Inside a suburban home in Argentina, a hidden room held macabre secrets. During a raid conducted earlier this month, police uncovered some 75 Nazi artifacts in a passageway hidden behind a bookshelf of a house in Béccar, Debora Rey of the Associated Press reports. It is believed to be the largest collection of Nazi paraphernalia ever found in the country.
Among the illicit objects was a bust of Adolf Hitler, a knife with Nazi markings, toys that would have been used to indoctrinate children, a statue of the Nazi eagle, and magnifying glasses packed away into boxes stamped with swastikas. One of the more disturbing artifacts was a medical device used to measure head size. Anthropometry, or the study of the proportions of the human body, was of keen interest to the Nazis, who used their measurements as “proof” of Aryan superiority, Maurice L. Wade writes in Race and Racism in Theory and Practice.
Argentine security minister Patricia Bullrich tells the AP that authorities also found photographs of Hitler with several items in the collection. “This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer,” she says.
The items belong to a collector who has not been arrested, but who is under investigation, according to Kate Samuelson of TIME. Authorities are not entirely sure when or how the collection was brought into the country, but they suspect the objects once belonged to one or more high-ranking Nazis.
After the fall of the Third Reich, South American countries like Argentina became a safe haven for Nazis seeking to escape prosecution. Christopher Klein of History.com writes that Juan Perón, the fascist-leaning Argentine president, established escape routes to smuggle Nazi party members out of Europe. Among the more notorious Nazis to flee to Argentina were Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann.
Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the Argentine Jewish organization DAIA, tells the AP that the recently discovered Nazi collection offers “irrefutable proof” that other Nazi leaders were present in Argentina after WWII, evading justice for their terrible crimes.