A new documentary thick with tales of spies and secretive submarine landings traces how Nazis smuggled gold and cash from Europe to Argentina, a notorious safe haven for war criminals after World War Two.
Nazi Gold in Argentina was directed by Argentine filmmaker Rolo Pereyra, who died of a heart attack last friday at the age of 53.
The film aims to break new ground by revealing how Swiss banks, Roman Catholic bishops and Argentine politicians helped to plunder hundreds of millions of dollars in Third Reich treasures.
The flight of many Nazis, including Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele and Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann to South America has been extensively documented. But the trail of a fortune in gold and cash was less explored.
The documentary, partly financed by HBO, re-enacts stories of Nazi submarines loaded with gold landing in Patagonia and the mysterious deaths of Nazi conspirators.
"My idea was to give it a bit of that spy story rhythm ... with spies spying on spies," Pereyra told Reuters on Tuesday.
The film includes vignettes on such figures as Hermann Doerge, a German banker who worked at Argentina's Central Bank in the 1940s and died in a suspicious suicide after destroying proof of Nazi wealth transfers, according to Argentine Central Bank archives and Allied intelligence.
The film ? based on the book Odessa al Sur by Argentine writer Jorge Camarasa ? connects the dots between Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany and Argentina to show how Nazis and their wealth were smuggled to the New World.
Hundreds of Nazis flocked to Argentina after the war, drawn by the open-door policy of General Juan Perón, a pragmatic politician with fascist sympathies. But Nazi ties to the political and economic élite outlasted Perón, Pereyra said. "What surprised us is that the trail of this smuggled money leads to the heirs of many families, even up to the 1980s and 90s ... These people are linked to the Argentine oligarchy and the economically powerful."
Nazi Gold in Argentina includes interviews in Argentina with Wilfred Von Oven, a former aide to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and the son of Erich Priebke, a former SS captain who was extradited to Italy and jailed for his role in the murder of 335 civilians in Rome in 1944.
Pereyra said he aimed the film at a universal audience, not just Argentines. "This is just another story about the good guys and the bad guys and how the bad guys triumph," he said. (BAH)