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After WWII, many Nazis sought and found refuge in Argentina. The proportion to which that happened certainly couldn't be carried out without some level of complicity from the Argentine establishment and power elites, or at least motivated disregard.

  1. Did Peron actively interpose to bring Nazis over?

  2. Assuming 'yes' to the above and that Peron wasn't really a fascist but more like a populist with some fascist sympathies, what motives did he have to host Nazis? E.g. was he looking to feel some engineering cadre or what was his agenda?

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    Don't forget that there was a substantial german community in Argentina long before WW2. There is a reference to this in Das Boot. – bigbadmouse Mar 27 '18 at 7:47
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    Yes, that's what enablers of war crimes or other related nefarious acts often claim that they didn't know it was going on and we didn't give orders... however, reality – amphibient Sep 14 '18 at 21:26
  • Kurt Tank traveled to argentina in 1947, to work for the air force there, designing a turbojet fighter. Reimar Horten, of Horten flying wing fame, also emigrated to Argentina after the war, and designed and built ultramodern aircraft there... – xxavier Sep 15 '18 at 9:08
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enter image description here
Juan Domingo Perón. Source: ThoughtCo / Getty Images

Short Answer

1. Did [Juan Domingo] Perón shelter Nazis after WWII?
A: Yes. Perón helped fleeing Nazis escape Europe and gave them refuge in Argentina.

2. If “Yes” - what were his motives for doing so?
A: His motives were multi-faceted:
- He viewed Nazis as brothers in arms and helped them on that basis;
- He believed they could strategically help Argentina if the USA and USSR went to war;
- He sought their technical expertise as did the USA (Operation Paperclip) and the Soviets (Operation Osoaviakhim).


Long Answer

Note: A complete list of sources used in compiling this answer is included at the very bottom. Only a few in-line sources are used or cited, to try to keep the answer a little more legible.


1. Did [Juan Domingo] Perón actively interpose to bring Nazis over [to Argentina]?

Perhaps interpose is not what was meant by the Question, since interposing implies inserting oneself into a situation to change a behavior or outcome, and since Perón was the head of his government, no interposing was necessary (as a dictator, the government would do his bidding as directed without opposition), as well as the fact that opposition to the policy was minimal in Argentina at the time. There was a large German, Italian and Spanish presence and influence in Argentina, with natural sympathies for the Axis powers being widespread.

However, if the Question was meant to determine if Perón played an active and leading part in providing haven to Nazis after the war, the answer to #1 above is "Yes."

Contrary to some reports though, the "Ratlines" were not first established by Perón. As the Wiki Ratlines article indicates:

The origins of the first ratlines are connected to various developments in Vatican-Argentine relations before and during World War II. As early as 1942, Monsignor Luigi Maglione contacted Ambassador Llobet, inquiring as to the "willingness of the government of the Argentine Republic to apply its immigration law generously, in order to encourage at the opportune moment European immigrants to seek the necessary land and capital in our country".

This article (combined with other sources, all listed below) documents the foundations of the Ratlines before Perón was elected president in February 1946. At first, the Ratlines were used for smuggling and laundering stolen Nazi treasures, gold and money to various places outside Nazi-controlled territory (including Argentina). The Ratlines were later adopted for use in also smuggling people. Perón certainly made use of them for smuggling Nazis into Argentina, but he did not establish them.

However, as the Argentine Connection section of the Wiki Ratlines article states:

In his 2002 book, The Real Odessa, Argentine researcher Uki Goñi used new access to the country's archives to show that Argentine diplomats and intelligence officers had, on Perón's instructions, vigorously encouraged Nazi and fascist war criminals to make their home in Argentina. According to Goñi, the Argentines not only collaborated with [Father Krunoslav] Draganović's [Roman San Girolamo] ratline [a highly sophisticated chain with headquarters at the San Girolamo degli Illirici Seminary College in Rome], they set up further ratlines of their own running through Scandinavia, Switzerland and Belgium. [emphasis added]

Also, ThoughtCo's article on Perón and the Nazis explains Peron's active role in recruiting and protecting escaping Nazis like this:

Although it’s never been a secret that many Nazis fled to Argentina after the war, for a while no one suspected just how actively the Perón administration aided them. Perón dispatched agents to Europe – primarily Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Scandinavia – with orders to facilitate the flight of Nazis and collaborators to Argentina. These men, including Argentine/German former SS agent Carlos Fuldner, helped war criminals and wanted Nazis to flee with money, papers, and travel arrangements. No one was refused: even heartless butchers like Josef Schwammberger and wanted criminals like Adolf Eichmann were sent to South America. Once they arrived in Argentina, they were given money and jobs. The German community in Argentina largely bankrolled the operation through Perón’s government. Many of these refugees met personally with Perón himself.

Perón's inner circle of power that helped the Nazis escape Europe included his wife Eva. The Unredacted article on Odessa: The Nazi Ratline has this to say:

As early as 1945, Eva Peron had an estimated $800m dollars in bank deposits, and vast amounts of gold and diamonds, much of it of Nazi origin.

This money helped former Nazis purchase huge tracts of land in South America and elsewhere and establish whole colonies amenable to German life — protected by former SS officers and Nazi sympathising local thugs.

That Perón's Argentina helped prop up the ratlines (often with Nazi money previoulsy smuggled out through some of those same ratlines), set up some new ones, and actively (even vigorously) recruited and protected Nazi escapees is not in doubt.


2. Assuming 'yes' to the above and that Perón wasn't really a fascist but more like a populist with some fascist sympathies, what motives did he have to host Nazis? E.g. was he looking to feel some engineering cadre or what was his agenda?

First - dealing with the explicit assumptions included in the text of this second part of the Question: that a) Perón "wasn't really a fascist", and b) Perón was "more like a populist"...


A) Certainly definitions of facism differ and can be debated, but if one accepts (from the Wiki article) at least in part that facism is:

a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy... [o]pposed to liberalism, Marxism and anarchism...

and that

Such a [fascist] state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society.

then one can reasonably conclude that while Perón may not have been a fascist in name, he was certainly one in deed. His rise to the presidency of Argentina was marked by the same organized oppressive brutalities as was seen in Mussolini's and Hitler's earlier ascensions. That Perón idolized both Mussolini and Hitler is no secret, easily verified by a 20 second internet search, and not subject to debate.

Argentina's "neutrality" in World War II was a facade, not due to merely lukewarm fascist "sympathies" (the Axis powers elicited more than mere "sympathies" from Argentina and Perón) but was more a matter of military pragmatism with a much larger and stronger and pro-Allies neighbor in Brazil. It is documented that Perón actually feared open conflict with Brazil during the years of the European war. For example, an article in The Vintage News on Juan Perón confirms:

[Argentina] supported the Axis cause as actively as possible, and Argentina was filled with Nazi agents, while Argentinian officers and spies roamed throughout Germany, Italy, and parts of occupied Europe. Argentina purchased arms from Germany in fear of hostilities with Brazil, which supported the Allied countries in the war. In return, Germany vowed major trade concessions to Argentina once the war was over.

Argentina's entry into the war on the side of the Allies one month before the final collapse and surrender of Germany is no testament to Perón's goodwill or turn from fascism, rather, as has been documented (sources included below), it was a calculated move to position Argentina to better assist escaping Nazis from the Allies' grasp and international justice.


B) Addressing Perón as a populist is more challenging, as the term defies universal definition. As The Economist explains:

Populists can be everything from militarists to libertarians. So what does the word actually mean? ...

The Wiki article on Populism includes this:

... populism is a thin-ideology which is combined with other, more substantial thick ideologies such as nationalism, liberalism, or socialism. Thus, populists can be found at different locations along the left–right political spectrum and there is both left-wing populism and right-wing populism.

But considering Perón a populist does have support among many. The Economist article quoted above goes on to say:

Widespread use of the term “populism” dates to the 1890s, when America’s Populist movement pitted rural populations and the Democratic Party against the more urban Republicans. (It was also used to refer to Russia’s 19th-century narodnichestvo movement, which largely comprised self-hating intellectuals with a crush on the peasantry.) In the 1950s academics and journalists began applying it more broadly to describe everything from fascist and communist movements in Europe to America’s anti-communist McCarthyites and Argentina’s Peronistas. [emphasis added]

Also, Perón's Cold War "Third Position" (as a neutral between capitalism and communism) following World War II was often described as a populist position (again, refer to sources below). Note that Fascism and Populism are not mutually exclusive, and one can easily be both a fascist and a populist, depending on circumstances (and definitions).


This brings us to the meat of the 2nd part of this Question, e.g.: "what motives did [Perón] have to host Nazis?"

Answer - his motives were multi-faceted.

First, as ThoughtCo's article on Perón and the Nazis states:

Perón’s Argentina had actively participated in World War Two. They stopped short of declaring war or sending soldiers or weapons to Europe, but aided the Axis powers as much as possible without exposing themselves to the wrath of the Allies should they prove victorious (as they eventually did). When Germany surrendered in 1945, the atmosphere in Argentina was more mournful than joyous. Perón, therefore, felt that he was rescuing brothers-in-arms rather than helping wanted war criminals. He was enraged about the Nuremberg Trials, thinking them a farce unworthy of the victors. After the war, Perón and the Catholic Church lobbied hard for amnesties for the Nazis. [emphasis added]

Second, an additional ThoughtCo article on Nazis in Argentina highlights another facet of Perón's motives:

Perón and some of his advisors, predicted that World War Three would break out as soon as 1948.

In this upcoming "inevitable" conflict [between capitalism and communism], third parties such as Argentina could tip the balance one way or the other. Perón envisioned nothing less than Argentina taking its place as a crucially important diplomatic third party in the war, emerging as a superpower and leader of a new world order. The Nazi war criminals and collaborators may have been butchers, but there is no doubt that they were rabidly anti-communist. Perón thought these men would come in useful in the "upcoming" conflict between the USA and the USSR. [emphasis added]

[Note: the above quote refers to the "Third Position" espoused by Perón, post-WWII.]

A third facet to Perón's motives may have also included a claim found in a History article titled How Argentina Became a Nazi Haven which states:

The Argentine president also sought to recruit those Nazis with particular military and technical expertise that he believed could help his country, much like the United States and the Soviet Union who both poached scientists from the Third Reich to assist them in the Cold War.

[Notes: This History article is not as heavily sourced as other references included in this answer, so I include it here only as a possibility, not knowing the primary sources. Regarding the USA and USSR "poach[ing] scientists from the Third Reich," this is in large part a reference to Operations Lusty, Alsos, Paperclip, Osoaviakhim and others (see Sources below)]


It is worth mentioning that although Argentina was well known to have harbored a similar anti-semitism as did Fascist Europe, there are complexities to consider here as well. The Wiki article on History of the Jews in Argentina includes this fact:

Perón also expressed sympathy for Jewish rights and in 1949 established diplomatic relations with Israel. Perón's government was the first in Argentina to allow Jewish citizens to hold office.

So, while the Question asked may seem straightforward, one must deal with complexities to find a satisfactory answer. All source material used in constructing this Answer (in addition to the few in-line sources above) are included in the list below. I hope this helps.


Sources

- Britannica.com - Juan Perón | President of Argentina
- Wikipedia - Juan Perón
- Wikipedia - Ratlines (World War II Aftermath)
- The Unredacted - Odessa: The Nazi Ratline
- Chicago Tribune - Nazi Hunters in Argentina Pursue New Evidence of Peron Complicity Dec. 22, 1997
- The Vintage News - Argentina's Juan Peron: His harboring of Nazi war criminals did not bring about the benefits he expected for his country
- The Vintage News - The escape of Nazi criminals to Argentina
- The Wilson Center - Peron and the Nazi War Criminals
- The New York Times - Half-Century Later, a New Look at Argentine-Nazi Ties April 4, 2005 (this article refers to Gaby Weber's book The German Connection: The Laundering of Nazi Money in Argentina)
- Wikipedia article - History of the Jews in Argentina
- Questia - Reluctant Partners: Juan Peron and the Jews of Argentina, 1946 - 1955
- ThoughtCo - Biography of Juan Peron
- ThoughtCo - Juan Domingo Peron and Argentina's Nazis
- ThoughtCo - Why Argentina Accepted Nazi War Criminals After World War II
- History - How South America Became a Nazi Haven
- Wikipedia - Fascism
- Wikipedia - Populism
- The Economist - What is Populism
- Wikipedia - Third Position
- Wikipedia - Operation Lusty
- Wikipedia - Alsos Mission
- Wikipedia - Russian Alsos
- Wikipedia - Operation Osoaviakhim
- Wikipedia - Operation Paperclip
- CIA Library - Review of Annie Jacobsen's Operation Paperclip book (below)
- Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, Annie Jacobsen (Little, Brown and Company, 2014) [author's note - excellent book!]

  • 1
    Ratlines were established before Peron, 'he' profited from having them. OK. But did he actively continue, encourage, prolong the ratlines,; was 'he' actively engaged in protecting those 'elements'? 'He' or some parts of the Argentine state/government.I think that would bring a bit more clarity to the picture. – LangLangC Sep 14 '18 at 22:04
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    @LangLangC I hope the additional information inserted into the text of the Answer, and one additional linked reference in the list of Sources, provides some clarification as requested. The ratlines were not mentioned in the OP's Question, but they are a significant factor in a discussion on this topic. – Kerry L Sep 14 '18 at 23:17
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    Just similar to what Mr Spock said: Nazis and government(s) really click! – LangLangC Sep 14 '18 at 23:20
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    Rereading this answer as a whole: quite nice! I do not like the formatting of your "Sources" (seems to make the post overly long (although it really is not. & I do npt have a nice solution for that)). Have I said it already: +1. – LangLangC Sep 14 '18 at 23:35
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    @LangLangC - thanks, I spent several hours through the course of this week reading, researching, compiling, editing and formatting. There are some sources included in the bottom that contributed to the Answer without directly citing or quoting them, so in-line references didn't present an opportunity for identifying them within the answer, but I wanted to include them because they were instrumental in providing the answer. Each of them should be read in depth on their own in my opinion (if one is really serious about finding answers on this). I'm open to suggestion on formatting! – Kerry L Sep 14 '18 at 23:40
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Argentine president Juan Peron secretly ordered diplomats and intelligence officers to establish escape routes known as "rat lines" through ports in Italy and Spain for the purpose of smuggling Nazi officials into South America. The main motive behind this was to cherry-pick technical and military experts that he believed could help give his dreams of establishing Argentina as a major world power a big boost. After his fall from power and subsequent exile in 1955, the cadre of Nazi military officials and technical experts went even further to ground fearing that the new civilian-lead government would not protect them anymore and his plans were never realized.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Sources would greatly improve this answer and make it more likely that people will upvote :) – Lars Bosteen Feb 25 '18 at 1:51
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    As written this is pure opinion and speculation. Objective references to the various claims of fact made would vastly increase the post's merit. – Pieter Geerkens Feb 25 '18 at 16:26
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  1. Did Peron actively interpose to bring Nazis over?

Yes, Peron was a military attache to the Axis during the beginning of WWII. He was familiar with the fascist ideology and it is said he was sympathetic to that ideology. Peron came to power in 1946 and organized "Ratlines" or corridors of escape for Nazi officials through ports in Spain and Italy in the aftermath of WWII. Once in Argentina his government sheltered them and put them to work for his national interests. Much like the United States and Soviet Union did.

Due to the hundreds of thousands of German immigrants who lived in the country, Argentina maintained close ties with Germany and remained neutral for much of World War II. In the years after the end of the war, Argentine President Juan Peron secretly ordered diplomats and intelligence officers to establish escape routes, so-called “ratlines,” through ports in Spain and Italy to smuggle thousands of former SS officers and Nazi party members out of Europe. As with numerous other fascist-leaning South American leaders, Peron had been drawn to the ideologies of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler while serving as a military attaché in Italy during the early years of World War II. The Argentine president also sought to recruit those Nazis with particular military and technical expertise that he believed could help his country, much like the United States and the Soviet Union who both poached scientists from the Third Reich to assist them in the Cold War.

What motives did he have to host Nazis?

Many reasons are given for Peron's involvement in assisting Nazi's after WWII. Ideological sympathies, familiarity with fascist leaders due to his time spent in Europe during the war, large existing German population in Argentina. Perhaps all these played a role, but beyond all these ancillary motivations Arginitana was involved for the same reasons two countries who contributed greatly to the destruction of Nazi Germany were involved (US, Soviet Union); because their was much to gain.

It was about technology and intelligence.

The Nazi's were leaders in advanced technology which would become important during the Cold War. Rockets, Uranium refining, submarines, nerve gas, and biological weapons just to name a few military technologies. Synthetic fuel and rubber were some important civilian technologies which were pioneered by Germany during the war. Argentina had a desire to pursue Nazi technology just like the United States and Soviet Union did.

The United States CIA program called Operation Paperclip. not only sought to recruit Nazi's to aid America's capabilities, but also to deny and curtail Nazi research from continuing in countries like Argentina and the Soviet Union who were all involved in the same game for the same reasons. National Security.

Wiki: Operation Paperclip

A project to halt the research was codenamed "Project Safehaven", and it was not initially targeted against the Soviet Union; rather the concern was that German scientists might emigrate and continue their research in countries such as Spain, Argentina or Egypt, all of which had sympathized with Nazi Germany. In order to avoid the complications involved with the emigration of German scientists, the CIOS was responsible for scouting and kidnapping high-profile individuals for the deprivation of technological advancements in nations outside of the US.

Much U.S. effort was focused on Saxony and Thuringia, which by July 1, 1945, would become part of the Soviet Occupation zone. Many German research facilities and personnel had been evacuated to these states, particularly from the Berlin area. Fearing that the Soviet takeover would limit U.S. ability to exploit German scientific and technical expertise, and not wanting the Soviet Union to benefit from said expertise, the United States instigated an "evacuation operation" of scientific personnel from Saxony and Thuringia

Beyond Technological and Economic benefits from assisting the Nazi's there were also real tangible intelligence gains to be had. For the United States Nazi intelligence officers were prized for their knowledge of the Soviet Union industrial centers and transportation networks. Argentina was also involved in recruiting not just scientists but also military strategists and intelligence officers.

Sources:

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This NYT article indicates that much is still unknown about the extent to which Peron may or may not have been directly involved in helping Nazis to escape. That he did help, is known.

However, to include some much needed context... Germany had settled quite a few people in S America before the war. Enough to justify establishing one of the first transatlantic airmail routes: from Germany to Brazil, using smaller flying boats that landed and refueled mid-ocean. The Germans had also spread a fair amount of money around many communities by hiring locals. In his book Fate Is The Hunter, Ernest Gann talks about ferrying aircraft to Brazil early in WW2, and encountering hostility among the locals because the Americans had disbanded German owned companies that hired a lot of locals.

Irrespective of what Peron may have done in his official capacity, there were plenty of Germans in S America to help out. The number of Nazis that ran there is not necessarily indicative of a high level of government support for this.

That local German population was a prime reason Nazis ran to S America. They had help waiting with the residents.

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