A team of archaeologists in Argentina believe they have discovered a secret Nazi lair, deep in the jungle close to Paraguay.
The cluster of stone structures, now covered by thick vines and accessible only when using a machete to cut through the undergrowth, contain stashes of German coins from the late 1930s, fragments of “Made in Germany” porcelain, and Nazi symbols on the walls.
“We can find no other explanation as to why anyone would build these structures, at such great effort and expense, in a site which at that time was totally inaccessible, away from the local community, with material which is not typical of the regional architecture,” said Daniel Schavelzon, leader of the team.
Mr Schavelzon, from the University of Buenos Aires, spent months exploring the site in the Teyu Cuare provincial park, in the Misiones region of northern Argentina.
Local legend told that a house in the forest belonged to Martin Bormann – Hitler’s right-hand-man, who took his own life in May 1945 – but Mr Schavelzon said there was no evidence to support what he called “an urban myth”.
Instead, the buildings were planned as a refuge for the leaders of the Third Reich, commissioned in case they needed to flee Germany.
“Apparently, halfway through World War II, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat – inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff or in the middle of the jungle like this,” Mr Schavelzon told Argentine newspaper Clarin. He said that his findings were not yet definite, but he was convinced of their veracity.
“This site also has the bonus of allowing the inhabitants to be in Paraguay in less than 10 minutes. It’s a protected, defendable site, where they could live quietly.”
Ultimately, though, the hideout wasn’t needed, because after the fall of the Nazi regime their leaders were welcomed to Argentina and allowed to live openly.
Thousands of Nazis, Croatian Ustasha fascists and Italian fascists arrived with the blessing of President Juan Peron, who led the nation from 1946 to 1955 and again briefly in the 1970s. An estimated 5000 Nazis eventually ended up in Argentina.
In 1960, Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who helped organise the Holocaust, was captured in Buenos Aires by an Israeli commando team and tried in Israel where he was executed. Josef Mengele, whose grotesque experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz earned him the title “Angel of Death”, also fled to Argentina.
“When the war was over some useful Germans helped us build our factories and make the best use of what we had,” said Peron, who died in 1974. “And in time they were able to help themselves too.”