BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Two years after President Carlos Saul Menem announced that he would open Argentina's "Nazi files," investigators here say they have found more than a thousand names of suspected Nazi war criminals and collaborators who fled to this country after World War II -- a number that is many times more than previously documented.
And the investigators say the hundreds of thousands of pages of documents they have studied in the last eight months show not only the government's policy of welcoming Nazi war criminals, but also its efforts to impede the search for and prosecution of them by other governments.
Before the latest documents were disclosed, those tracing the movements of Nazi war criminals had credible evidence of no more than several dozen who entered Argentina, including Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Nazi campaign to kill the Jews of Europe. Eichmann was kidnapped by the Israelis in 1960 and hanged in 1962.
The project is being sponsored by Argentina's umbrella Jewish organization, the Delegation of Israelite-Argentine Associations, through its foundation; the World Jewish Congress; and the private Fundacion Banco Mayo.
Many say the project was made possible only after the foreign minister intervened in the face of criticism about the pace with which the archives were being released.
Of the more than 1,000 names of suspected war criminals that researchers have compiled, they have prepared dossiers on 230 of them to be sent to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust research center and museum in Jerusalem, for further study on what role they might have played in the war.
Most of the names the researchers have come up with, they say, are new to the world of Nazi-hunters and represent scores of lesser-known officials, most of whom were in their 40s and 50s at the time.
Some, for example, were sentenced to death by European governments after the war but disappeared in Argentina, never to be found again.
But very few are believed to be still alive. The research project is not intending to search for them, though it will make its archives available to those seeking to investigate individual cases.