Ron Rosenbaum

Explosive New Book Unearths Argentina's Forgotten Holocaust

It may be no accident that the Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop, recently re-instated from excommunication to justified cries of outrage, made his home in a seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It was a fortuitous coincidence that the controversy broke out just as I was finishing the galleys of what I believe should be an explosive new book by the British writer Philip Kerr called The Quiet Flame. Kerr’s novel, out in March from Putnam/Marian Wood books, takes the form of the fifth in his series of novels about a Hitler era Berlin homicide detective Bernie Gunther whose Berlin Noir trilogy and its follow up The One From the Other I’ve praised before.

But this one is different. it’s an investigative detective story, based on forgotten facts which brings to light a terrible buried episode in the history of Nazi criminality:

The long covered-up Holocaust which escaped Nazis are alleged to have perpetrated with the complicity of Juan Peron’s government in Argentina in the years immediately after the war when, according to Kerr’s research, up to 200,000 refugee Jews may have been murdered by escaped Nazi war criminals.

It’s long been forgotten amidst facetious jokes about Nazis, even Hitler, having escaped to South America, that hundreds of thousands of Jews escaped there during and after the war as well. And it’s almost been obliterated from the historical record that the Nazis in South America may well have continued doing what the Nazi in Europe did with such horrific proficiency.

In an afterword to his novel Kerr credits his revelations in this novel of the collaboration of the Peronist government–and the Perons–in this crime, revelations almost entirely new to me, to the study of The Real ODESSAby Uki Goni, (ODESSA was the post war Nazi escape network) who points to the existence of a secret Argentinian “Directive 11” which, Kerr says was “signed into existence by the Argentine Foreign Minister Jose Maria Cantilo on July 12, 1938 [and] condemned as many as two hundred thousand European Jews to death. It’s existence is denied by some to this day.”

I hope Kerr’s novel, executed with his usual trans-generic brilliance will open up a debate among historians over the truth and denial of this charge, about the fate of these forgotten victims of the Holocaust, aparently murdered by one of our “allies” and why this crime has been allowed to have been erased from history and memory. We will all owe Kerr a debt for not allowing it to have been, as they say in Argentina “disappeared”.

*I couldn’t have made it more clear that Kerr based his novel on the investigation into “Directive 11” and its consequences by historian Uki Goni. Yet I notice more than one commenter seems to have ignored this. It is, unfortunately as this link demonstrates all too real.

***Further clarification: on re reading Kerr’s “Author’s Note” it’s clear that the 200,000 figure refers only to those condemned to death by Directive 11. Condemned to death in Europe by real Nazis because they were denied the refuge they sought in Argentina by Directive 11. To some, apparently this kind of death in some way doesn’t “count”, although it clearly counted as a guilty secret for the Peronists and their successors who denied the existence of Directive 11 until, as the link above demonstrates, an irrefutable long lost copy was found. As for deaths at the hands of Argentina’s Nazis, local and imported, Kerr’s “Author’s Note” states that speculation about the “existence of a concentration camp for Jews in Argentina’s remote forests” persists but he doesn’t give a number. I’ve written him to ask for more details.

UPDATE; See the next post for Kerr’s response and correction.