During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Argentine province of Patagonia became a popular destination for German immigrants. Patagonia had a great deal to offer. Roughly the size of Texas but much more sparsely populated, Patagonia was a place where German immigrants could start from scratch and, instead of assimilating into another culture, create a society of their own. As time passed and more and more Germans moved to Patagonia, German became the principal language in many of the schools, and the German flag was often flown in preference to the Argentine flag. Many of the local German businesses went so far as to hire only German immigrants instead of native Argentines. It might seem remarkable that the central government in Buenos Aires would sit back and allow Patagonia to become virtually a German colony. Buenos Aires, however, was not minding the store. The Argentine Government kept such a low profile in Patagonia in those days that a traveler working his way through Patagonia might not have known that it was a province of the nation of Argentina.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, many Patagonian Germans supported the emerging National Socialist movement in Germany, led by Adolf Hitler. As National Socialism advanced more and more in Germany, German schools and other institutions in Patagonia started to display pictures of Hitler, the Nazi Swastika, and other Nazi paraphernalia. Some critics accused Hitler of planning to formally annex Patagonia as a German colony, but Hitler strenuously denied this.
It is not surprising that with the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, many Nazi officials fled Europe and found a warm welcome in Argentina, then led by Juan Peron, a dictator and admirer of Hitler. In addition to his sympathy with the Nazi ideology, Peron had selfish reasons to take the Nazis in. The ambitious Peron, who ruled the eighth largest nation on earth in terms of land area, believed that the German refugees would bring with them extensive scientific and military technology that might enable Argentina to dominate South America or even become a world power.
Now just as some Nazis were settling in Argentina, others were settling in neighboring Paraguay, a country that in those days was ruled by Alfredo Stroessner, the son of a German immigrant and, like Peron, a Nazi sympathizer. When Peron was overthrown in 1955 and the climate in Argentina became less friendly to the Nazis, many Nazis who had initially settled in his country moved next door to Paraguay, where Stroessner continued to rule unhindered.
Could the fallen German dictator, Adolf Hitler, have been among those Nazis who found refuge in South America? To most historians, the idea is preposterous because everyone knows that Hitler committed suicide in an underground bunker in Berlin at the very end of WWII. But the notion that Hitler had fled Europe did not seem preposterous at the time. Did not Admiral Donitz, the head of the German Navy, once state that the German Navy had prepared a safe haven for Hitler somewhere in the world in the event that Hitler’s position in Europe became untenable? In the immediate aftermath of the war, there was world-wide speculation that Hitler had escaped. For example, on July 17, 1945, the Chicago Sun Times reported that that Hitler was still alive and living on a ranch in Argentina. Some well-informed persons in high places, notably General Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, took these reports quite seriously. The latter adamantly insisted until he died in 1953 that Hitler had escaped to either Spain or Argentina. But these doubters were increasingly ignored and the view that Hitler had committed suicide in Berlin became the official view and eventually hardened into dogma. Now and again, a few people in South America claimed to have seen Hitler on their continent, but these sightings were regarded in the same light as sightings of Elvis Presley are today.
But the case for Hitler’s suicide had never been airtight. No one had seen Hitler commit suicide and no one had recovered his body. The closest thing to hard evidence of Hitler’s demise that anyone ever had was a skull fragment that was found near the place where he supposedly committed suicide. Scientists from the University of Connecticut, however, have since proved that this fragment belonged to a woman and therefore could not have come from Hitler. Two witnesses did claim to have seen his dead body after he allegedly committed suicide. These accounts, however, are questionable for two reasons. First, they differ greatly in key details, making one suspect that either or both of them are unreliable. Did these two witnesses really see Hitler’s dead body, or were they merely told to say so and did they then fail to coordinate their stories? Secondly, if these witnesses really did see a dead body, was it Hitler’s body or that of someone else? Eyewitnesses tell of very drastic changes in Hitler’s personality during the closing days of WWII. The conventional interpretation of these changes is that Hitler was crumbling psychologically under the pressure of imminent defeat. But it has come to light that Hitler, like many controversial politicians through the years, had a double, a fact not known even to some of his closest associates. Could it be that the changes observed in Hitler’s personality were merely the reflection of the fact that the real Hitler had fled and that his place had been taken by his double?
In recent years, a number of investigators have taken a new look at this matter, and many have come to the conclusion that Hitler did escape after all. What has brought about this shift is considerable new evidence that was not known to previous historians and investigators. Much of this new evidence was dug up by Argentine journalist Abel Basti. Basti has been traveling up and down South America doing research on Hitler for many years and has published several books on this subject in the Spanish language. Recently, he combined all his findings into a new German language book entitled Hitler Uberlebte in Argentinen (“Hitler survived in Argentina”). Hitler Uberlebte in Argentinien also contains new research by Basti not published in any of his previous books as well as contributions from other writers.
Much of this new evidence consists in FBI files dating from the 1940’s and 1950’s and declassified at the end of the 1990’s. For example, a number of FBI documents dating from before the end of WWII express an official fear that even if Germany lost the war, Hitler could still escape justice by finding refuge in South America. Other FBI documents dating from after the end of WWII showed that the FBI continued to look for Hitler in South America long after he had supposedly committed suicide in Berlin. For example, three FBI documents dating from the late summer of 1945 suggested that Hitler was living on a ranch in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in western Argentina. Yet another FBI document from February, 1955 mentions an eyewitness who claimed that he had seen Hitler in South America several years earlier. In fact, the FBI did not close its 700-page file on Hitler until 1970. How can all this FBI activity be explained if Hitler had really committed suicide in 1945?
The Argentine Government, by the way, has still not declassified its own files relating to Adolf Hitler, intensifying our doubts regarding the official version of Hitler’s death. If Hitler had committed suicide before he even had a chance to reach South America, then what could the Argentine files possibly contain that would be worth keeping secret seventy years later? The need for secrecy, however, might make sense if after the war Hitler took up residence in Argentina under the protection of the Argentine Government.
Additional evidence for the escape of Hitler and other Nazis to South America is to be found in the sightings of German submarines off the coast of Argentina. It is not disputed that two German submarines appeared near the seaside resort town of Mar de la Plata, Argentina around two months after the war was over and all German military forces had supposedly surrendered to the Allies. In addition, other eyewitnesses saw other German submarines elsewhere along the Argentine coast. Some Argentines go so far as to insist that a defunct German submarine has long been stuck in the sand under the water off the Gulf of San Matias, and that this submarine can still be seen from the shore on those rare occasions when the ocean drops to an exceptionally low level.
There have been many additional eyewitnesses who claim to have seen not just German submarines but Hitler himself alive and well in South America after the war. A long list of perhaps 30 of these is given in the appendix to Basti’s book. Let us look at two of the very best.
When Catalina Gamero was a young girl in Argentina, she was continuously unwell in her home town. Her parents therefore thought it best to send her to live with Walter and Ida Eichhorn of LaFalda, Argentina, just outside Cordoba. Since LaFalda had a much drier climate than Catalina’s home town and was situated at a modest elevation, her parents thought that Catalina would do much better there than in her home town. For their part, the Eichhorns had no children of their own and were happy to take in Catalina. The Eichhorns could easily afford to do so because they had made a considerable fortune by owning and operating the Eden Hotel, a world class resort hotel in La Falda that in its heyday could compete with the finest hotels in North America and Europe.
Now the Eichhorns, who were German immigrants, had rather controversial political views. To be specific, they were passionate supporters of the National Socialist Party in general and Adolf Hitler in particular. In the early days of the National Socialist Party, the Eichhorns made huge financial contributions that played a role in the rise of the Nazi Party to power. Hitler was certainly very grateful to the Eichhorns for their contributions because he knew that without them he might not have come to power at all. Over time the Eichhorns became acquainted with Hitler on their annual trips to Germany. Eventually a friendship developed between Hitler and the Eichhorns. The closeness of the friendship is demonstrated by the fact that whenever the Eichhorns were in Germany, they stayed at the same hotel as Hitler and were free to visit Hitler in his hotel room whenever they pleased. They did not have to follow the normal protocol and wait to be announced by Hitler’s aides.
After Catalina Gamero had settled in with the Eichhorns, she became part of the family and took care of many of the household chores, including cooking. Now in 1949, the Eichhorns told Catalina that a male guest would soon be arriving who would spend several days in the upstairs bedroom. The Eichhorns said that their guest did not want to go down to the dining room to eat his meals, so they instructed Catalina to prepare three meals a day and take them upstairs to his room. Catalina followed the instructions and waited on the mysterious guest until he departed three days later. The very first time she saw him, she recognized him as the same Adolf Hitler whose photographs she had seen all over the Eichhorns’ home. Catalina further reported that after her adoptive father, Walter Eichhorn, passed away in 1961, Hitler called Ida Eichhorn once a week from his home in Mendoza, Argentina just to say hello and wish her well. Hitler continued this practice virtually up to the day Ida Eichhorn died in 1964.
Mafalda Falcon was born in Germany where as a young woman she took up the profession of nursing. During the early days of WWII, she worked in a field hospital run by the International Red Cross. There she looked after German soldiers who had been wounded during the French campaign. One day Adolf Hitler showed up at the hospital to visit the troops and give them encouragement. While Hitler was there, Falcon got a very good look at him. Although they did not exchange words, Falcon particularly noted his very unusual and unmistakable eyes.
After the war was over, Europe was in a terrible state and not a decent place in which to live. Falcon and her husband, however, were offered an opportunity to emigrate to Argentina, a paradise compared to postwar Europe. Needless to say, they took the opportunity, moved to Argentina, and settled in the province of Patagonia. Falcon resumed her career as a nurse by taking a job in a hospital in Comodoro Rivadavia, a small city on the Atlantic Ocean. Now while Falcon was working in this hospital, a former German soldier who had been wounded in the war was admitted for follow-up treatment. During the time that this former German soldier was Falcon’s patient, a group of three German men arrived at the hospital to visit him and wish him well. When Falcon observed these three men at a distance of about 10 feet, she immediately identified one of them as the same unforgettable Adolf Hitler that she had seen in a German hospital years earlier. Without putting words into the patient’s mouth or attempting to lead him, she asked the German soldier who this man was, and the patient immediately confirmed that it was indeed Hitler whom she had seen.
It is possible to trace Hitler’s meanderings in South America to some extent. According to Basti, Hitler landed along the coast of Argentina in the late spring of 1945 and went first to the remote San Ramon Ranch on Lake Nahuel Huapi, near the budding Andean resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche. The San Ramon Ranch was a huge tract of contiguous land assembled from purchases over the years by German immigrants. Because of the size of the San Ramon Ranch and the fact that it was entirely under German control, it would have been easy for someone with connections to the local German population to live there undetected. While in the same area, Hitler may also have stayed for a time in a mysterious house right on Lake Nahuel Huapi. This was no ordinary house. Unlike most houses, this one came equipped with all sorts of elaborate security devices. Because of its unusual appointments, some investigators believe that this house, which still stands today, was built specially for Hitler on the orders of Juan Peron. Like the aforementioned San Ramon Ranch, the lake house would have been a good choice for someone who wanted to live a quiet life undetected. It was not accessible by car. To reach it, visitors had to park their cars on the other side of the lake from the house and then cross the lake by boat. The house could also be reached without taking a boat at all, but only by those hardy enough to hike all the way around the lake. In addition to the aforementioned locations, Hitler probably lived for a time in Mendoza and Paraguay. It is not clear whether he ever visited Buenos Aires or Brazil.
Inasmuch as Hitler was born in 1889, he could not still be alive today. Exactly when, where, and how Hitler died, however, remains a mystery. We suspect from his reported weekly telephone calls to Ida Eichhorn that he was still alive in Mendoza in late 1964. Since the FBI closed its file on Hitler in 1970, it is likely that Hitler died somewhere in South America sometime between late 1964 and 1970. And what became of Eva Braun, who had accompanied him to South America? She was 23 years Hitler’s junior and was rumored to be living in the swanky Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires as late as the 1990’s. In fact, Eva Braun could just possibly be alive today. If an investigative reporter were to track her down in a South American nursing home at the ripe old age of 102, it would certainly be the shocker of the century and maybe the millennium.
There is reason to suspect that Hitler had children. There have been rumors that Hitler left behind a son who eventually did advanced studies of some sort under an assumed name in Switzerland and today lives in the South American nation of Brazil. A law firm in Buenos Aires told Abel Basti on condition of anonymity claims that it is acquainted with and knows the whereabouts of a daughter of Hitler. Around 1985, a woman claiming to be a daughter of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun visited a non-governmental charitable organization in Argentina known as the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS). She asked for legal assistance, was interviewed once, and then told to return later for another interview. Unfortunately, she never showed up for the follow-up interview and her current whereabouts are unknown. But the woman who interviewed her looked at photographs of Eva Brain, and said that there was a striking resemblance between her and the mysterious woman who had claimed to be Hitler’s and her daughter. If Hitler did indeed leave behind children, they might be reluctant to come forward and identify themselves. But as WWII recedes more and more into the past and passions die down, they might eventually do just that.
If Hitler and several thousand highly ranked Nazis secretly escaped from Berlin toward the end of WWII, it is difficult to see how they could have done so without the knowledge of the United States Government. The growing number of investigators who believe that Hitler and many of his associates did escape suspect that it was by submarine that they made their way from Northern Europe to South America. By the end of the war, the United States Government had developed the ability to track any and all enemy ships on the Atlantic Ocean. It is difficult to see how they could have failed to notice a large convoy of German submarines, especially when those submarines would have had to surface and refuel at least once along the way. So if the German submarines made it all the way to South America without being stopped, they must have had the tacit approval of somebody with authority in Washington.