Bariloche should respond

The reality that Aspen has long been drifting away from the humanistic tradition of The Aspen Institute founders was evident in reported reactions to the disclosure that our town’s newest sister city was a haven for Nazis following Germany’s defeat.

Instead of taking this information seriously, it was summarily dismissed as a “non-story.” Such disregard and defensiveness would be expected from officials in a town whose world view does not extend beyond immediate commercial and public relations interests, but is sadly surprising here. The appropriate response would have been to initiate deeper inquiries about Bariloche in historic context.

Bariloche is now affluent because the fugitives brought with them money from the international Nazi organization, Odessa, which funded escapes and new lives for S.S. officers and other Nazi officials, who found an admiring welcome from Juan Peron’s fascist government, whose heirs today control the Tacuara gangs responsible for the spate in recent years of terrorist attacks against Jewish institutions in Buenos Aeries.

Nicolas Spagat, a native of Bariloche, conveniently Jewish, describes growing up in a productive postwar paradise in which Jewish refugees and Nazi fugitives existed in harmony. “What were you going to do?” Spagat asks pragmatically, “shoot the Nazis?”

No, Mr. Spagat, not shoot them, but have them extradited and tried as war criminals. These were not ordinary Germans who had looked the other way in the Hitler years, these were his henchmen. Both Germany and Japan have unconditionally repudiated their past, adamantly apologized for their actions, while Bariloche’s present culture has been described by an objective source as one in which the Nazis are still held in fond esteem. I would have no problem embracing Bariloche as our sister city once such a repudiation was unequivocally stated.

To Mayor Klanderud’s remark that, “To resurrect something that’s nearly 60 years old is irresponsible,” I reply that the irresponsibility lies in not insisting upon the denouncement of a Nazi past from a sister city. Yes, six decades is a long time – a long time of life denied to the exterminated millions. Many survivors of the Holocaust are still alive; their children and grandchildren still bear emotional scars from the annihilation of their families.

I invite my fellow Aspenites to call upon our leadership to insist that Bariloche repudiate its past, to denounce what those Nazis it harbored stood for, to clearly state that harboring those criminals was a crime – or lose its right to be a sister city of Aspen, a town which, in taking such a stand, will go a long way toward reviving the increasingly lost values of its own past.

Nahum Amiran/Aspen