This Monday, the federal police of Argentina raided a house outside of Buenos Aires and discovered hundreds of books covered in swastikas and imperial eagles. While some of the publications supported Holocaust denial and offered a revisionist history of World War II, others praised Adolf Hitler and praised him.
All were discovered as part of the nation’s largest recent collection of Nazi propaganda materials, officials said during a news briefing on Wednesday.
More than 200 texts in total were produced by a “prolific” underground printing press that went by the name of Librera Argentina, according to authorities. The 45-year-old suspected proprietor of the online bookshop was detained on allegations of discriminatory conduct on Tuesday after police searched his parents’ house.
Juan Carlos Hernández, the head of the Federal Police, said during the news conference, “We’re still amazed by the amount of material. This is historical. It is undoubtedly a printing press that sells Nazi literature, symbols, and indoctrination.
The inquiry was launched in 2021 after the Delegation of Israelite Associations of Argentina, the umbrella group that represents the nation’s Jewish population, raised concerns. The raid in Béccar, a hamlet north of Buenos Aires, was the turning point.
The group had received complaints about a website spreading antisemitic material and selling it on Mercado Libre, the biggest e-commerce site in South America, in violation of an Argentine law that forbids discrimination and “propaganda based on ideas or theories of superiority of a race or a group of persons of a certain religion, ethnic origin, or color.”
Hernández claimed that the vendor offered “high-quality material” and experienced “a high level of purchases and inquiries.” The man’s Mercado Libre account was banned at some time after the delegation complained, which led him to sell the items through his own website, according to the authorities.
On its website, Librera Argentina describes itself as a “specialist in war themes” online bookshop that “makes room for all books that have been marginalized from the most popular bookstores regardless of their tendency, especially all forms of nationalism and history of ancient or forgotten movements.”
Although the bookstore states that it “deplores any form of violence, discrimination, or racism,” Nazi symbology, such as Othala runes, Celtic crosses, and imperial eagles, are abundant on the website. Along with “Mein Kampf” by Hitler, its repertoire also contains writings by Italian fascist Julius Evola, Nazi thinker and ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, and Belgian Nazi collaborator León Degrelle.
Police eventually connected the 45-year-old man to the Mercado Libre account and the store’s website, discovering that he worked from his father’s house to print books, according to officials.
Police removed two office printers, 140 book covers for unprinted copies, and 222 books on Tuesday. The quantity of the materials was “stupefying” to the investigating authorities and the organization.
At the press briefing, Marcos Cohen of the Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations said, “We are shocked by how profuse the material is.” “I don’t recall ever hearing of anything like this being discovered.”
Argentina, a country that has struggled with its history as a sanctuary for Nazis trying to evade prosecution after World War II, was rocked by the finding.
They discovered a friendly administration in the South American nation, led by President Juan Perón, who had fascist connections, according to Gerald J. Steinacher, a history professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
There were already groups and connections because Argentina was a traditional nation with significant Italian and German immigration, according to Steinacher. The fact that Argentina was willing to accept persons with Nazi backgrounds after the war is due in part to their need for the German expertise and technology, particularly for the modernization of their military.
Josef Mengele, the scientist who experimented on people, Erich Priebke, a former SS captain who took part in the massacre of 335 people in an Italian cave, and Adolf Eichmann, one of the principal architects of the Holocaust, were among those who traveled to Argentina. The country set up a commission in 1997 to look into Nazi operations, Argentina’s role as a haven for Nazis, and Nazis’ personal or stolen money.
Steinacher hailed Argentina’s subsequent crackdown on antisemitism and other distribution of Nazi propaganda as a “very important step forward.”
He emphasized the need of not becoming apathetic and letting hatred flourish uncontrolled. The history of Germany has taught us, among other things, that democracies must be prepared to defend themselves from those who seek to topple them.
Although Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, there is still a great deal of reason for fear, according to Cohen, who spoke at the news conference.
Cohen said, “It is astounding that people are creating this kind of material, and it is worrying that people are consuming it.” And it is the difficulty we must face.
The raid and arrest on Tuesday, according to Hernández, chief of the federal police, were just the beginning of what may turn out to be a lengthy investigation.
“We do not rule out the possibility that it is just the tip of an iceberg,” he added. We have temporarily shut down the distribution channels, but people who consume such content are also subject to legal sanctions.
Also Read | UAW launches strike against Big 3 automakers