BUENOS AIRES — Did Martin Bormann die in Argentina?
After years of speculation, the discovery of a passport may bring an end to the mystery surrounding Adolf Hitler's personal aide and treasurer of the Nazi Party.
Bormann, who was first thought to have died in Berlin at the end of World War II, was long believed to have actually fled Germany for South America.
Last week, a man who remains anonymous gave the newspaper La Mañana del Sur (Southern Morning) in the northern Patagonia resort city of Bariloche a Uruguayan passport bearing the name of Richard Bauer, an Italian national.
Bauer was one of the names allegedly used by Bormann during his exile in South America.
The man, who was identified only as "a middle-aged German," told La Mañana del Sur that in 1973 he bought property from "a man I suspected was a Nazi exile." The property was located in a Chilean town near the border with Argentina.
After taking possession of the house, he found the passport and tried to return it.
"He told me he was moving to Argentina for good, and he would not be needing it anymore," the man told the newspaper.
"He said he always spent long spells in Argentina, and that he was moving there because Gen. [Juan] Peron was returning to power," the man said.
Peron returned from exile in Spain on June 20, 1973, and died in office on July 1, 1974.
Bauer died in Buenos Aires in 1975 of liver cancer, the unidentified man said.
He said he was telling the story now because he wanted "the truth about Bormann to be known."
Sergio Widder, the Simon Wiesenthal Center representative in Argentina, said of the report, "We do not discount it, nor do we endorse it."
Bauer's passport bears the number 9892 and was issued at the Uruguayan Consulate in Genoa, Italy, on Jan. 3, 1946. The bearer's photo, of a balding man wearing a dark jacket, white shirt and no tie, shows a strong likeness to the remaining pictures of Bormann.
Bormann was one of the most powerful men in the Nazi regime. Toward the end of the war, he was secretary general and treasurer of the Nazi Party, held the second-ranking position in the government and was executor of Hitler's will.
Some believe that Bormann died May 1, 1945, a day after Hitler's suicide.
Witnesses said he was killed by a Soviet artillery barrage hours before the Soviet Army stormed Hitler's bunker.
Others have long questioned this account.