Disorderly Succession: Great Britain, The United States and the ‘Nazi Menace’ in Argentina, 1938–1947

  • Ronald C. Newton
  • H. S. Ferns
Part of the St Antony’s/Macmillan Series book series


By early 1943 even the most remote threat of direct German military operations against South America had been eliminated. The lodgement of Allied forces in North Africa in the Autumn of 1942 had effectively blocked any German offensive moves southward. The battles of El Alamein and Stalingrad had defined the limits of the Axis’ ability to sustain major offensives at great distances from the German heartland. Indeed, with them, the strategic initiative in Europe had passed to the Allies, and they would not again relinquish it.


American Republic German Export Nazi Party German Business German Community 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Memo, 31 March 1943, US National Archives (Washington). Record Group 59, ARA Gen Memos, Box 8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Interview, Maurice Halperin (chief of OSS’ Latin American Section, 1941–45), Vancouver, June 1980. Documentation has not been located.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cf. Minute, Gallop, London, 4 January 1944: ‘owing to the complacency and pusillanimity of the Argentine people, who are too prosperous to want to fight for their own liberties, let alone anyone else’s …’ Public Record Office (Kew), Foreign Office 371, file 37698; Kelly 39 to FO, Bs As, 15 January 1944: the idea there is a democratic underground is to misread the ‘inherent materialist realism of the Argentine character’. Ibid.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Manchester Guardian, 14 June 1940. A German plot to use a professional diver, Walter Freiwald, to plant bombs in Buenos Aires harbour was scotched by Abwehr headquarters in 1942.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    David Kahn, Hitler’s Spies: German Military Intelligence in World War Two (New York, 1978) p. 327; Interrogation of Kapt. zur See Dietrich Niebuhr, October–November 1945, USNA microfilm MA 1300/3, frames 1–17.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kelly to Grubb, Bs As, 7 October 1942, FO 371/30322.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Overseas Planning Commission (London), Plan of Propaganda for Argentina, 1st Supplement, 18 October 1943, FO 371/33548.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Memo, Duggan, Washington, 5 May 1944, ARA Memos, Box 18.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cf. Kelly: ‘National Socialism has probably on balance done more harm than good to German business prestige, morale, and effectiveness.’ Kelly 55 (Green Paper) to Eden, Bs As, 3 March 1944, FO 371/37726.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Meynen proposed the following programme to Berlin (not vice-versa, NB) in December 1942: (1) equipment for the Argentine military; (2) assurance that Argentine merchant ships would not be molested; (3) financial support for Castillo’s candidates in elections; (4) strengthening Chilean neutrality to prop Argentine neutrality; (5) anticipatory contracts for German purchases of Argentine commodities; (6) propaganda trumpeting of German victories; (7) a pan-Latin American anticommunist campaign; (8) increased support for friendly press and radio. He estimated this would cost a million RM. Meynen cable 4725 to AA, Bs As, 3 December 1942; ibid., 4884, 19 December 1942, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes [Bonn], Büro des Staatsekretärs, Band 5.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    US Embassy 1824, Bs As, 27 November 1937, RG 59, 800.20210/7; Admiralty M 091/38, London, 7 February 1938, FO 371/21457.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    FO Minute, 14 March 1939, FO 371/22756.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    William Stevenson, A Man Called Intrepid: the Secret War (New York, 1976) pp. 106, 188, 401–07.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    My interpretation follows Arnold Ebel, Das Dritte Reich und Argentinien: die diplomatischen Beziehungen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Handelspolitik (Cologne, 1971); and IG Farben, Argentinien-Bericht (Economic Reports on Various Countries, US Library of Congress, Science Reading Room, PB 74092), fr. 1–180.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Luis V. Sommi, Los capitales en la Argentina (Bs As, 1945), 92–110.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Dodd 171 to Eden, 21 April 1937, FO 371/20806; US PolAd Germany 616 to DS, Frankfurt, 11 July 1945, RG 59, 740.35112a/date.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Minute on Reading to Gallop, London, 18 April 1944, FO 371/38164.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    An extreme example was the conflict in early 1945 between David C. Berger, First Secretary of the US Embassy, and W.N. Storey, commercial attaché of the British Embassy, concerning blacklist policy. Because Storey had lived in Germany and had a German wife the Americans began to nurse suspicions of his basic loyalty. US Embassy 17052, Bs As, 13 January 1945, RG 59, 740.35112a/date; memo, Hurd to Wendelin, Washington, 8 March 1945, ibid./date.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    American officials were aware that German-Argentine bilateralism was not functioning well; they believed the USA was winning the competition with Germany for the Latin American market. Memo, Ravndal, German Compensation Trade With Argentina, Bs As, 2 May 1938, 610.6231/90; memo, Welles, Recent Trends in German Competition With US Export Trade in the Other American Republics, Washington, 20 July 1938, ibid./97a; ibid., 6 December 1938, ibid./103a.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    The German position was in fact schizophrenic. Undoubtedly many Germans believed Argentina would make massive technological progress by adopting German models in education and industry. Nevertheless, the overriding German economic objective was to annex the source of raw materials, not to sponsor further industrialisation. IG Farben experts believed that because of energy and raw material problems ‘a heavy industry will never develop in Argentina’ [report cited note 14, frame 87]. Ambassador Thermann and his staff directed their energies toward the more traditional sectors of Argentine society. Had a negotiated peace been concluded in 1940 or 1941, these are the sectors that would have benefited most from the German connection.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    German immigrant males far outnumbered females, particularly in urban environments. No stigma attached to endogamous marriage so long as the woman met religious, socioeconomic and (necessarily elusive) phenotype criteria and so long as she learned German, kept a German house, and worked for a German education for the children. In the 1930s the Nazis attempted to make marriage among the Germans conform to their racial criteria; had they been successful they would have wrecked a highly successful informal mechanism of German cultural continuity.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    I have elsewhere described German Argentina’s dominant ideology circa 1930 as ‘monarchism tempered by opportunism’: ‘The US, the German Argentines, and the Myth of the Fourth Reich’, Hispanic American Historical Review 64: 1 (1984) pp. 92–4, 99–103.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Documents on American Foreign Relations. I (1939), 562; II (1940), 826; MI Field Office, Miami, interview with Donald W. Burns (US resident in Argentina since 1938), 22 September 1942, USNA (Suitland), RG 165, G2, Box 79, File 2000–2500 Arg. According to Burns 5000 Americans were in Buenos Aires by that time.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    PM to Foreign Secretary, London, 27 February 1944, FO 371/37670.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Toop/Chapin Special Memos, 7 November 1942, USNA, RG 59, DRA Gen Memos, Box 66.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Memo, Condition of German Groups in the Other American Republics, Washington, 24 July 1943, RG 59, Special Section DRA, Reports, Vol 5, Box 14; same author’s memo of 28 August 1943 in ibid.; Spaeth to Knapp, Montevideo, 14 October 1943, Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense, Box 4; Maylott, Memo on the Need for Further Action … With Respect to Dual Nationality in the Western Hemisphere, Washington, 18 May 1944, EACPD, Box 2.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    British Embassy 867 to FO, Washington, 9 October 1943, FO 371/33910; reply, FO to British Embassy, London, 9 December 1943, ibid.; Kelly 36 to FO, Bs As, 2 February 1944,/37668; Forbes 23 to FO, Lima, 4 February 1944,/38447.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Kelly and Forbes were proven correct in 1946 when the US government dispatched a decommissioned troopship, Marine Marlin, to South and Central American ports to collect some 1800 ‘dangerous’ Germans and return them to Germany. All ten Latin American governments approached by State resorted to subterfuge to frustrate the Americans or flatly refused to cooperate; Marine Marlin picked up only a handful of voluntary repatriates. New York Times, 15 June, 10 July 1946; British Embassy 237 to FO, Montevideo, 24 July 1946; ibid., 57 to ibid., Bs As, 24 July 1946; ibid, to ibid., Rio, 16 August 1946; ibid, to ibid., Lima, 16 August 1946: all in FO 371/52103.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    On the relationship between ‘compliance’ and arms policy see: Newton, ‘Myth’, 100–3; also the author’s ‘The Neutralization of Fritz Mandl: Notes on Wartime Journalism, The Arms Trade, and Anglo-American Rivalry in Argentina in World War Two’, HAHR, August 1986.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Memos, Hussey, Washington, 10 and 21 September 1945, USNA, RG 59, ARA Memos, Box 16.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    British Embassy 487, Washington, 19 May 1944, FO 371/37702. Ambassador Kelly: ‘Argentina needs German methods and discipline’: British Embassy, Bs As, 19 July 1945,/44757. For other citations see: Newton, ‘Myth’, note 30.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    US Embassy to FO, London, 20 April 1945,/46766; Newton, ‘Myth’, passim.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Stopford to Troutbeck, Washington, 26 May 1943,/33900.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Bogdahn to Armour, NYC, 8 September 1942, 740.00112a EW1939/17262; David Green, The Containment of Latin America: A History of the Myths and Realities of the Good Neighbor Policy (Chicago, 1971) pp. 139–40.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Kelly 48 to Eden, Bs As, 19 February 1945,/33907.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Memo, Halle, Washington, 23 October 1942, ARA Gen Memos, Box 7.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    British Embassy 867 to FO, Washington, 9 October 1943, with minutes by Gallop, Troutbeck, and Perowne; reply, FO to British Embassy, London, 9 December 1943: in/33910.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Guido di Tella and D. Cameron Watt 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald C. Newton
  • H. S. Ferns

There are no affiliations available

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