Nazi Artifact Trove in Argentina: Antiques Dealer Denies Illegal Activity

Reports that the collection was hidden behind a secret door in his suburban Buenos Aires home were 'nonsense,' says dealer

A member of the federal police holds an hourglass with Nazi markings at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, June 16, 2017.
Natacha Pisarenko/AP

An Argentinian antiques dealer being investigated over the discovery of a huge collection of Nazi memorabilia on Tuesday denied being involved in any kind of illegal activity.

The 55-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, told dpa he had bought the objects from another Argentinian over a 25-year period for his private collection, which was not a punishable offence.

Reports that the collection, the largest of its kind to be found in the South American country, was hidden behind a secret door in his suburban Buenos Aires home were "nonsense," he added.

Authorities had earlier revealed the existence of the hoard, which includes a bust of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, a statue of a Nazi eagle gripping a swastika on a stone pedestal, pistols, swords, magnifying glasses and a collection of harmonicas.

Members of the federal police show a bust relief portrait of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, June 16, 2017.
Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Police suspect they are originals that belonged to high-ranking Nazis in Germany and are trying to determine how the objects arrived in Argentina and came to be hidden in the dealer's house.

The dealer said the 75 objects were just one of his 17 private collections. He said he also had a large collection of erotica, which included dildos dating back to the Tsarist-era.

Many high-ranking Nazis fled to Argentina after the war, including Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi physician who performed deadly experiments on prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Adolf Eichmann, one of the main orchestrators of the Holocaust, also lived in Buenos Aires until he was captured in 1960 by Israeli intelligence agents.

"The objects are irrefutable proof that high-ranking Nazis took refuge in Argentina," said Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the DAIA, an umbrella organization of Argentina's Jewish community.

But the tens of thousands of other Germans in Argentina, the majority of whom revered Hitler during the Nazi period, could also have legitimately shipped the objects to South America.

Many of the objects have the stamp of Carl Eickhorn, a company founded in 1865 and based in Solingen, a German town which specializes in the making of knives, scissors and razors.

During the war Eickhorn made knives for the SA, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, and the SS, which began as Hitler's personal bodyguard and went on to carry out the mass killings of Jews across Europe.

After completion of the investigation, the relics are to be taken into the collection of the Holocaust museum in Buenos Aires, Argentinian Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said.