Descendants of victims of Nazis and Latin American dictatorships meet with relatives of perpetrators

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The Wannsee Conference House today.

At the beginning of 1942, a group of Nazi leaders met in a Wannsee mansion in Berlin to plan the systematic murder of Jews, the so-called “Final Solution”. Eighty years later, relatives of victims of Nazism and state terrorism in Latin America are there this Thursday with descendants of those convicted of crimes against humanity who repudiate the actions of their relatives. Together they seek to add voices against denialism and strengthen memory so that these crimes are never repeated.

“The responsibility for memory is not just the victims, it belongs to everyone,” says Héctor Shalom, director of the Anne Frank Center in Buenos Aires and organizer of the meeting Adding Voices, by phone. Those who survived the horror soon came together to share what they experienced, as did the loved ones of those who were killed or disappeared. But social repudiation has been nurtured over the decades by other actors, including some unthinkable, such as relatives of kidnappers, torturers and murderers of these regimes.

Their union aims to combat hate speech and the rise of far-right ideologies both in Europe and in Latin America that minimize state terrorism. “It seems that these crimes are in the past, but it is a dispute that must continue because in the midst of the crisis the fascist discourses are regaining strength,” warns Victoria Montenegro, a legislator from Buenos Aires and granddaughter recovered by Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. .

In 1976, Montenegro was just a two-week-old baby when she was kidnapped along with her father Roque Orlando Montenegro and her mother Hilda Ramona Torres during a military operation on the southern outskirts of the Argentine capital. Roque was a victim of one of the death flights used by the dictatorship to dispose of the bodies of the hostages, Hilda is still missing, but her daughter lived the first 24 years of her life without knowing her true identity. . He believed that his appropriators, Colonel Hernán Antonio Tetzlaff and his wife María del Carmen Eduartes, were his real parents, until a DNA test revealed the truth: he was one of the nearly 500 grandchildren wanted by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. .

Montenegro took years to assume his true identity, in a process that he describes as “long and difficult”, and supports the appearance of relatives of perpetrators as “a new voice that joins the fight for human rights”. “They are children, nephews, who decide to separate themselves from the family history and build their own, very far from the crimes perpetrated by their relatives,” she says.

Among the first to take that step in Argentina were Mariana Dopazo, who today defines herself as the ex-daughter of the deceased torturer Miguel Etchecolatz, and Analía Kalinec, daughter of former commissioner Eduardo Kalinec, who decided to keep the surname. They publicly broke up with their relatives in the midst of the commotion generated in Argentina by the prison benefit granted by the Supreme Court to those convicted of crimes against humanity in 2017. The massive mobilization of Argentine society in rejection of the 2×1 ruling, which opened the door to the release of many repressors, included the presence of Dopazo, Kalinec and other relatives of convicts grouped in the Disobedient Stories collective.

“The bond of affection and family loyalty does not exempt us from repudiating these crimes and working so that they are never committed again,” says Kalinec. “Families are the hard core where the logic of denialism and hate speech are reproduced. It is important to be able to enter that heart of the families”, continues this psychologist and teacher, who is facing a lawsuit initiated by her father to disinherit her.

“A historic encounter”

The appearance of Historias desobedientes in Argentina attracted attention in other countries and little by little voices began to join beyond its borders, now also invited to the Berlin event. “It is a historic meeting. If one reflects on what it means, one realizes the universal nature of this experience,” says Chilean Verónica Estay, Miguel’s niece. the fanta Estay, a collaborator of the Augusto Pinochet regime after betraying his former comrades in the communist youth.

Estay assures that the crimes perpetrated by her uncle —such as the one that cost the lives of three communists in the so-called Degollados case, in 1985— were never a surprise to her because she learned about them from her parents, who were against Pinochet’s dictatorship. However, family ties were strained when she began to put her body in public to repudiate what had happened. “It is a subject that is not talked about outside doors. No member of the family wanted to participate in reports or give testimonies and it causes problems for me to express myself, ”says Estay.

“In Chile, the memory process is far from that of Argentina. Pinochet died free and [el dictador argentino Jorge Rafael] See her in prison. Perhaps now with the new Constitution and the awakening after the revolt, progress will begin, but the number of people convicted is very small considering all those who participated in the repression and the responsibility reaches high ranks that are not touched, “he says. Backstay. He underlines the importance that in this context the Disobedient Stories group, which he now chairs, was also born in Chile. “Disobedience is a kind of social meter. In Argentina there are more than 50 relatives, in Chile 10, in Brazil only three or four”, he sums up.

Estay also believes that it is no coincidence that the majority of the members are women and associates it with the emergence of this new actor that has occurred at the same time as the new feminist wave in Latin America. “Feminism is based on the idea that the personal is political. As with abortion and abuse, there is the need to make family secrets public and in this case it is also a state secret. I think there is a very close connection there, ”he says.

Ties with Spain

By weaving links, the relatives of repressors have reached the other side of the Atlantic. After the meeting in Berlin, Kalinec will travel to Barcelona to present the book We disobedient stories along with Estay and Loreto Urraca, granddaughter of the Francoist policeman Pedro Urraca, the man who arrested Lluís Companys. Loreto says that she established contact with the members of Historias desobedientes through an Argentine who resides in Spain. “I discovered that I had brothers across the pond and it was very comforting to know that I am not alone,” she says. Loreto says that he did not find out about his grandfather’s story from his family but through an article in EL PAÍS and from there he began a search in which he found that his paternal grandfather “not only persecuted Republican exiles, but also Jews and French resisters.” The objective of the presentation, which will also take place in Valencia, is to find other disobedient relatives.

“I discovered the story of the Spanish exile, a story that had been hidden from us for years and the international aspect of this three-way collaboration between the Spanish, French and Nazi police had barely been studied. I decided that it had to be disclosed, because it is very unfair that the memory of all those who lost everything for being democrats and having to flee certain death at the hands of fascism has not been recovered, ”adds the author of Between hyenas: family portrait on war background.

Although he does not participate in the meeting in Berlin, Loreto supports this meeting of multiple voices united on the path of memory and tribute to the victims. Shalom points out that one of the relevant events of the meeting is sharing the gaze from very different places. “There is understanding of the two pains, that of the victims with murdered relatives, disappeared and that of the pain of saying “my father is a criminal, my grandfather is a murderer and he died without punishment or conviction. That supposes sadness, shame and pain, but it is a sense of dignity not to carry the weight of silence”, she concludes.

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