June 8, 2005

Controversial secret law discriminatory of jews repealed


It was already not in use. It denied entry to this country of citizens of that origin.

Even though he kept silent during the entire ceremony, President Néstor Kirchner yesterday decided to be present at the ceremony in which Minister of Foreign Affairs Rafael Bielsa repealed a controversial secret circular issued by his Ministry. Currently unapplied, but theoretically still in legal force since 1938, the directive tacitly denied a visa to citizens of Jewish origin, at the time when Nazi Germany began the Holocaust.

Yesterday’s activities were to take place in the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the Palacio San Martín. But, in a rapid gesture, Kirchner had it transferred to the Salón Sur of Government House. Thus, the President, Bielsa and the Minister of Interior Aníbal Fernández, presided over the ceremony together with Natalio Wengrower, Vice Chairman of the Wallenberg Foundation that spearheaded the demands of the repeal.

Secret Circular N° 11 was signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs José María Cantilo on June 12 1938. It instructed that ”apart from other regulations concerning the selection of travelers’ that came to this country and except for a specific order from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, consuls should deny a visa even as a tourist or passenger in transit to all persons who fundamentally were to be considered leaving or having left their country of origin as undesirable or expelled, whatever the reason of the expulsion”.

The circular was discovered in 1998 by researcher Beatriz Gurevich, who was very moved yesterday, alongside writer and journalist Uki Goñi. The woman found it ‘lost’ in the files of the Argentine Embassy in Stockholm, during her term on the Commission of Enquiry into the Activity of Nazism in Argentina, set up by former Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella.

Since then, as Wallenberg Foundation Director Gustavo Jalife pointed out to this paper, numerous requests were made for the circular’s repeal and for the withdrawal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building of a plaque that paid homage to twelve diplomats for their so-called solidary activities on behalf of Jews during the Second World War.

Last May 16, Bielsa signed Resolution 999 that led to the withdrawal of the plaque. Showing documents, Wallenberg Foundation proved that Luis H. Irigoyen, one of the diplomats honoured for his sojourn at the Embassy to Berlin, in 1943 ”showed himself uninterested in the destiny of one hundred Argentine Jews” which the regime of Adolf Hitler offered to repatriate to Argentina as a gesture of goodwill towards a country with which they maintained excellent relations.

Last week, Minister Fernández had committed himself to take steps before Kirchner towards the repeal of the circular. And yesterday Bielsa recalled the impediments that he found in the investigation of the episode: to start with, the original circular could not be found. ”I feel disappointed for not having done this a year ago and very moved for having done it today”, said the Minister.

Translation: María Lía Macchi