In 1992 the Argentine government announced the opening of all Nazi-related files.
The announcement raised interest not only in academic circles but also in public opinion in general. It was believed that, finally, many questions would be answered.
In spite of the expectations raised by that announcement, many questions still remain unanswered regarding the arrival of Nazis in Argentina.
Few subjects have been more written about than the escape of Nazi war criminals after the capitulation of the Third Reich on May 7, 1945. There have been even numberless accounts suggesting that Adolf Hitler himself escape to Argentina.
Hundreds, if not thousands of books, were published; journalistic, academic and even literary books. The mystery of the Nazi escape exerted a fascination that is hard to resist, not only for writers but for readers as well.
That is why, and in the light of the most recent revelations in new books, such as ”Proyecto Testimonio” and ”The Real Odessa,” among others, the Goethe Institute and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation believed that it was appropriate to open a debate about a subject that, unfortunately and for mysterious reasons, has not been discussed enough publicly.
In 1998 The Wallenberg Foundation had the opportunity to present the book ”Peron y los alemanes” by Uki Goñi. At that time there were people who criticized this initiative because, they said, it was pointless to return to an old and disturbing subject. Later publications and revelations proved that, far from being definitely closed, the issue kept coming back strongly once and again. The constantly renewed interest in the subject showed that there were questions that refused to be left unanswered.
The trials against the war criminals in Nürnberg set a key precedent: Due Obedience is not a valid argument behind which those responsible for crimes against humanity can shield themselves. The modern world movement for human rights owes a lot to the attorney of that memorable trial: General Telford Taylor. In his book ”Anatomy of the Nürnberg trials”, he points out:
”The fact that an accused has acted in accordance with an order of his government or his superiors does not release him of responsibility, but it can be considered as an extenuating circumstance in the sentence if the court thus determines it and justice thus requires it.”
In 1950 the UN coded the most important conclusions in the seven ”Principles of Nürnberg” that, since then, have been adopted by the legal systems of the most important nations in the world.
The Goethe Institute and the Wallenberg Foundation share the vision that it is precisely in cases of extreme risk for human life and in times in which orders prevail over reason, when Due Disobedience must be the engine of the action that preserves dignity and justice.
Thus is proved by the conducts of thousands of people who, at their own lives’ risk and against the validity of immoral laws, saved from extermination and murder the fellow men persecuted for their ethnic origin, their political convictions, their sexual preferences, their religious beliefs or for belonging to a determined group of people.
They kept the light alive in a period of long shadows that Argentina also suffered in the recent past.
We are gathered here today to think together about this controversial chapter of Argentine’s history.
The Goethe Institute and the Wallenberg Foundation want to thank everyone present for their attendance and participation.
Once again, thank you very much.