A police operation in Argentina has seized a collection of original Nazi artifacts believed to be the country’s biggest haul of its kind to date.
Argentinian police and Interpol raided the house of an art collector in the north of Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires as part of the operation “Near East.” They found a secret passageway to a room filled with Nazi and archeological artifacts concealed behind a bookshelf.
The man had stored around 75 objects bearing swastikas and other Nazi symbols in the secret room, including busts and pictures of Adolf Hitler, puzzle games for children, daggers and several medical instruments that were used to measure a person’s anatomical fit to the standards of the so-called “Aryan race.”
As part of the operation, the police also seized a number of rare artifacts from Asia and Ancient Egypt, including 3,000-year-old animal mummies that they said were likely to be sold on the black market.
Police raided the house on June 8, but the minister of national security Patricia Bullrich held a press conference Monday afternoon to reveal details of the case.
Bullrich said the police has enlisted the help of historians to investigate how and when the collection entered the country. The minister also said that, at the end of the investigation, the Nazi artifacts will be donated to the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires.
The minister of human rights and cultural pluralism of the nation, Claudio Avruj also addressed the press on Monday, thanking the authorities for their work in bringing the macabre Nazi collection to light and commending the decision to donate the artifacts to the museum.
“This decision to bring these pieces to the Holocaust Museum will put strong barriers against hatred and discrimination,” he said, adding, “These facts show that the Holocaust did not end with the passage of time because there are people who try to keep this policy of death, discrimination and hatred alive.”
After the fall of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, many Nazi party members and high-ranking officials fled to Latin American countries, seeking to escape justice. Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, who was in charge of the logistics of transporting Jewish people to the death camps, was captured near Buenos Aires by the Israeli security services in 1960 and brought to stand trial in Jerusalem, where he was sentenced to death by hanging in 1962.
Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, the so-called “Angel of Death,” had also also fled to Buenos Aires, but avoided capture by escaping first to Paraguay and then to Brazil, where he died in 1979.
The Argentinian police did not say which high-ranking official may have been the owner of the collection, but the medical instruments found inevitably brought the doctor to mind.
“We know the history, we know the terrible experiments carried out by Josef Mengele. When I see these objects I see the ignominy of this terrible time in human history that has caused so much damage and so much pain,” Alberto Indij, vice-president of the Delegation of Argentinian Israeli Associations (DAIA) said in a video published on Twitter last week by the authorities to showcase the result of the operation.