August 1, 2005

Controversy over the diplomatic role during Nazism


Last 16 May Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa ordered the removal of a plaque that was placed inside the Argentine Chancellery in homage to twelve Argentine diplomats that allegedly have worked in favor of persecuted Jews while fulfilling their duty in different capitals of Europe.

The plaque had been unveiled in 2001 by former Foreign Minister, Adalberto Rodríguez Giavarini, together with the then Israeli Ambassador, Benjamín Oron, the President of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Manuel Tenenbaum, and other leaders of the Jewish community.

The list was made by the now questioned Commission of Enquiry into Activities of Nazism in Argentina (CEANA), created in 1997 and, until 2001, funded with generous slush funds of the Foreign Ministry.

Since the plaque withdrawal several letters have been sent to Clarín on behalf and against some of the controversial diplomats.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation had been disputing this homage for three years. The organization stated that in most of the cases the diplomats did nothing that went beyond the call of duty. The diplomats of the plaque are: José Angel Caballero, Juan Giraldes, Luis H. Irigoyen, Luis Luti, Héctor Méndez, José Ponti, Federico Fried, Jacobo Laub, Roberto Levillier, Alberto Saubidet, León Schapiera y Miguel Angel de Gamas.

Moreover, investigations of journalist Uki Goñi and Israeli Professor Haim Avni indicate that Irigoyen -Second Secretary in Berlin in 1943- refused entry permits to one hundred Argentine Jews who Germany intended to repatriate to Argentina. Finally, all of them died in the extermination camps.

Baruj Tenenbaum, President of the Wallenberg Foundation, said to Clarín that he had searched among the more than 20,000 people considered to be ”saviors” of Jews registered by The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem (top authority on this subject); he did not find not even one Argentine who emulated the deeds of Swedish diplomat Wallenberg, or of Brazilian Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas, among many others that, sometimes risking their own lives, offered help to Jews.

However, businessman Erwin Auspitz sent a letter to this paper this week reminding that diplomat Giraldes, Argentine Consul in Viena in 1938, helped his parents, his sister and a grandmother to obtain transit visas yet knowing that the family intended to stay illegally in Buenos Aires. Egon Strauss, another reader, agreed when he claimed that Giraldes helped him in Viena, letting pass his fake identifications with which he was trying to travel to Buenos Aires.

Irigoyen’s descendants, Edelmiro Solari Irigoyen and Mercedes Irigoyen de Campbell, emphatically denied the Foundation’s claim and asserted that diplomat Irigoyen ”did constant and successful efforts” in order to save Jews, this attitude was recognised -they say without offering evidences- by figures such as Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt.

The seriousness of this matter lays on the fact that there is no official research that supports with facts the mentions in the commemorative plaque.

Translation: Florencia Gersberg