Trouble with Argentina? Remind them of their Nazi-backing past
Intelligence suggests Argentine sportsmen and/or supporters are planning stunts over the Falklands issue at the London Olympics
ACCORDING to intelligence received by the UK government, some of the more than 100 Argentine athletes attending the London Olympics may stage a stunt about the Falkland Islands. One rumour is that their team tracksuits will be embroidered with a map of the islands and the slogan 'Islas Malvinas son Argentinas'.
The British authorities are right to be nervous about the behaviour of Argentine athletes and their supporters at the London Olympics, less than a month away.
The intelligence also suggested a demonstration by members of Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas (the United Football Fans of Argentina) attending the Games as spectators. The Curious Englishman, a British blogger who lived in Argentina for a year, described them as "...a conglomeration of all the different Argentine football clubs' nastiest hooligans."
They enjoy fisticuffs and knife fights. During matches they set off fireworks in the stands and jump up and down in a kind of aggressive Mexican Wave singing their thuggish anthem el que no salta, es inglés – 'He who doesn't jump is English'.
They often display huge Argentine flags with a map of the Falklands emblazoned on them and political banners supporting President Kirchner, whose opponents have long suspected that she and her Peronist chums have been tacitly financing some of the less attractive elements of Argentine society in exchange for their muscle on the streets at election time. The Argentine government, of course, denies any connection.
Still it's a sign of how civilised Argentine politicians have become since military rule came to an end after defeat in the Falklands in 1982. Alleged connections with football hooligans are small beer compared to the shady connections of the great man himself, President Juan Peron, with escaping Nazi war criminals just after the war.
The middle-aged businessman with a toothbrush moustache and strong German accent living in Buenos Aires who always buys an extra round of drinks on 20 April (the Fuhrer's birthday) is almost a stock character in many thrillers. But I hadn't realised how strong the connections were until I read Hunting Evil, the historian Guy Walters's book about how the top Nazi war criminals managed to slink out of Europe and start new lives, mainly in Argentina.
Their escapes were organised with the official sanction of President Juan Peron, who gave the enthusiastic go-ahead at a well-documented meeting in the presidential palace in 1947.
Perhaps the most colourful of the Nazi refugees welcomed by Peron was SS-Standartenfuhrer (Colonel) Otto Skorzeny [pictured on the cover]. Decorated personally by Hitler for his daring rescue of Mussolini in September 1943, he was a brutal man but also a charismatic leader who regularly risked his own skin in the face of the enemy.
Like many ex-soldiers he went into the private security business and was even Eva Peron's bodyguard for a time. Kurt Steiner, the character played by Michael Caine in the 1976 film The Eagle Has Landed, is ultimately based on him.
But most of the rest were shockers unredeemed by service at the front. Even the Germans wanted to be rid of them. My small selection should be enough to put you off your breakfast:
SS-Haupsturmfuhrer (Captain) Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyons, whose most notorious crime was the deportation to Auschwitz of 44 Jewish children aged between three and 13 from an orphanage outside the city. He didn't stay long in Argentina, moving to Bolivia where he advised its military junta on internal security until his extradition to France in 1983. Every 20 April he held a cocktail party at his club in La Paz.
SS-Sturmbannfuhrer (Major) Dr Carl Vaernet. A favourite of Himmler's, he claimed to have discovered a 'cure' for homosexuality while conducting medical experiments on the inmates of Buchenwald.
SS-Haupsturmfuhrer Erich Priebke. The officer responsible for shooting 335 Italian civilians in the 1944 Ardeatine Caves Massacre outside Rome. Hitler wanted 330 shot - 10 Italian civilians for each of 33 German soldiers killed in a Partisan ambush a few days previously. Priebke added an extra five for good measure.
SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer (Lieutenant-Colonel) Adolf Eichmann, one of the major organisers of the Holocaust who was famously kidnapped by Israeli Intelligence in 1961 and put on trial in Jerusalem. His last words just before the Israeli hangman pulled the lever were: "Long live Germany. Long live Argentina. Long live Austria."
SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Dr Joseph Mengele. Auschwitz's camp doctor and perhaps the most repellent of all the Nazi criminals. Among many other horrors he was obsessed with conducting dubious medical experiments on twins. Of the 3,000 twins who disappeared into his laboratories only 200 came out alive.
Eichmann and Mengele used to meet for lunch at the ABC Restaurant in the centre of Buenos Aires in the early 1950s. It's still there and the menu on its website looks excellent. As Guy Walters drily observes: "Had the ABC been an Italian trattoria that favoured hanging up black-and-white photographs of its most illustrious customers, the interior would have been reminiscent of a Nazi rogues' gallery."
Any nonsense at the Olympics and we should remind the world of Argentina's deeply unimpressive history.