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The "Nazi Menace" in Argentina: 1931-1947.

This is a path-breaking study and will prove vital reading for historians in many disciplines. In his remarkable integration of sources from a range of European, North American, and South American libraries and archives, Ronald Newton rivals the scope and depth of Friedrich Katz's Secret War in Mexico. Moreover, like Katz, Newton pushes international history in new directions; boasting important contributions in the histories of politics, cultures, economics, and ideologies, among many sub-fields, this work defies quick categorization. By bringing together his various histories into a new synthesis, Newton calls on readers to break down traditional notions of international relations, bounded by diplomacy and political interactions.

Three objectives guide this work. Newton proposes to build on his earlier assessments of Argentine pluralism, and the role of German Argentines (including German-Jewish Argentines) within a larger Argentine polity. He also poses (and resolves) the question "just what mere the Nazis up to in Argentina, anyway?" And he seeks to explain what he characterizes as the irrational response of the United States to wartime Argentina, and to the purported Nazi menace in that country. The book begins with the premise that, until now, the historical literature on these themes has been charged with emotion and nationalism, by the rantings of United States Ambassador Spruille Braden, and by an American obsession to seek out and expose Nazis, real and imagined. Newton argues that, during the 1930s, while German propaganda and other influences on the Argentine government - and on Argentines - mere forceful, their impact has been overestimated. Factors that included Nazi airs of superiority toward Argentines, bungling intelligence operatives, the absence of defined policy objectives, and Nazi indiscipline within German administrative structures led to limited and tentative successes in gaining Argentine adherents.

Part of the appeal of this work is the pithy writing style and humorous asides. German ambassador von Therman, we learn, was a "transparently opportunistic Nazi-come-lately." After a long and detailed section on the antifascist resistance in Buenos Aires, Newton confesses to his readers that "it is a relief to turn to the cultural resistance." And turn he does. Among many important contributions to the historical literature that the author interconnects are his analysis of transformations in Argentine anti-semitism, the nature and extent of sympathy for Nazism, and an excellent consideration of German immigration to Argentina in which he ties the movement of peoples to problems of class in Buenos Aires, and to the nature and extent of German investment and commerce with Argentina.

Newton's understanding of Nazism is sophisticated. Distinctions between proletarian and elite Nazism, conflicts within the German community, the reluctance of Argentines to accept Nazi race-based reasoning, and the range of pressures exerted by the local NSDAP. on Argentines underscore the superficiality of the United States government views of so-called Argentine Nazism. This work makes clear that membership of German Argentines in the local Argentine Nazi party tended to be both transitory and opportunistic; for many reasons, most Argentines lacked a fervent commitment to National Socialism. Students of more traditional diplomatic history will find Newton's coverage of the war years very useful. The author argues convincingly that by 1943 (and in many regards as early as 1941) Germans or Nazis - in cultural, strategic, military, and economic terms - no longer mounted a notable threat to Argentines or anybody else in South America. Argentina was already providing the food and raw materials with which Great Britain survived the war. Allied shipping in the Rio de La Plata was safe from German u-boat attacks. and the Argentine government showed little sympathy for Nazis and Nazism. Through the early Cold War period, American officials and scholars could not grasp what their equivalents in Britain and elsewhere understood, and what this study now makes clear. There was no "Nazi Menace" in Argentina.
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Author:Sheinin, David
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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