Conversations about Knowledge: Why Did It Happen?

  • Susana Kaiser
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series


To discuss knowledge about the dictatorship we should acknowledge that fear, silence, and knowledge are categories without rigid divisions. They are interconnected alternately as cause and effect of each other, configuring a cycle whereby fear provokes silences and silences limit the scope of historical explanations. This chapter starts the exploration of this cycle by focusing on what is known about this past. It identifies the different historical explanations for the repression that were being circulated by examining answers to the question “Why did it happen?” It looks at how the post-dictatorship generation was accepting or challenging these accounts.


High School Student Future Teacher Military Officer Military Coup Historical Explanation 
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  1. 7.
    Retired captain D’Andrea Mohr documented 129 cases of murder and disappearance of military personnel. José Luis D’Andrea Mohr, El Escuadrón Perdido (Buenos Ares: Planeta, 1998).Google Scholar
  2. 18.
    Calveiro has written a compelling account of life during terror from inside the inferno of the camps. It is a disturbing analysis of the relationship between concentration camps and society and the role played by society in relation to the “disappearing power” of the dictatorship. Pilar Calveiro, Poder y Desapariciân: Los Campos de Concentración en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Colihue, 1998).Google Scholar
  3. 19.
    Jurgen Habermas and Adam Michnik, “Overcoming the Past,” New Left Review 203 (1994): 3–16, p. 7.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    Emilio Mignone, Witness to the Truth: The Complicity of the Church and Dictatorship in Argentina (New York: Orbis, 1988.) Mignone, whose daughter disappeared, wrote a detailed account of the Catholic hierarchy’s collaboration with the dictatorship, including the bishops’ calls for reconciliation. See also Nunca Más; Paoletti, Como los Nazis. Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    In Chile, under the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, the Catholic hierarchy helped persecuted people, offering asylum and means to leave the country. See Hugo Frühling, “Resistance to Fear in Chile: The Experience of the Vicaría de las Solidaridad,” in Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America, ed. Juan Corradi, Patricia Weiss Fagen, and Manuel Antonio Garretón (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992), 121–141.Google Scholar
  6. 26.
    Dictator Massera has claimed that society was a chameleon, that people were now silent and horrified but at the time encouraged the destruction of the enemy, that he was told: “Admiral, go and kill them all. Hunt them in their hideouts and kill them.” Cited in Ciancaglini and Granowsky, Nada más, 354. A good friend of torturer/ assassin Astiz tells of witnessing how a man approached Astiz in the street and thanked him for everything he had done for the country. Cited in Uki Goñi, Judas: la verdadera historia de Alfredo Astiz el infiltrado (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1996), 208.Google Scholar
  7. 27.
    See Valeria Dabenigno et al. “Entre el recuerdo y el olvido: interpretaciones de una historia compartida,” (paper presented at the Latin American Studies Association Conference, Chicago, September 24–26, 1998).Google Scholar
  8. 31.
    For a detailed account of Nazi criminals’ “migration” to Argentina with Perón’s support and the complicity of the Vatican and the Argentine Catholic Church, see Uki Goñi, The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron’s Argentina (New York: Granta, 2002).Google Scholar
  9. 32.
    For the Nazism of the represores see Nunca Más; Leonardo Senkman and Mario Szanjder, El Legado del Autoritarismo; Derechos Humanos y Antisemitismo en la Argentina Contemporánea (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editor Latinoamericano, 1995);Google Scholar
  10. Jacobo Timmerman, Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number (New York: Random House, 1981).Google Scholar

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© Susana Kaiser 2005

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  • Susana Kaiser

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