You’d be forgiven for seeing photos of the picturesque Bariloche and assuming it was somewhere in the mountains of Europe. Given the similarities then it’s probably not a huge surprise that it’s played host to German migrants for some 100 years.
Here’s where things get really interesting though. After the second world war, many Nazis fled to Bariloche. There is a conspiracy theory abound that claims the Fuhrer himself, Adolf Hitler, may have been one of them.
Just last year the police discovered a huge stash of Nazi memorabilia in the area. This shouldn’t come as a surprise many of the higher-ups in the Nazi party tried to escape to South America and Bariloche soon became known as “The Third Reich Capital in Exile”.
Of course rumours of Hitler faking his own death are almost as commonplace as the ones about Elvis and Tupac! Amongst those who attempted to escape were Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann. And if the rumours are true, Hitler himself who lived out his life in Argentina before eventually dying an old man at 95.
There are lots of reasons to doubt the validity of this idea, I mean for starters Hitler had Parkinson’s disease so a long life was unlikely. But what is undeniable is the draw of Bariloche to the Nazis.
And the influence is not easily lost. Mengele used to visit regularly and there was even a mountaintop restaurant called The Berghof named after Hitler’s mountain retreat.
Amongst the Nazis that fled to Bariloche were Walter Rauff who was credited with developing the gas chamber.
Help from on high
President Juan Perón was a heralded figure in Argentina and helped pave the way for many Nazis. Apparently his wife Eva also gained a lot from the scheme, financially at least.
Allegedly the catholic church also played a hand in helping Nazis escape Europe they fled to Spain and Italy before being transported secretly across the Atlantic.
More than 2000 Nazis fled to Argentina.
But it was not just corrupt leaders in South America who aided the fleeing Nazis.
A member of the Gestapo Klaus Barbie who bore the nickname “The Butcher of Lyon” was aided in escaping to Bolivia by the CIA. They attempted to use him in order to assassinate Che Guevara. Although the US were no lovers of the Nazis they saw communism as a bigger threat.
Obviously, Mengele was one of the most notorious Nazis to make the pilgrimage and he was never caught. Some believe this was because he had plastic surgery done to change his physical appearance. Whilst he did initially land in Argentina he moved to several South American locations before dying in the late seventies.
Many believe that whilst he was in South America he took on the name Dr Helmut Gregor and continued his disturbing eugenics experiments. A book supports this idea and claims that 1 in 5 five pregnancies in the Brazilian town of Candido Godoi were as a result of Mengele’s meddling. Most of these resulted in twins being born.
It’s not just books that have chronicled Mengele either. A 1978 Gregory Peck film documented his life. It also featured in a book by Frederick Forsyth entitled the Odessa File.
It is not a new idea that Hitler faked his own death and survived the war. The rumours have been circulating since 1945. In his book, Hitler in Exile, Russian author Abel Basti, suggested that Hitler was rescued and taken away by helicopter. The book claims Hitler was taken to the canary islands before being transported by U-boat to Argentina. But for now, at least all the evidence suggests that Hitler ended his life in his bunker in Berlin.