BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — More than 50 years after the end of World War II, Argentina may still be a haven for Nazi war criminals.
According to Shimon Samuels, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Europe and Latin America, up to 17 wanted war criminals may be alive and at large in the South American nation.
In a recent interview with a major Argentine newspaper, Samuels said he had submitted "again and again" a list of Nazi officials allegedly living here to "three interior ministers of the Carlos Menem administration."
Argentine authorities never tried to find, or extradite, those on the list.
Immediately following World War II, Col. Juan Peron, who became president in 1944, transformed Argentina into a major sanctuary for Nazi war criminals. Gestapo leader Adolf Eichmann was among those who settled here.
Samuels' list includes two Dutch nationals, Abraham Kipp and Jan Olij Hottentot, wanted by Holland on charges of genocide for their role in the deportation of Dutch Jews and anti-fascist activists during Germany's occupation of Holland.
Hottentot is also charged with torturing war prisoners on the Russian front and with killing Jews while commanding an extermination group.
In 1992, a reporter from the local Clarin newspaper photographed the Dutchman at his home in suburban Buenos Aires.
Also included on the list is Croatian national Ivo Rojnica, who lived in Argentina under the name of Ivan or Juan Rajcinovic, and who became notorious here in late 1991 for being named Croatian ambassador to Argentina by President Franjo Tudjman.
Rojnica never assumed his diplomatic office because he had by then become an Argentine citizen and because the Argentine government was then opening its files on Nazi officials and war criminals living here.
Although no formal charges were brought against Rojnica, his past — which includes service as a Ustashi officer and allegations that he persecuted Jews and Serbians — proved too embarrassing to the newly formed Croatian government.
Samuels' allegations coincide with a British probe on the only wanted British war criminal, Thomas Cooper.
According to The Sunday Times, the Scotland Yard War Crimes Unit is hunting Cooper, who left London in 1939.
Cooper fought on the Russian front, was wounded and then promoted to commander of an SS police unit.
Captured by Allied troops in 1945, he was tried and convicted. But his sentence was commuted in 1953, when he was released and vanished.
The British government recently requested Cooper's extradition from Japan, but according to a story in the Argentine English-language newspaper The Buenos Aires Herald, Scotland Yard is also investigating allegations that "Cooper lived in Argentina for the past 40 years."
British sources quoted say the 76-year-old Cooper is "in good health and is a Buddhist convert."
In addition, Samuel's allegations come in the wake of reports that a passport belonging to German Nazi official Martin Bormann surfaced last week in the northern Patagonia resort city of Bariloche.