indirectly and, moreover, was handicapped without official representation in Germany. Until the opening of a general consulate in Frankfurt in 1948, Argentine diplomats and attaches of neighboring countries coordinated the recruitment, checking applicants, and organizing transfers. In terms of the well-known scientists and specialists, the spoils, as they say, go to the victors, and the Allies did not hesitate to go after them. The Republic of the Plate concentrated on less prominent experts, especially those who had lost positions after being tried in the denazification tribunals, as well as those who lost their jobs because of the post-war occupation.
This interest by Argentina spread like wildfire amongst those apt to benefit. Argentine embassies and consulates in Europe were inundated with applications, some even petitioned the Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires. The vast numbers attracted by word-of-mouth and through reports in the media, provided organizers the opportunity to carefully choose whom they wanted (46), and many were in fact rejected. Argentine priorities were outstanding natural scientists and specialists in the arms industry. In 1947 the wife of the military industrialist (Wehrwirtschaftsführer), Dr. Hans Kleiner, former director of Schmidding-Werke in Tetschen-Bodenbach, visited the Argentine Embassy in Rome to make contact on behalf of a group of German military experts. The diplomats realized immediately the importance of the case and declared themselves ready to do everything possible to aid the persons in question and, finally, put them on the so-called monastery line. This cooperation with church authorities worked smoothly: German priests in the Eternal City arranged room and board and a Vatican nunnery sheltered the women (47).
(40) ‘(…) seria conveniente que se precisaran con toda exactitud las condiciones bajo las que seria contratado, asi como tambi6n que se dispusiera de los fondos necesarios para los gastos de traslado’ (Bramuglia to Sosa Molina, Buenos Aires, March 8, 1947, confidential, AG MREC, 1CT 3392/1946). (41) H. Conradi’s, op.cit., pp. 342, 347. (42) Interview with Hans-Gerd Eyting, Cördoba. (43) Ibidem. (44) AG MREC, Division Politica, caja 14, Dinamarca 1947, passim. (45) Cf. Simpson, op. cit., p. 43 et passim. (46) Interview with Walter Sander (a scientist), Buenos Aires. The Argentine commission of repatriation in Germany received petitions daily from German specialists about employment in Argentina (Consul Dubois to Bramuglia, Hamburg, June 24, 1948, AG MREC, DCA, 173.591/1948). (47) Interview with Lotte Hüster (then Lotte Kleiner), Buenos Aires.