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Rabbi Henry I. Sobel, Looted Nazi Gold: The Brazilian Connection

Rabbi Henry I. Sobel, Looted Nazi Gold: The Brazilian Connection

In the closing years of the war thousands of Nazis, protected by pro-Axis governments, escaped to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Because Getulio Vargas, Brazilian President during World War II, was a fascist sympathiser, his country represented a safe refuge for fleeing Nazis.

Sobel explains how the Brazilian Commission for identifying Holocaust-era Nazi assets in Brazil was set up on his own initiative. Once the President of Brazil, Dr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, had agreed to his suggestion, with the help of the Brazilian Minister of Justice and the President, a Commission of seven members was established to search for Nazi assets taken to Brazil before and during the war.

The Commission was funded by the government and met once a month in Brasília. The Minister of Justice and the National Secretary for Human Rights also attended these meetings ,in addition to three lawyers, a historian, Sobel himself, the Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Finance, and an official at the Foreign Ministry.

The Chief of Staff was to provide information about active and dormant accounts at the Bank of Brazil, formerly the Central Bank of the Government, and the Foreign Ministry official was to provide the Commission with a list of all the Nazis who entered Brazil in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Ministry of Justice and the University of Sao Paulo (USP) were due to sign an agreement to establish a Documentation Center of Nazi Wartime Activities in Brazil in March 1998 at the campus of the São Paulo University.

The Commission had reason to believe that there were about fifteen dormant Nazi accounts in the Bank of Brasil. Sobel thought that former Nazi Party member Albert Blume in Brasil since 1938, whose bank vault legacy was opened after his death in the 1980s totalling some $4.5 million (comprising gold bars, jewellery, gold watches, rings, American dollars, Argentine pesos, Brazilian cruzeiros, official passports of the Third Reich, and other Nazi documents, thirty dental gold crowns and a set of gold dental bridges) had been used by the Nazis as the keeper of Nazi assets in Latin America. His diary, also in the bank vault and which Sobel was in the process of translating into Portuguese at the time the article was written, included many references to Kamaradenwerk, the Nazi network active after the war in Brazil.

Rabbi Henry I. Sobel, 'Looted Nazi Gold: The Brazilian Connection', in Cardozo Law Review, November 1998, pp. 507-512