The ‘Cleansing’ of The Dirty War: How Argentina Mimicked and Developed the Human Rights Violations of Nazi Germany

by

Leora Margelovich

Submitted in fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Bachelor of Arts at Macaulay Honors College at Queens College
The City University of New York

20 May 2016

 

When most people think of the impact of the Nazis in the 20th century, the travesties of the Holocaust in Europe come to mind. In the context of World War II, their actions against European Jews are widely recognized. Once the war was over, though, Nazism did not die, but rather lay dormant until two decades later, when it manifested itself in the Southern hemisphere.

During my winter break in January 2016, I took a course in Argentina entitled Human Rights in Argentina in the 1970’s-or, as I soon discovered, the lack thereof. I learned for the first time about The Dirty War in which the Argentinian military led a successful coup d’état in 1976. Subsequently, it exerted brutal, dictatorial control over the people, until the dictatorship crumbled upon their loss in the Falklands War in 1982. As I learned more about the war, from the political ideology to the goriness, I kept thinking of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, I instantly noted that details of the Dirty War paralleled those of Nazi Germany. The more I heard, the more the two became inextricably intertwined in my mind. Indeed, a great deal of current literature exists juxtaposing the two in light of the similar political ideologies and brutal tactics that were implemented. Experts also compare the two in trying to decide how best to describe the type of crime committed during the Dirty War: the military dictatorship clearly committed human rights violations, but were their actions considered crimes against humanity or a genocide? I believe that the two topics are not mutually exclusive: the similarities between the two underscore the nature of the human rights violations committed in each one. I argue here that, in an effort to enforce its political ideology upon Argentina, the military dictatorship effectively mimicked and “improved” upon Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, with a specific focus on subjugation of Jews.

In both cases, the ruling governments sought to eliminate individuals deemed as hindrances to the ultimate goal of improving society. Argentina frequently adopted Nazi rhetoric, symbolism and anti-Semitic ideology in the process of torturing, abducting, and killing those it deemed subversives. Though not actively targeted like in Nazi Germany, the Argentinian dictatorship subjects Jews to especially brutal torture upon abduction.

More so than in Nazi Germany, the practices and overall nature of the dictatorship were marked by intense secrecy so that few knew the extent of the torture. For example, the victims were considered disappeared, rather than killed, because ultimately they were not found. The military dictatorship also revoked freedom of speech. Though their attempts were calculated, they are not genocidal, but rather crimes against humanity.

My research process took place in two phases in two countries. In Argentina, I visited museums, memorials, and rallies all over Buenos Aires that underscored the painful lingering effects of the military dictatorship on today’s generation. My professor played documentaries of interviews with survivors and their testimonies inside the courtroom, both of which shed light on the barbaric nature of the military dictatorship from a personal account; her personal and professional insights about their comments enhanced my understanding of The Dirty War’s indelible psychological impact. Moreover, I spoke to Jewish and non-Jewish Argentine families, whose members spanned three generations, to understand the social and religious nuances from a modern perspective. Upon returning from Argentina, I expanded my research in America by reading journals, newspaper articles, and novels-both originally in English and those translated from Spanish- to further gain an understanding of the details of this time period. By utilizing a variety of sources, I aimed to gain a thorough understanding of the complexity of the human rights crimes that defined the ruling party in Argentina during this time period.

The background for the brutal dictatorship and the atrocities originated during World War II when Argentina developed an alliance with Germany. At the time, Juan Peron led Argentina as president. With Peron’s backing, the Argentinian government opened its doors to fleeing Nazis. Argentina thought it would benefit economically by increasing arms ties with Germany in order to attain their technologies. Moreover, it hoped that wealthy Germans would bring the money and wealth that they stole over the course of the war, which would boost the local economy. Politically, Argentina allied itself with Germany and aligned with the Axis parties (Minster). As a diplomatic gesture, it facilitated Nazis in escaping imminent prosecution toward the end of the war. Documents show that more than one thousand Nazi war criminals came to Argentina (Nash), including Adolf Eichmann, Joseph Mengele, and other top officials of the SS (Rohter). These individuals remained inconspicuous in society (Minster) by changing their names (Nash), changing their occupations, and moving to Patagonia (BBC News).

At the same time, Jews also fled to Argentina to escape persecution during the war. Unlike the Nazis, who benefited from a virtually open door policy into the country, Jews’ admittance was restricted because of local nationalist and anti-Semitic organizations; only about 30,000 entered from 1933-1944, with a majority doing so by exploiting legal loopholes. They joined Jews who had already emigrated there from Russia to escape the pogroms during the late 19th century (Kaminsky 126). Even after the war, Peron restricted Jewish entrance (A Travel Guide to the Jewish Caribbean and Latin America 304). Consequently, a large presence of German citizens-both Nazis and Jewish- emerged; ironically, they sought refuge for opposite reasons in the same location.

The presence of these immigrants influenced the zeitgeist of the country. During the late 19th and early 20th century, Jewish culture flourished in Argentina. They had a well-organized community with institutions such as mutual aid and burial societies, philanthropic organizations, political associations, labor unions, and women’s organizations (Brodsky 11). Inclusive due to its egalitarian nature, Argentine Jewry exhibited a high level of participation in the community. They assimilated themselves into society with their similar interest in books and established many local libraries, where they would also host lectures and social gatherings (Moya 11). Only in the early 20th century did xenophobia emerge as new immigrants entered Argentina. As the fascist political wave spread in the 1930’s, broadly anti-immigrant sentiments transformed into specifically anti-Jewish ones. With the absorbance of Nazis into their society, Argentina served as the ideal backdrop for the festering anti-Semitism.

Specific aspects of the Nazi ideology reappeared in the Argentinian dictatorship’s overall objectives.  Nazi Germany had wanted to establish the perfect master race, known as the Aryan race. This entailed targeting those who they perceived as diluting this master race, such as gypsies, blacks, political dissidents, homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses, the disabled, and Jews (A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust-Victims). Regarding the latter group, Nazism planned for a Final Solution that would systematically exterminate the Jewish population within areas of Europe that Nazi Germany controlled (Grant). Similarly, the national-socialistic ideology (Holocaust) manifested in Argentina during the Dirty War: in targeting subversive political groups, the dictatorship sought to eliminate those who threatened their society with their ‘individual’ ideology and annihilate ‘undesirable elements’ in the country (Holocaust Education in a Global Context).” As an overarching goal, Argentina attempted to systematically eliminate those deemed subversive through various torturous and legal measures For example, they outlawed all activity by political parties and trade unions (ibid 294.) The majority of those detained illegally included 30% blue-collar workers and 21% students. The rest included 17.9% employees, 10.7% professionals, 5.7% teachers , 5% self-employed and others, 3.8% housewives, 2.5% conscripts and lower ranks in the security forces , 1.6% journalists, 1.3% artists and 0.3% religious (Journal of Latin American Studies J. Lat. Am). They specifically targeted left wing individuals ages 25-45, such as journalists, students, and philosophers (Thomas) because these people posed the greatest threat to everything the military dictatorship symbolized. In reality, abducting these people was part of the Process of National Reorganization, an idea that the dictatorship planned to carry out. As the name suggests, society would be changed and improved. The dictatorship claimed that the changes existed for their benefit but, in reality, it was a ruse to assert absolute power over Argentinians (Russell). Before the military came to power, there had been multiple unsuccessful coups to overthrow Peron, before a final successful one in 1956 (Brown). However, when he returned to Argentina in 1973 after being in exile, he was reelected as president (Cavendish); a year later, he was assassinated. Isabel, his wife, took over as president, but was widely unpopular due to widespread inflation (Encyclopedia Britannica) and her active involvement in Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, which killed thousands of left wing individuals. The military dictatorship was motivated to stifle the potential spread of communism at all costs (BCC News). They praised the use of violence by Hitler’s military as a means of instilling obedience in its people, and soon implemented violent practices of their own on Argentinians (Nash). The Nazi influence served to radicalize the already tenuous state of the political conflict and set the stage for similar, more developed torturous practices.

Though the military dictatorship claimed throughout the Dirty War to not actively target any one religious group like the Nazis did, it rallied for an exclusively “Western Christian civilization (Ruggiero 4) and as a result, Jews received the brunt of the brutality. In an effort to carry out ideological anti-Semitism, the military selectively repressed prominent Jewish businessmen. Though only about 1% of the total population, Jews comprised roughly 10% of those killed and disappeared. Indeed, a Holocaust survivor stated “the torture she undergoes in Argentina is simply the torture she escaped in Poland catching up with her. The Argentine dictatorship is another chapter in Nazi-Jewish history (Kaminsky 170).” Jews had hoped that by fleeing to Argentina they could escape the persecution. Instead, they once again suffered, this time under the military dictatorship.

The Jews’ position in society led to the disproportionate number of Jewish victims. (Holocaust 125). A relatively large number of Jews actively participated in Argentine politics, especially within the ranks of the sectors persecuted by the military rulers (Latin 355). By being in the same field as the dictatorship, Jews remained in direct contact with the same people who carried out the torture. From the late 19th century, they served as businessmen, physicians, writers, and artists (Kaminsky 126). Additionally, in World War II, Jewish members of the bourgeoisie contributed to the development of industries such as textile, and later in aluminum production, tires, electronics, and automobile parts (Crime and Social Justice).  Stratified along many different classes, Jews represented everything that the military despised; therefore, in short, the military sought to eliminate all these sectors. Moreover, they played a dominant role in politics and economy (Pennsylvania State University). The military dictatorship perceived this as a threat to their control and sought to mitigate the Jews’ clout.

With the emerging anti-Semitism and the prominent role Jews played in society, the Argentine culture served as the perfect host for anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic conspiracies to blossom. Published literature evidenced the rising hostility. Circulation of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was pervasive and in 1977, an anonymously funded publication disseminated Nazi literature (Crime and Social Justice) such as Mein Kampf. Argentines also feared a presumed Zionist plan to infiltrate Argentina. According to an imaginary scheme, known as the Andinia plan, parts of the Jewish community collaborated with Zionists and others of suspect loyalty to Argentina (Latin 357). It is no coincidence that the large presence of Nazis coincided with the dramatic increase in anti-Semitism and that the dictatorship espoused similar ideology; in 1938, Jorge Luis Borges described Argentine anti-Semitism as a copy of the European strain (Krauze). With the ideology engrained in society, the military dictatorship implemented practices aligned with Nazism to manage with subversives.

Parallels exist in the process of rounding up of targeted individuals. Nazi SS rounded up entire villages at a time. They also snatched people from their homes, while in the cinemas, or even while walking down the street. To transport them far distances, SS officers stuffed them into cattle cars (Gildea), with no bathroom for hours at a time (Gigliotti). Whereas Nazis remained conspicuous in the process of rounding up en masse, Argentinians covertly arrived in unmarked vehicles. They wore civilian clothing and often sealed off nearby streets (Graziano) in order to limit the number of witnesses.  More so than Nazis, the special abduction task force called Patotas kidnapped swiftly and efficiently. Most commonly, they snatched and hooded (Feitlowitz) subversives while on the streets or from their private homes, unbeknownst to their family and friends. In both Nazi Germany and Argentina, the victims had no idea where their final destination was. The latter was more egregious because they plucked targets individually, thereby cutting off any communication with others.

Once kidnapped, the alleged subversives remained in the clandestine center for an unknown amount of time. The Nazi influence on Argentinian clandestine centers was most evident when one considers the immediate treatment of prisoners upon arrival, the torturous methods, and the overall prevalence of Nazi symbolism. They stayed there until the military declared that they were “healed. ”Argentina carried out the process systematically, so much so that its level of planning and organization far surpassed that of Nazi Germany. In fact, the concentration camps in Argentina represented a compendium of the worst aspects of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany (Feierstein).

Upon arrival at the concentration and clandestine centers, officers subjected victims to a process of dehumanization and humiliation. In Nazi Germany, officers first separated men from the women and children. They then stripped prisoners before shaving their heads (Selection). In Auschwitz, prisoners had a number tattooed on their bodies as a means of identification (Rosenthal). Similarly in Argentina, a new section of the task force orders prisoners to fully undress and, in some instances, then shaved their heads. Prisoners received assigned numbers and letters in place of their names (Feierstein). In both cases, officials seized all of their possessions. That Argentina mimicked the process of stripping them of their identity and dignity, both literally and figuratively, underscores their goal of dehumanizing prisoners. Moreover, in the carrying out the abduction covertly, few victims, if any, even knew what had happened to them.

Just like in Nazi Germany, the defining feature of the clandestine centers in Argentina lay in their maltreatment of the prisoners. Inspired by Nazi Germany, Argentina subjected prisoners to torture. For example, authorities subjected them to electric shock, dog attacks, sleep deprivation and a tactic of near drowning called the submarine (Garcia) In ESMA, they laid in a cramped space in the floor on a top level of the building. They were in that position for most of the day while cuffed, shackled, chained, and blindfolded.  Moreover, unable to see daylight, they also had no sense of time. According to employees of the ESMA museum, temperatures indoors during the day can reach over 110° F; with little air circulation in the rooms, wearing a hood would be suffocating. Guards routinely sexually assaulted women in bathrooms. All of these torture practices served as a reminder that, subject to the whim of officers, they were powerless. The officers wanted to break the spirit of the prisoner and to compel them to collaborate with the government (Garcia) by spilling their secrets. While the two regimes did not have identical goals, they implemented similar tactics such as violence because it is effective in achieving results.

Revolutionary torture methods also included medical treatments. During World War II, Dr. Mendele carried out many barbaric acts on prisoners, with no regard for their safety (Kubica). Under the guise of legitimate scientific inquiry, he conducted high altitude, freezing, malaria, and mustard gas experiments (Mengele). Many of these resulted in sterility and death (Jewish Virtual Library). Doctors also often subjected prisoners to testing the efficacy of new drugs (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). Similarly, in ESMA, a clandestine center in Buenos Aires, they drugged many of the shackled prisoners with Valium in order to subdue them-once in the basement and again while boarding onto the plane. Subsequently, planes threw them into the Rio de La Plata, while still alive (Dalton). This method of dealing with the bodies was an advanced and systematic way of ridding themselves of evidence.

Nazism also inspired the daily torture in Argentinian clandestine centers in the form of constant visual and verbal reminders as well as party affiliation. For example, many officers identified with Nazism and had recordings of speeches by Nazi leaders played during the night throughout the halls. Emblems such as swastikas adorned many camps. And in true torturous fashion, prisoners were subject to promoting this ideology, too: they were forced to shout “Heil Hitler” and had swastikas painted on their backs. The prisoners were subject on a daily basis to Nazi ideology as a means of squelching dissent (Feierstein). On a macrocosmic level, the Argentinian dictatorship imitated Nazi Germany by hosting the 1978 World Cup. Just like when Germany hosted the 1936 Olympic games, this was a means of propaganda to show the world how great Argentina was (Feitlowitz). Shockingly, the stadium was located near the ESMA complex; it was said that the cheers from the game muffled out the cries from the clandestine center.

In addition to using public events to cover up the atrocities they committed, the Argentinian dictatorship implemented discrete tactics to hide the bodies from the clandestine centers. Finding evidence of the bodies would ruin the reputation of the military dictatorship. Nazi Germany had previously grappled with this issue, and solved it by utilizing mass graves (Rt.com) and, later on, crematoriums. In fact, in Auschwitz, 340 corpses could be burned every 24 hours (Jewish Virtual Library). Argentina had similar protocol: in addition to cremating bodies (The World), they buried many mutilated corpses in mass graves, and even deliberately mixed up the limbs and parts so that they would not to be identified. They were labeled NN; in Spanish, this stands for noche y niebla (night and fog), and nacht und nebel in German (Feitlowitz). The prisoners served as tangible evidence of the individuals that they deemed a threat to society; their corpses therefore needed to be obliterated.

Both regimes recognized the need to educate and brainwash the children with their ideology. Carrying out the torturous acts and killings would be for naught if the ideology did not continue in the following generation. In addition to torturing the targeted people, they engrained their dogma into the minds of the children. Nazi Germany went about doing this through the establishment of Hitler Youth; there was also a female equivalent. There, children between the ages of around 10-18 (Trueman) from Aryan homes were indoctrinated with racist ideology.  In an effort to prepare the males to fight loyally for Germany, they also participated in military athletics. This was perceived as more important than schooling, and, in many cases, education suffered as a result (Voice of Youth Advocates). Unlike Nazi Germany, Argentina focused their attention on the indoctrination of the children of subversives. Their rationale was that the child was a tabula rasa and could therefore be engrained with the proper thoughts from the beginning. After imprisoned pregnant women gave birth in the clandestine center, officers killed them. Their babies, on the other hand, lived. They were taken away and other military families illegally adopted them (Dalton). This upbringing was deemed conducive to raising the child with the proper ideology. No one informed the biological grandparents and other extended family members of their whereabouts, giving rise to the term ‘disappeared (World of Forensic Science).’ In total, between 400-500 children are ‘disappeared’ (Kaplain), and to this day, only 119 have been recovered (Iricibar). Over four decades after the military dictatorship, many of these disappeared children are adults who were raised and indoctrinated by the same people involved in the death of their parents.

In attempting to keep their activities a secret, few activities were accurately publicized. Indeed, Argentinians had a vague idea as to what was occurring. The state run media (Cox 9) did not publish accurate information about the dictatorship’s activities. Indeed, in ESMA, prisoners sat on the fourth floor and censored news, eliminating negative information that international publications wrote about Argentina. Though ill informed, they knew something was amiss because so many of their loved ones had disappeared. And yet, just like in Nazi Germany, they were afraid to say anything lest they be deemed an enemy of the state and killed, too. The first public collective rally was in March 1977, one year into the dictatorship (ibid 11) The event, now known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, was in response to their desire to know the whereabouts, or any updates regarding, the abducted babies of their children. While it raised awareness, it did not achieve the goal of attaining answers from the government.

The response from the Jewish perspective was complex and reflected the lingering psychological impact of Nazi Germany. Jews who had immigrated to Argentina attempted to be model citizens by assimilating into society. They wanted to put the past behind them and move on. They reckoned that by acquiescing to the leadership, they would not be perceived as a threat to the regime and therefore would be safe. For the most part, the Jews remained silent and claimed that they did not experience any anti-Semitism.

I conducted an interview with Rachel, who grew up in an upper middle class family in Buenos Aires, at a Sabbath meal in her home. A teen during the Dirty War, she did not recall anything especially egregious at the time. Everyone she knew had been safe.  The dictatorship treated the Jews in her community well, and therefore she had no reason to complain. Even when Jews heard about the violence, many denied it.  In a setting where anti-Semitic sentiment was definitely present, she and her community members tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible. That the lack of religious discrimination was a litmus test for judging the dictatorship reflects Nazi Germany’s psychological impact on the Jewish community in Argentina.

Despite the nature of the crimes committed, American politicians largely condoned the actions of the military dictatorship. Unlike when it fought Germany and its Nazi Party in World War II, America did not combat against Argentina. Their limited hands on involvement reflected the current ubiquitous anticommunist ideology. It was in America’s political interest to suppress the growing influence of communism. From the onset of the military dictatorship’s rein, America remained aware of Argentina’s stated goal of eliminating terrorism, and perceived any means in curtailing its spread as appropriate, even if that entailed widespread violence in South America, an area perceived as a hotbed for terrorism (Suri). Thus, America often expressed public political support for the military dictatorship.  For example, the Reagan administration defended Videla, the military junta. Just two and a half years into new Argentinian government, he stated

“The new government set out to restore order at the same time it started to rebuild

the nation’s ruined economy. It is very close to succeeding at the former, and well on

its way to the latter. Inevitably in the process of rounding up hundreds of suspected

terrorists, the Argentine authorities have no doubt locked up a few innocent people,

too. This problem they should correct without delay.

 

Reagan sympathized with Videla, who was later sentenced to 50 years in prison for systematic kidnapping in addition to a life sentence in prison for the crimes he committed (bio.com), on account of the fact that the junta was simply trying to protect his country (Parry). The nature of the friendly political rapport between the two countries further extended to Kissinger’s relationship with Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral Cesar Augusto. After explicitly acknowledging that he followed Argentinian events, Kissinger approved of the military junta’s actions early on in the dictatorship, and stated that “if there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly (Ostorio).” He even offered to provide aid in the process, in order to help it succeed. With America’s verbal support and financial backing, the military dictatorship proceeded to carry out their brutal political campaign (Gareau). Even when Patricia Derian, Carter’s human rights coordinator, rebuked Argentina, Regan responded with a lackadaisical response to “walk a mile in the moccasins” of the generals before critiquing them (Perry). And while the Carter administration made a concerted effort by implementing economic sanctions over Argentina, the fact that Carter chose Kissinger, who would play a role in approving their actions, highlights the fact that ultimately America’s best interests superseded the human rights platform that Carter espoused.

Israel was another major world player that had a complex relationship with the Argentine military dictatorship. Like during World War II, when Israel accepted thousands of Jews who were being persecuted by Nazi Germany, Israel became involved once it was evident that a high proportion of Jews were being singled out during the military dictatorship’s campaign. By issuing temporary resident visas to those who requested it, Israel provided many endangered Jews with the option of fleeing from the dangerous environment. The rationale for reaching out to them was on the basis of the Law of Return, dictated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which states that there is a relationship between the Jewish state of Israel and the Jews all over the world; this gave them to ability to reach out to endangered Jews all over the world and bring them to Israel as a country of refuge. However, it was complicated as to whether Israel really had an obligation on the basis of international law and whether they indeed had to reach out to them, as they were not citizens. In fact, while there were a number of Argentinian Jews who turned to the Israeli embassy for help, many did not. Many Argentina Jews opposed turning to Israel because, after the horrors they experienced during the war, sought to completely assimilate into the local culture and throw away their Jewish identity (Rozen).

The complexity of the nature of their relationship was further strained on an economic, political and ideological basis. While America established economic sanctions with Argentina, Israel supplied them with 13% of their weapons and other military equipment, which cost between $700 million-$2 billion (B. Thomas). The irony of the generous aid, of course, is that the dictatorship used most of the equipment to torture the exact individuals whom Israel then attempted to save. Nonetheless, the prospect of losing such a significant trading partner was too great for them to cut ties. This economic incentive led many to claim that Israel actually limited its intervention in saving Argentinians so as not to aggravate those in power. Moreover, while Argentina had agreed that war criminals should be punished and held accountable, the government under Peron made extradition virtually impossible (Georing). As a result, Israel stealthily kidnapped Eichmann in Buenos Aires in order to put him on trial in Israel, without the consent of the Argentinian government (Geller). By assisting Nazis during and following the World War II, Argentina’s ties to Israel became strained. This tension came to the surface fewer than two decades later, under the rule of the military dictatorship, when Israel wanted to save Jews by moving them to Israel. Lastly, the fact that the military dictatorship espoused anti-Zionist propaganda throughout Argentina highlights the oddity that they would then work with Israel to allow Jewish citizens to move to Israel. And yet, despite being shuttled back by Israel, many encountered obstacles when they were forced to join the Israeli army, which was often done in an attempt to humiliate them.

Compared to Nazi Germany’s actions, Argentina’s practices in the 1970’s were not genocidal, but rather crimes against humanity. The definition of genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation (Oxford Dictionary). Crimes against humanity, on the other hand, are more specifically defined as:

“the murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts

committed against civilian populations, before or during the war; or persecutions

on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any

crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the

domestic law of the country where perpetrated (Crimes Against Humanity

Initiative RSS.).”

Crimes against humanity manifest in the killing of many individuals, while genocide focuses on decimating specific groups. The magnitude of committing genocide far surpasses that of a crime against humanity in the eyes of the law. The Holocaust, in which Nazi Germany sought to eliminate all those outside of the Aryan race, was officially deemed a crime against humanity under the IMT Charter (De Beats) . In 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly held a Genocide Convention, the term genocide first came into existence, and was defined specifically in light of the crimes committed during of the Holocaust (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ). The Dirty War in Argentina, on the other hand, was much more complex. While Jews were disproportionately subjected to torture, the overall goal of the military dictatorship was purely to eliminate those deemed subversive to the government. Argentina did not actively seek out any ethnic or religious group. Nonetheless, Jews comprised a large proportion of union workers and therefore received the brunt of government brutality. Thus, it is difficult to definitively compartmentalize the torturous practices they carried out as either genocide or a crime against humanity.

The obscure distinction regarding labeling The Dirty War bears tremendous legal and judicial implications, and highlights the Argentinian military dictatorship’s fine-tuning of Nazi Germany’s practices. Once the British defeated Argentina in the Falkland War in 1982, effectively ending the rule of the military dictatorship (Luongo), the issues of determining accountability, holding trials, and carrying out appropriate punishment became difficult. Locally, Argentina immediately took responsibility by putting the juntas on trials in 1985, two years after the dictatorship ended. However, the newest democratic president, Raul Alfonsin, ended the trials a year later, and in 1987, granted amnesty to those involved (Anderson). Congress voted this unconstitutional in 2002, and held a trial against Videla shortly thereafter (Human Rights Watch). On a global scale, the label of an event being a genocide or a crime against humanity plays a critical role in determining the ease of conducting a smooth trial in the International Court of Justice under article IX of the Genocide Convention. Thus, as terrible a crime as this was, it can escape international condemnation and legal repercussions by being labeled “only” as a crime against humanity. In this respect, the military dictatorship fine-tuned Nazi Germany’s genocidal actions. The brutality in Argentina, though more egregious, involved crimes that did not fall under the more severe category of genocide. Consequently, Argentina during the Dirty War cunningly carried out its plan that allowed it to harness the effectiveness of Nazi Germany’s tactics without having to worry about grappling with obstacles such as legal condemnation.

Nazi Germany during World War II and Argentina during the period of 1976-1983 bore a tremendous amount of similarities. Both claimed to want to improve society by eliminating groups that were deemed subversive, whether religiously, ethnically, or politically. At the core of the justification for their torturous practices was that they were doing a good for every individual, for society as a whole and, ultimately, the future. What resulted, though, were crimes against humanity with ramifications that resonate with families today and for generations to come. Argentina learned from the successes of Nazi Germany, and even went on to enhance the cruelty, only highlighting the sheer brutality and corruption of the military dictatorship relative to Nazi Germany. Moreover, the fact that even halfway across the world, Argentina was able to implement the practices from Europe underscores the overarching nature of humankind’s capacity for evil, no matter the circumstances. By repeating so many of Nazi Germany’s practices, even after everyone promised to learn from this genocide, Argentina proved to the world that such a state crime could easily happen again today.

 

 

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