Collection of Evil

Timeless Truth Off 42

When Argentine police entered the home of an art collector last month in a suburb of Buenos Aries, their discovery left them speechless. Behind a bookcase, they found a door leading to a passage that opened to a secret room that held the largest collection of Nazi artifacts ever found in the country’s history. It is unclear how the collector, Carlos Alberto Olivares, came to possess such a trove of artifacts.
The objects ranged from children’s toys emblazoned with the swastika to busts of Hitler.
Of special note were some “tools” designed to measure the shape of heads, which was part of the Third Reich’s obsession to identify an inferior race. Another interesting twist is that some items such as a magnifying glass, were accompanied by a photo of Hitler holding that very piece. Argentine security minister Patricia Bullrich believes she knows why the photos were kept with the items. “This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer,” she says.
Although subsequent reports have indicated that the collection may be modernday fakes, this find serves as a reminder of the infamous role Argentina played after the war to help Nazis escape persecution. We all know that after the war, the fascist leader of Argentina, Juan Perón, established safe routes called “rat lines” to welcome the worst of the Nazi war criminals. Klaus Barbie, Adolf Eichmann, Franz Stangl and Josef Mengele—the very names of those who found refuge under Perón are almost too horrible to believe.
Perón was a complicated figure who managed to garner support from all corners of the Argentine political spectrum.
Although I do not intend to minimize the crime of harboring mass murderers, it does appear that Perón’s primary motive was not his affinity for Nazis. His administration was investigated for embezzling millions of dollars from German sources, and his reason for opening his borders to these monsters seems to have been for his country’s benefit. Some historians believe that Perón allowed Nazis into the country with the hope of acquiring advanced German technology developed during the war. In a related twist, Perón selected the famous ex-Nazi commando, Otto Skorzeny, as his wife’s personal bodyguard.
There is more evidence to bolster the theory that Perón was no ordinary Jewhater. Perón surrounded himself with Jewish advisors, including a Jewish man from Poland named José Ber Gelbard. And when US Ambassador George S. Messersmith visited Argentina in 1947, he noted that “there is not as much social discrimination against Jews here as there is right in New York or in most places at home.”
The collection also serves as a sad reminder that though Argentina welcomed these Nazis unconditionally, just a few years earlier, the Argentinian government during the war had sharply limited its intake of Jewish refugees.
Another thought occurred to me while I scanned the photos with rising revulsion. As director of a Holocaust museum, I am accustomed to seeing Nazi artifacts in various stages of disuse and antiquity. The gleaming steel and bright velvet of this collection was in stark contrast to this image. Why is this important? For if this collection proves to indeed be false, it indicates how extensive a public interest there is for Nazi themed artifacts. Some may be inclined to say that Nazism was an anomaly—a freak generation that really had no place in human society. Concurrently, there is a commercialized market portraying the Nazis in a sanitized version of glory and might.
We of course know the truth. I think that this collector and his collection reaffirms the fact that every society—no matter how civilized and advanced—is capable of the most unspeakable brutality. For when hatred goes unchecked, there is no limit to the danger it can unleash.

About the author / 

Rabbi Sholom Friedmann

Rabbi Sholom Friedmann is a Talmid of Rabbi Leib Bakst זצ"ל, of Yeshivas Ateres Mordechai, Detroit, Michigan. After learning in the yeshivah and kollel, Rabbi Friedmann moved to the British colony of Gibraltar and studied in the Gateshead Kollel for three more years, at which time he received rabbinical ordination. From there, Rabbi Friedmann moved to London, England. In London, Rabbi Friedmann taught in the Menorah Grammar School, and was appointed the communal Rov of Kehilas Kol Yaakov, Edgware, London. Rabbi Friedmann was awarded Qualified Teaching Status by the British Board of Education in 2002, and a diploma in educational psychology by the Tavistock clinic (London) in 2006. In 2005, Rabbi Friedmann was accepted as a Fellow in Holocaust Education by the prestigious Imperial War Museum, London. Rabbi Friedmann relocated to New York in 2008 to become the Director of Zechor Yemos Olam, the Holocaust education division of Torah Umesorah. While occupying that position, Rabbi Friedmann created teaching materials, videos, and teacher training programs, including the ZYO Holocaust education fellowship program. In April 2012, Rabbi Friedmann was appointed as the director of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum. The museum founded by Elly Kleinman will carry on the legacy of holocaust history. For more info about when it is expected to open read this article.

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