Argentina's Jewish community has expressed outrage at the decision to print a banknote bearing the likeness of a doctor who expressed support for Nazi ideology and even backed Josef Mengele's experiments on Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz.
Fueled by an economic crisis on the fringes of hyperinflation and the rise in the dollar exchange rate, the Argentine government has began printing new banknotes showing several influential people from the country’s history.
One of the notes, a new bill worth 5,000 pesos (approx. US$ 55), shows the image of Dr. Ramon Carrillo, a renowned doctor of sanitation also known for his support of the Nazis and Mengele’s brutal experiments.
Carrillo’s inclusion on the bill caused uproar among the Argentine Jewish community, anger shared by Israel's ambassador to the country Galit Ronen.
When we say 'never again' in reference to the Holocaust, there is no point in commemorating someone who at least sympathizes with this ideology, Ronen wrote in Spanish on Twitter.
Carrillo's grandson, Ramon Carrillo, hit back at the ambassador's comments, sharing on Twitter a photo of a gift given to his grandfather in 1954 by Israel's then-health minister Yosef Serlin.
Carillo was also Argentina's first Healthcare minister. He was a neurosurgeon, gold medal at the Medical School in Buenos Aires, but he is remembered for his brilliant sanitation campaigns. In his eight years as minister he opened 244 hospitals, ended malaria, helped to bring down TB death rate and eliminated an epidemic of bubonic plague in Buenos Aires. He spent four months a year travelling Argentina by train to extend health care.
But he also believed in eugenics, with the idea of achieving the perfect soldier, helped develop methamphetamine, or pep pills, which were instrumental in the combat resistance of German troops.
British Ambassador to Argentina Mark Kent also expressed his outrage at the decision to put Carillo on a banknote.
“Nazism was the greatest evil of the 20th century, he wrote on Twitter. It led to the Holocaust. The death of millions of innocents. We should not commemorate anyone who participated in this terrible episode.”
Sergio Pickholz, head of the Zionist Organization of Argentina, also joined the opposition to the move, along with the honorary president of the Holocaust Museum Claudio Abruch and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Argentina.
But the Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas, an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in the country, issued a lukewarm response, saying only that as long as the decision had not been officially released, they would wait before commenting on the issue.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center did condemn the decision, however.
In addition to being a fan of Hitler, Carrillo also provided shelter to a Nazi physician from Buchenwald [concentration camp in Germany] and allowed him to continue experiments on homosexuals. We vehemently reject the choice of such a figure, who would tarnish Argentina with his image on its largest bill. The physician was Carl Peter Vaernet, a Nazi of Danish origin.
Argentine government officials confirmed that the banknotes had been printed with the likeness of Carrillo. The bills are due out in June, but following the controversy there is no certainty.
Carrillo figures in the bill next to Cecilia Grierson, Argentina's first woman doctor. She belonged to an Irish-Scottish family, becoming a teacher and living in the province of Entre Rios and in Uruguay, before registering as the first woman at the all male Argentine School of Medicine. In the obverse of the bill is a picture of the Malbran Institute, Argentina's main microbiology laboratory.