Argentine MP Waldo Wolff, in collaboration with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, drafted a bill that would declare July 15 a “Day of Remembrance Against Impunity for War Criminals, Crimes Against Humanity and Remembrance of their Victims.”
The day would be accompanied by events and memorials all across Argentina, honouring the victims of the Holocaust, according to the center.
After the events of World War II, many Nazi war criminals took refuge in Argentina under the rule of Juan Perón.
Wolff noted that Argentina gave asylum to at least 180 war criminals who were “suspected, accused, tried and/or sentenced” after World War II.
The safe haven became home to Adolf Eichmann, who helped orchestrate the mass extermination of European Jewry during the Holocaust, as well as Auschwitz doctors Josef Mengele and Eduard Roschmann.
Eichmann was abducted and captured by the Israeli Mossad in May 1960 while taking refuge in Argentina. He later became the only person in Israel’s history to be executed by the state.
The significance of the July 15 date, is that it was the day Eichmann arrived in Argentina.
“Argentina’s generous tradition of political asylum” was employed to “provide refuge for questionable characters, sometimes out of carelessness and other times through the deliberate actions of those seeking to protect individuals like Eichmann,” Wolff stated in the draft proposal.
The draft law is sponsored by nine other Argentine MPs as well as the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“The Wiesenthal Center proudly sponsors this bill, in the hope that this state policy regarding antisemitism, Holocaust memory and genocide will be adopted by the other countries across Latin America,” said director for International Relations Dr. Shimon Samuels.
While Argentina gave war criminals asylum after World War II, they refused to do the same for the Jewish population seeking to escape Europe before the start of the war.
In 1938, a memo titled Circular 11 was disseminated to Argentine diplomats explicitly stating that they should not accept visas from Jews attempting to seek refuge in Argentina.
“Approving this Bill will maintain the coherence of Argentine state policy since the adoption in 1988 of the Anti-Discrimination Law, opening of the Nazi archives, participation as a full member of the IHRA, repeal of the Circular 11/1938 instructing diplomats not to grant visas to Jews and to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism,” said Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Latin American Director Dr. Ariel Gelblung.
“The document will act as a declaration of refusal to receive perpetrators for crimes against humanity, based on the Preamble to the National Constitution, in the sense that those who would wish to reside on Argentine soil are to dignify it and not stain it with their presence.”
In June, Argentina joined a number of countries in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
The Argentine Foreign Ministry called the definition a guide to determining what behaviours can be considered antisemitic, so that they can be prevented, sanctioned and eliminated.
The adoption of the definition came after Argentine President Alberto Fernández’s visit to Israel in January as part of the World Holocaust Forum, his first official trip abroad.