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Thousands of Nazis fled to South Americawas the Fuhrer one of them? NEW HOME THAT AWAITED HITLER IN ARGENTINA.

With its Alpine-style houses, Bariloche would not look out of place amid the mountains of Europe. It is not surprising, then, that the Argentinian town in the foothills of the Andes has attracted German immigrants for over 100 years.

Or that Nazis fled there after the Second World War - possibly including Adolf Hitler himself.

It was in Argentina this week that police found chilling evidence of the region's appeal to the war criminals, in a huge stash of swastika-emblazoned artefacts. When the Fuhrer was defeated in 1945, 9,000 Third Reich cronies and collaborators escaped to South America.

As well as Argentina, where Bariloche became known as "The Third Reich Capital in Exile", they flocked to Brazil, Chile and Bolivia.

They included Josef Mengele, Auschwitz's Angel of Death, and Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust. Many still believe Hitler faked his suicide and lived out his life in Argentina and Paraguay.

He allegedly died aged 95, though the claim is dubious. But Bariloche certainly became a potential home from home for the Fuhrer.

Historian Hermann Rueder said: "Bariloche was the place where they re-created Berchtesgaden, site of Hitler's holiday home.

"The old Nazis would celebrate, often not so secretly, all the high days of Nazism there - Hitler's birthday, the founding of the Third Reich, numerous other anniversaries."

So was Hitler the guest of honour? What is beyond doubt is the draw of South America for Nazis. It boasted remote locations, corrupt leaders and even pioneering plastic surgery.

Other Nazis who went there include Erich Priebke, a Gestapo boss who became director of the town's German school, the Colegio Aleman. He and his wife held Nazi-themed evenings with dancing to old Third Reich tunes.

He was finally tracked down, arrested and got a life sentence in Rome, where he died in 2013.

Exorcising Bariloche's many ghosts is not easy. Mengele would visit to lap up the town's German architecture and festivals. It also boasted a mountaintop restaurant called The Berghof - the name of Hitler's Bavarian mountain retreat.

One of Priebke's regular guests in Bariloche was SS colonel Walter Rauff, a personal hero of Hitler's who created gas vans that killed 100,000.

He had fled to Chile, where he blended in as an air-conditioning salesman. He died there in 1984.

He was joined in Chile by Paul Schafer, a one-eyed Nazi soldier who became a pastor, establishing Villa Baviera - which was essentially a paedophile's paradise. In 2006, Schafer was sentenced to 33 years for sexually abusing 25 children. He died in 2010, aged 88.

Uki Goni, author of The Real Odessa: How Peron Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina, said: "Argentina stands out among the countries on the American continent that Nazis escaped to. It was Argentina that made a concerted effort to rescue as many Nazis as possible.

"Some of the first SS and Nazi officials who arrived in Argentina were received by President Juan Peron at the Casa Rosada, Argentina's equivalent of the US White House. They were then sent back to Europe with Argentine passports on rescue missions to bring over the 20th century's worst mass murderers."

The fleeing Germans were not only welcome because of Peron's sympathies for their fascist regime, but the Argentinian leader was desperate for Nazi technology and scientific advances.

His wife, Eva Peron, also gained financially from the scheme. "It is still suspected that among her possessions, there were pieces of Nazi treasure that came from rich Jewish families killed in concentration camps," said Leandro Narloch and Duda Teixeira in their book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Latin America.

Nazis fled Europe through undercover routes to Italy and Spain, before being transported across the Atlantic. Several high-level figures in the Catholic Church are alleged to have been helpful in smuggling them.

Up to 2,000 went to Argentina, where Eichmann posed as Ricardo Klement in Buenos Aires. After being kidnapped by Mossad agents, he was tried in Israel and executed in 1960.

But it was not just corrupt leaders in south America who aided the fleeing Nazis.

Gestapo chief in France Klaus Barbie - The Butcher of Lyon - set up home in Bolivia with the help of America's CIA. They smuggled him in and used his deadly skills to hunt down Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. The Americans may have hated Nazis but they had one thing in common, a loathing of Communism.

Perhaps the most notorious Nazi to flee to South America was Mengele. Germany issued a warrant for his arrest but he was never found. Some say he had plastic surgery.

He fled to Argentina initially, around 1950, and briefly lived in neighbouring Paraguay. He lived out the rest of his days in Brazil, where he died of a stroke in 1979, aged 67.

Disturbingly, while in South America, he adopted the pseudonym Dr Helmut Gregor and performed abortions in an illegal practice. In

2009, a book claimed Mengele's contintinuing experiments may have been responsible for one in five pregnancies in the Brazilian town of Candido Go-doi, resulting in twins - most of them blond-haired and blue-eyed.

Residents say Mengele made repeated visits in the early 1960s.

In 1978 film The Boys From Brazil, Gregory Peck played Mengele in exile in Paraguay as he continued his experiments and attempted to conspire with other Nazis in the region.

The idea also featured in Frederick Forsyth's 1972 book, The Odessa File the 1974 film adaptation of which led to the capture of Nazi fugitive Eduard oschmann, known as the Butcher of Riga, in Argentina.

Forsyth said it was "screened in a leapit cinema south of Buenos where a man know that man, he lives down the street from me'.

"He decided to make a run for it to Paraguay and died of a heart attack on the river crossing. They buried him in an unmarked gravel pit. I hope they tossed a copy of the book in."

The idea that Hitler fled to South America surfaced as early as 1945 - Zhukov. Abel Basti, in his book Hitler in Exile, claims the Fuhrer escaped his Berlin bunker via a tunnel and a helicopter whisked him to Spain.

From there, he was said to have gone to the Canary Islands, where a U-boat took him to Argentina.

Hitler allegedly spent a decade there before moving to Paraguay, where he lived under the protection of President Alfredo Stroessner, who had German roots.

Basti believes he died there in 1971. He said: "Wealthy families who helped him over the years were responsible for his funeral. Hitler was buried in a bunker, which is now an elegant hotel in the city of Asuncion.

"In 1973, the entrance to the bunker was sealed and 40 people came to say goodbye to Hitler."

rod.mcphee@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

JUSTICE Erich Priebke leaves for Rome in 1995

BLOOD MONEY Peron made cash helping Nazis

SICKENING Our story on Nazi haul

GRIM THEORY Did Hitler die in Paraguay in 1971?

DARK SIDE Bariloche has Nazi links
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:3ARGE
Date:Jun 22, 2017
Words:1165
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