The Jewish Experience under the Military Dictators in Chile and Argentina during 1970s and 1980s

Gaddi Goren

Latin America and the United States

Professor Appelbaum

December 9, 2005


I would like to thank and acknowledge my parents, Rabbi Goren and Peppy Goren, as well as Nurith Yelenkivez and Juana Nuger who shared with me personal details about their lives under an oppressive military regime. Without their help and honesty I never would have been able to undergo such a project.

Gaddi Goren

Latin America and the United States

Professor Appelbaum

The Jewish Experience under the Military Dictators in Chile and Argentina during 1970s and 1980s


When understanding the political changes that took place in Chile and Argentina during the 1970s it is interesting to observe the role that the Jewish minority played in developing these important transformations in governments. What motivated me to engage in such a project are my Jewish Chilean background and the fact that my family lived in Chile during the years of the junta and witnessed the overthrow of the democratically elected Salvador Allende and the coming power of General Augosto Pinochet. After having grown up listening to tales about life under Pinochet, I decided to further explore the topic and realized that right next door in Argentina similar yet contrasting politics were simultaneously going on. I had always heard of the horrors many Jews experienced in Argentina during the military regime that lasted from 1976-83, however it was never completely clear if they were sought after because they were Jews or because of their alleged political involvement.

After analyzing several articles and reading several primary sources by Argentine Jews as well as interviewing Juana Nuger, whose son was kidnapped in 1978, I concluded that Jews were persecuted far worse than their Christian peers. Even though many of them were active members of Leftist parties, Jews were reported as having received a more agonizing treatment in the notorious clandestine cells. In Chile, the majority of the Jews and Pinochet had a relationship that was seen as showing reciprocal respect. There were Jews active in Pinochet’s army and even contributed to the bombing of La Moneda on September 11, 1973 when Allende’s government was overtaken. Jewish individuals in Chile were only targeted by the secret police if they were against the government or held Leftist beliefs, not for any religious or ethnic reasons. After Allende was elected president of Chile in 1970, 8,000 of the 30,000 Chilean Jews fled to Israel or Canada in fear of their property being confiscated by the government.[1] This is seen in the article “The Virtual Jewish History Tour: Chile” by Beth Weis who believes Jews are sometimes exiled under a Communist government because of their suspected treason. She believes that in the past, Jews have been labeled as enemies of the state by ruling communist governments. Therefore, it is not surprising that some Jews in Chile were fearful of the Allende government and many left almost immediately.[2] However, in 1973 after Pinochet took over many Jews felt it was safe to return.

It is important to note that even though many Jews prospered and supported Pinochet, there were people like Nurith Yelenkiviez (a family friend in Chile) who vehemently opposed the military coup. When comparing and contrasting the Jewish experience in Chile and Argentina during those years there are undoubtedly several similarities that need to be addressed. However, it is crucial to demonstrate that being Jewish in Chile was never a threat to ones safety; whereas in Argentina being Jewish did in many cases directly effect the way the military treated the suspect, which in most circumstances meant more brutal and inhuman torturing.

Nazism and anti-Semitism prior to 1970s:

In order to better comprehend the relationship between Jews and the right-wing government of Pinochet, it is important to have a clearer understanding of Chilean Nazism and anti-Semitism ideology that was established before the coup of September 11, 1973 and how that related to Pinochet’s government. In the southern region of Chile there had been a German community that has been known to have maintained its traditional German customs. Even though most people from that community do not have German surnames, their heritage is still important to them. These Germans helped influence the way Jews were to be perceived throughout Chile in later years and helped set the groundwork for future anti-Semitism that did from time to time occur.

In 1932 with the rise of Nazism, a Chilean-born named Jorge González von Marees with German ancestry created a Chilean Nazi party known as Vanguardia Popular Socialista (VPS).[3] Gonzalez von Marees was blatantly open with anti-Semitism and his disapproval of President Alessandri accepting of European Jewish refugees in the late 1930s. Although President Alessandri did set specific limitations as to where Jews could live and what professions were open to them.[4] On the 5th of September 1938 a historic even took place when Gonzalez von Marees along with fellow young Nazis staged a Putsch which lead to the storming the University of Chile and eventually an altercation between the Chilean police and Nazis. Fifty-five members of the VPS died as well as one policeman. Something that is very significant that resulted from that event is that even to this day, there is a commemoration to those fifty-five Nazi “martyrs” in the Santiago General Cemetery and a plaque across the street from La Moneda.[5]

To Pinochet, Nazi memorials were not seen as a major concern and ultimately did not alter his polices towards Jews. This was demonstrated by his appointment of ex-VPS member Onofre Jarpa to Minister of Interior in 1982 as well as his warm relations with General Jose Berdichewsky Scher who was a Jew and head of the Air Force.[6] Pinochet was more worried abut defeating the communist threat than he was with Nazism which he viewed as obsolete. He even stated that “Hitlerism has disappeared”, but “Stalinism had not.”[7] This shows that although anti-Semitism did exist in Chile and even within members of his cabinet, Pinochet was not convinced to ever suspect Jews of treason based on their religion, but only on their politics. This is an example of Pinochet’s policies that greatly differed the military regime of Chile from that of Argentina.

Prior to the military takeover in March 1976 Argentina already had a well known reputation of having leaders that were vehemently anti-Semitic. In the 1930s and 40s when Jews were fleeing Europe and seeking refuge in South America, many countries including Argentina denied Jews entrance. The head of the Immigration Department in Argentina during those years was Dr. Sanitago M. Perlta, who was notorious for his anti-Jewish sentiments. At the height of Jewish atrocities in 1943 Perlta wrote a book called La Accion del Pueblo Judio en Argentina which has been characterized as being “the most vicious anti-Semitic tract ever published in the Republic of Argentina.”[8] In his book he used classic Nazi doctrine about Jews and depicted them as if they were filthy members of a mystical brotherhood that was in pursuit of conquering the world (this idea dates back to the Protocols of Zion, Russian anti-Semitic propaganda) and describes “the Argentine people as the victims of the Jews.”[9] However, men like Perlta were not the only anti-Semites to reach high political positions in the years preceding the “Dirty War” of the 1970s.

In the 1960s Argentine Jews were again discriminated against under the military rule of Juan Carlos Ongán. He was known for his Nazi sympathies and his acceptance of the prevalent anti-Semitic ideologies among men that held positions of authority. He ordered his son-in-law, Enrique Horacio Green, and the head of police in Buenos Aires to call upon organized anti-Semitic groups to complete a “purification” of the moral climate throughout the city.[10] Also, in 1971 there was a popular pamphlet circulating amongst army officers called “Plan Andinia” which charged international Jewry and Zionist of plotting a takeover of southern Argentina.[11] This idea relates back to the fear that Perlta had about Jews conquering their beloved country and infiltrating it with their Jewish ideas.

In the subsequent years leading to military coup in 1976 there was a clandestine group called the Alianza Anticomunista Argentina (AAA) that was responsible for the murders of several Jews and instigating anti-Jewish outbursts throughout Argentina. This organization flourished under the rule of Isabel Perón during the years 1974-76 under the guidance of a long time friend and Minister of Welfare José López Rega.[12] Therefore, it is not surprising that due to Argentina’s anti-Semitic past, Jews would once again in 1976 find themselves in the middle of the struggles between the Left and the Right. In Chile, anti-Semitism did exist but was repudiated immediately by Pinochet. However, in Argentina the military leaders saw the Jewish minority and their alleged political involvement as a direct threat to their rule and viewed it more acceptable to seek and treat Jews differently than other detainees.

Jewish Experience in Chile:

When the junta in Chile successfully overthrew the communist government on September 11, 1973 there was a sense of relief among the majority of the Jewish communities. My father, Rabbi Uri Goren, who lived during the coup, felt that “the junta gave me back a feeling of security at the time and in many ways a feeling of being liberated. We had an army that was defending freedom, even if freedom happened at a price.”[13] Since he was a member of the upper middle class, the removal of Allende’s government affirmed that his family’s possessions and apartment would no longer be danger of being confiscated. As a Jew, Rabbi Goren was at ease with the new government. He was even thankful that the golpe had occurred because it would ameliorate his standard of living. [14] My mother, Peppy Goren, who also experienced the political changes that occurred, agrees with Rabbi Goren that Pinochet was beneficiary for Chile and the Jews.[15] Her family had moved to Argentina in 1972 due to the lack of available food and the threat that the communist party posed to those who were not affiliated with the Left. Peppy distinctly remembers one night when trucks of people came to her neighborhood seizing their homes. Eventually her family returned to Chile in December 1973 when her father believed it was safe to return under the new military government. She can clearly remember being overjoyed that she could once again be in Chile, living the way she had prior to 1970.[16] As happy as Peppy and Uri Goren may have been under Pinochet due to their social-economic status, there were Jews in Chile who did not fare so well under the Pinochet regime.

Being Jewish in Chile did not warrant the secret police to suspect that one was involved in actions against the government. However, not all Jews in Chile were from the middle class, nor did the lives of all Jews improve once the right-wing government took over. There were Jews who were active in the communist movement such as Volodia Teitelbaum (distinct relative of mine) who was leader of the Chilean Communist Party and Senator, and Oscar Weiss who was editor of the communist government newspaper. Both men, along with other Jews endured kidnapping and torturing by Pinochet due to their Leftist ideologies. When interviewing close family friend Nurith Yelenkiviez, I asked her if being Jewish impacted her experience under the military regime, she responded by stating that the regime “produced many negative changes in my life, but it was not because I was Jewish, but rather because I had distinct ideas.”[17] Throughout our conversation via email, she stressed the point that the persecutions carried out by the secret police were for one’s political ideas, and were not based on someone’s religious beliefs.

Another example of a Jewish Chilean whose life was worsened by military regime is seen by Marjorie Agosín’s accounts in Always from Somewhere Else.[18] In this book she goes into detail about her life growing up in Chile and America and the hardships her family had to endure. In a section of her book, Agosín describes the distress she experienced under Pinochet. She writes that “[T]he years of the military dictatorship robbed us speech and the possibility of wonder.”[19] It is interesting to observe the contrasting experiences and ideas shared by my parents and Agosín. She goes on to state that the dictatorship forced her to flee the country and to grow up far away from her family and friends. In contrast with my family who felt safe in Chile only when Pinochet had gained power, people like Agosín and Yelenkiviez revealed a feeling of despair once the military regime had taken over and many of their rights were revoked and limited.

It is important to realize that although Pinochet may have viewed the Jews in a favorable light, it is not accurate to state that he was advantageous for all the Jews. As seen with people like Nurith Yelenkiviez and Marjorie Agosín not all Jews were thriving under Pinochet. Many opposed his rule, especially those with Leftist ideas. It was only those Jews who were part of the middle class who were pro-Pinochet. Nonetheless it is crucial to recognize that most Jews in Chile were an integral part of the middle-upper class. By interviewing and reading about Chilean Jews who prospered and suffered one is able to understand that Pinochet and his government were by no means anti-Semitic, but rather opposed anyone who threatened his rule.

When discussing what ordinary life was like for the majority of Jews during the reign of Pinochet I found that very little seemed to have changed in their daily Jewish lives. Peppy Goren poke of returning to the Jewish country club, going to synagogue, and celebrating all Jewish holidays as if there had never been a coup.[20] Rabbi Goren, who was very active in the Jewish community, told me that “as a Jew my life truly changed nothing since the junta and Pinochet.”[21] Even Nurith Yelenkiviez asserts that as far as being Jewish, her life was not altered either. When comparing the social differences and fears that existed between the Jews of Chile and Argentina one must realize that in Argentina Jews had a different experience strictly due to their religion and alleged political alliances. In Chile, Jews were not suspected of communist ties simply because they were Jewish. This is evident by the efforts made by Pinochet to not only show his support for the Jewish communities, but placing several Jews with high governmental positions.

An interesting and important aspect Pinochet’s relationship with the Jews is that during the Jewish High Holidays he would make sure to pay a visit to all the synagogues in Santiago.[22] Peppy Goren remembers clearly that during the Yom Kippur services the leaders of the junta would come for about twenty to thirty minutes and stay for a special service prepared just for them. Jewish communities arranged for a special service for the dictator so that any fears Jews may have had about Pinochet’s intentions would be eradicated. It was also a public demonstration supporting for his government. When speaking to her more extensively about the synagogue visits she explained that “it was really a very nice gesture from them, and as well as to assure us that have nothing against Jews.”[23] Rabbi Goren reaffirms the idea that Pinochet visited the synagogues as a sign of his respect for Judaism and the Jewish people.[24] His reverence to the Jewish communities did not only stop at the synagogues.

Within the Chilean government and army Jews took on numerous prestigious occupations. Luis Fleishman writes about Sergio Melnick who was an Orthodox Jew and an important consultant of Pinochet on economic issues.[25] Also, along with leading American Jewish economist Miltan Friedman, their ideas and innovations led to a prospering Chilean economy, even so to this day. Also, the Minster of Justice and close friend of Pinochet was a Jew named Miguel Schweitzer Speisky. His son, Miguel Schweitzer Walters, also achieved prominence within the government when he was appointed ambassador to England as well as Minister of External Affairs.[26] Then there was General José Berdichewsky Scher, who also happened to speak fluent Yiddish, was a key participant in the bombing of the capital that helped pave the way for Pinochet’s government. In the mid 1970s Genergal Berdichewsky Scher was given the diplomatic responsibility of ambassador to Israel. This was a position that Pinochet viewed as very important. Not only did the Israel and Chile have good relations due to their military arrangements and exchange of weapons, but both countries were very reliant on the American government for finical support, addition aid, and steady trading partners. .

It is very impressive the impact and influence Jews had in the Pinochet regime when compared to Argentina where Jews were not given the opportunity to actively participate in government nor live without fear. Pinochet did not discriminate against hiring Jews or for that matter anyone based on religious background. However, alternatively in Argentina, Jews were not found in any governmental posts during the military rule of 1976-83. According to Jacobo Timmerman, Argentine military governments did not and would not place any Jew in positions of authority, nor would Jews be given the right to serve in state radios or programs.[27]

Jewish Experience in Argentina:

After engaging in extensive research, reading testimonies of Jewish prisoners, and interviewing Juana Nuger whose son Heron is classified as a desaparecido, I was able to progressively gain a more accurate understanding of how the Jews were perceived by the military. A reoccurring theme among the stories of the survivors was the “special” treatment that they received while under investigation. Several torturing methods used in Argentina greatly resemble those of the Nazis. It is not surprising, given Argentina’s record on anti-Semitism that a ruling body of government would act against the Jews if given the opportunity to do so. Jacobo Timmerman, is the author of an autographical book called Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number, in which he retells him experiences while being sentenced to the infamous clandestine cells.[28] He goes into detail about certain events in which the investigators acted in a more ruthless manner when his Jewish identity was revealed. He also discusses how it was common for the military to use Nazi symbols as a way to intimate Jewish prisoners. Similar experiences are also seen in the “Comisión Israeli por los Desaparecidos Judios en Argentina” which is an Israeli sponsored Commission that successfully gathered detailed interviews of family members of los desaparecidos who lived through those scary years in Argentina. It also has several editorials by experts about the military’s involvement in discriminating against Jews. Fortunately, there is a copious amount of primary sources and personal accounts that will help present a vivid portrayal of the coercion the Jews in Argentina had to undergo during those years.

When reading Timmerman’s description of the clandestine cells he specifically notes that although it was unpleasant for non-Jews and Jews alike, he is graphic in portraying the maltreatment of Jewish prisoners and their relationship with the investigators. Timmerman was held in three different secret locations and two legal prisons throughout 1976-83. The Argentine government insists that he was not arrested for being a journalist or a Jew, yet they never gave a specific reason for his detainment. It is ironic because Timmerman did firmly believe in the need to combat terrorism within the boundaries of Argentine law. However, he could never properly explain that to the military. He also thinks a major reason for his kidnapping was because he was a passionate Jew and Zionist; something that made the military became wary of his activities.

Timmerman elucidates that there are two explanations as to the treatment of the Jews, one being from the Argentine government and the other from the Jewish community. The current and past military government of course denies having discriminated against Jews and asserts that episodes of torture or violations of Jewish girls were isolated affairs.[29] The Jewish community on the other hand believes that the “isolated episodes” far surpassed the government’s claims and that Jews, like Timmerman, were arrested without a formal accusation.[30] He also writes that during the years 1974-78 he remembers hearing that Jewish girls in these undisclosed cells experienced twice as much sexual abuse and rape as non-Jewish women.[31]

Jacobo Timmerman also addresses certain tribulations that were allocated only for the Jews. For instance, he remembers being interrogated in a room that hung pictures of Hitler and swastikas. He also recalls the special tortures invented for Jews, the reduced food for Jewish prisoners, poor treatment towards Rabbis who would visit, and the constant insults he received when officers would shout at him in a furious yet self-gratifying way –“Jew!”[32] When describing the officers who dealt with the Jews he writes, “[T]orturing a Jewish prisoner always yielded a moment of entertainment to the Argentine security forces, a certain pleasurable, leisurely moment.”[33] He also recounts the story of a seventy year old man at the prison of Coti Martínez who was beaten senselessly by policemen because he was suspected of being Jewish. When they discovered that he was wearing a cross they accused him of trying to hide his Jewish identity. When Timmerman later meet him in the cell they shared, he pondered on the idea that this man, although a practicing Catholic, was beaten on the belief that he is a Jew.[34] As descriptive as Timmerman’s work is in portraying the way Jews were targeted and humiliated by the military, his story is neither unique nor original given that other Jews found themselves in similar situations.

The Israeli government arranged a special commission whose task was to seek and document the stories from relatives of Jews in Argentina whose loved ones were taken by the Argentine government and were never to return. The “Comisíón Israeli por los Desaparecidos Judios en Argentina,” was able to put together a collection of interviews of Argentine Jews whose family members were victims of the right-wing military regime. This commission’s goal is to secure the authenticity of the stories and unsure they do not go unforgotten. This commission also worked on accumulating information about the Argentine government’s actions on kidnapping and torturing Jews. In an article put together called “El terrorismo de estado en 1976-1983 sobre el transfondo de la política argentina en el siglo XX” by Luis Roniger and Mario Sznajder, there is a detailed analyses of the situation that many Jews found themselves in since they were perceived by those in power as the unwanted and menacing minority. Another comprehensive article that helps in grasping how Jews were subjugated to extreme torment can be seen in “Informe sobre la situacion de los detenidos-desaparecidos judios durante el geocidio perpetrado en Argentina” by Maris Braylan, Daniel Feierstein, Miguel Galante, and Adrian Jmelnizky. After reading numerous first hand accounts, as well as these articles, one can understand the mistreatment that many Jews suffered as a result of their religious background. This will undoubtedly verify that the Argentine military regime discriminated and targeted Jews, even those who were not associated with Leftist activities.

Among the extensive list of interviews provided by the “Comisíón Israeli por los Desaparecidos Judios en Argentina”, is the testimony by Nora Strejilevich who was kidnapped at the age of twenty-six on July 16th, 1977 and released four days later.[35] As fortunate as she is to be alive, her relatives Gerardo Strejilevich, Graciela Barroca, and Hugo Strejilevich did not bear the same fate and were eventually categorized asdesaparecidos. [36] During her interview, she states that the reason for her interrogation was that she was Jewish and her anticipated one year trip to Israel to work. She was intensely questioned about her planned voyage to leave the country and go to Israel. Her first thought when the military appeared in her house was that she would probably end up dead or forever missing. Strejilevich had heard rumors of people disappearing and never returning.

When she was taken away on that dreadful day, she had a book in her bag called “Oh Jerusalem,” which only provoked the officers to further ask her about the Jewish agency and their Zionist activities. The officers assumed that Zionist organizations were somehow involved in Leftist plots against the government. Upon entering the detainment center, she recalls being shouted at “judia de mierda, vamos a hacer jamón con vos y aunque no haya hecho nada las vas a pagar por judia.”[37] Strejilevich also remembers overhearing the guards discuss about two different torturing cells, one which was specially designed for the Jews in order to forcefully collect information. When she was finally let free, the officers ordered her to believe that she had not visited anywhere, heard anything, and that nothing happened, otherwise her family would undergo severe consequences. She had done nothing illegal, yet was treated like a criminal.

This is not the only case which accounts for Jews receiving harsher treatments while under military custody. Marcelo Weisz Gustavo was kidnapped on February 16, 1978 at the age of twenty-six; he was never again to be seen by anyone. He was taken to the prison called “El Turco Julian” which was notorious for its open anti-Semitism and its extreme torturing of Jewish inmates.[38] When asked about the punishments and torturing of Jews at this particular camp, his mother, Ruth Paradise de Weisz answered, “cualquier tipo de tortura es terrible pero eso tipo de tortura…imaginense.”[39] There is also the story of Fernando Ruben Brodsky who was twenty three years old when he was taken away on August 14, 1979. His family is convinced that he was kidnapped because he was Jewish. Sara Silberg de Brodsky, Fernando’s mother, states that her son was given more torture than normal because he was a Jew. Once while talking to Fernando on the phone, she recalls him describing that while under interrogation the soldiers would ask him about certain aspects of Judaism that he was not able to answer, and as a punishment for his ignorance he was further castigated.

An Argentine Jewish woman by the name of Juana Nuger, whom I personally interviewed, told me the story of her disabled son Heron who was taken away in front of her. He was kidnapped due to his Leftist activities that he and his brother were involved in.[40] She believes that although being Jewish may have factored in on his abduction, it was not the sole reason. According to Juana, many Jews, such as her son, were participants in Leftist politics; therefore, as a result many innocent Jews were also seen as being a threat and were deemed automatically an enemy of Argentina. This led to fear amongst Jewish communities because anyone could be marked as a potential enemy. While singling out an already disliked minority group, the Argentine government attempted to categorize all Jews under one branch of politics. Juana believes that since the Red Scare was sweeping the world, and Jews were often been unfairly connected to communism, it was a scary time being a Jew in any country that viewed Leftist thinking as threatening, as was the case in Argentina.[41]

These testimonies by Jewish sources give credibility to the accusation that the military government throughout the years 1976-83 openly discriminated against Jews. A few explanations given as to why Jews in Argentina were heavily discriminated by the military is because of the abundance of anti-Semitic beliefs in Argentinean society, a predisposition that Jews poised a threat to their power, and simply because the Jews were not seen as being genuinely Argentinean. Therefore, targeting Jews whether involved with Leftist politics or not could be favorable in order to dismiss any disruption to their dictatorship. According to Sergio Starlik, the military investigators were watchful about the activities of Jewish organizations, sports clubs, synagogues, and the overall Jewish community in Argentina.[42] One must wonder why Chile, a country also ruled by a right-wing military leader who loathed communists, did not see Jews as a threat, while in Argentina, where Jews consisted of only one percent of the country’s population, ten percent of the people who disappeared were Jews. [43]

In the Israeli government supported-article “El Terrorismo de estado en 1976-1983 sobre el transfondo de la politica argentina en el silo XX,” by Luis Roniger and Mario Sznajder, there is additional evidence that Jews were subjugated to more excruciating treatment once taken captive by military forces. The article describes how Jews were sentenced to “special treatment”, something that other victims who were mentioned earlier also verify. The article also states that during these “special” torturing sessions, the Argentine officers would sing Nazi songs in order to aggravate the Jewish prisoners. Also, something that I found most striking in this account is that Jewish prisoners were viewed by their Argentine capturers as “la encarnación del mal.” [44] The torture was a dehumanizing experience for the Jews under arrest. This is interesting because it shows that the officers would purposely treat Jews differently since they were believed to have innate evil characteristics, something that an “authentic” Christian Argentinean would not possess. This was there method for attempting to dehumanize Jewish prisoners.

Maris Braylan, Daniel Feierstein, Miguel Galante, and Adrian Jmelnizky in 1998 commenced a project whose goal was document the situation of Jewish detainees, including those who disappeared. This article “Informe sobre la situacion de los detenidos-desaparecidos judios durante el geocidio perpetrado en Argentina,” contains further information about the explicit “special” treatment Jews received. Apart from the never-ending humiliation and torture, people like Eduardo Saiegh who was taken away on October 1980, remembers being placed an isolated room, and having his legs chained and being told that “[U]sted ya no se llama más como se llama, ojo, nunca pronuncie su nombre. Se llama Z-65.”[45] This was something that very much paralleled Nazi techniques in concentration camps. José Siderman, who was kidnapped on March 1976, is another victim who is mentioned in this article and provids further credence to the horrors that he and other Jews experienced while under detainment. He states that “durante las torturas , era llamado contantemente ‘judio bstardo’ y ‘judio de meirda’ y que me iban a matar porque era judio.”[46] Years later in 1996, Siderman was triumphant in wining a legal battle against Argentina in which the country was forced to pay him six million U.S. dollars due to the suffering he survived.

Other examples in this in-depth project which portray Jews being mistreated are the first hand account of Pedro Miguel Vanrall, and the confession of a former Argentine officer. When Pedro Miguel Vanrell reflects upon his horrid memories about being detained, he goes into detail about a particular cruel practice. His guards used to paint swastikas on their bodies using aerosol, then send them to the showers at which time the guards would have the opportunity to hit and harass them with ease.[47] However, the most graphic description presented is that by Daniel Edurado Fernandez, a soldier who used to partake in torturing of Jews. He affirms the notion that Jews went through extreme physical abuse by stating, “contra los judios se aplicaba todo tipo de torturas pero en especial una sumamente sádica y cruel: el ‘rectoscopio’, que consistia en un tubo que se introducia en el ano de las victimas, o en la vágina de las mujeres, y dentro del tubo se largaba una rata.”[48] After the analyzing the torturing methods that Fernandez describes, and reading numerous testimonies, there is no doubt that Jews were targeted because of their suspected Leftist involvement, (which in some cases was true, but not always) and blatant anti-Semitism that thrived throughout the Argentina military, government, and society.


It is very surprising that the two military governments of Chile and Argentina, which were both supported by the U.S. government, stringently anti-communist, and merciless in hunting down their opponents, would treat the Jewish people and communities in such contrasting manners. One would think that such similar governments in structure would have comparable opinions about the Jews, yet they did not. Pinochet, who did not tolerate Leftists, had no problem in placing secular or religious Jews in high governmental jobs, despite Jewish reputation for having Liberal ideologies. It would have been rather easy for Pinochet to accuse all Chilean Jews of sympathizing with communism since the leader of the Chilean Communist Party was in fact a Jew. Nonetheless he did not, since the Jews did not threaten to his power. He was even able to gain support among most Jews since the majority belonged to the privileged middle-upper class, who felt their lives at risk under the Allende government. However, even those Jews who were not in favor of Pinochet did not feel their lives worsen because they were Jews, but rather for political beliefs.

The Jews of Argentina, on the other hand were not granted the freedom of being accepted as Argentinean citizens because of their religious background. All Jews were suspected of working with Leftists to try and take over the government. While under Argentine investigation, Jews were given a “special” treatment, which included being humiliated by forcing them to pay homage to portraits of Hitler. Also, according to survivors like Jacobo Timmerman, Jewish women received far worse sexual abuse than did Christian women. The Jewish communities as an entity were forced to stand on guard and be cautious of the military.

The military in Argentina forced the Jews to live in daily fear due to their religion. Their alleged political beliefs were not the only causes for arrests, but their ethnicity also instigated the military to harass and bully the Jews to such extremity, as the testimonies make clear. They were an insignificant portion of the population, yet seemed to be over represented among those who were questioned and given brutal treatment. Anti-Semitism had long been a part of Argentine governments, and the ruling powers of 1976-83 did not and see any reason to alter past policies on the Jews. In Chile, Pinochet made a strong push to renounce any anti-Semitism that may have existed within government ministers. He made an effort to demonstrate his support for Jewish communities by visiting them on the High Holidays. He even demonstrated his good will to the Jewish people by being very supportive and admiring of the State of Israel. One can observe that although the political regimes of Chile and Argentina may have been similar in structure, their two very contrasting manners in regarding the Jewish minority is something that is bewildering and astonishing.


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Kornbluh, Peter. (The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability.) London and New York: The New Press, 2003.

Mount, Graeme S. (Chile and the Nazis from Hitler to Pinochet.) Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2002.

Nuger, Juana. Personal interview on the telephone. October 22, 2005.

Paradise de Weisz, Ruth. Personal interview via electronic. September 12, 2001.

Patrnoy, Alicia. (The Little School: Tale of Disappearance and Survival.) San Fransico, Ca.: Cleis Press, 1998.

Rock, Ana Veronica. “The U.S.A. investigates accounts in the deprived back of the Citigroup of three ex-civil ministers of Pinochet.” La Nacion(Chile) 27 of May, 2005. Date seen is November 9, 2005.http://www.lanacion.cl/

Sebrelli, Jose Juan. La Cuestion Judia en La Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Tiempo Contemporaneo, 1973.

Strejilevich, Nora. Personal interview via electronic. September 10, 2001.

Timmerman, Jacob. (Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number.) New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.

Unknown author. “Why Argentina? Police Involvement in Argentinean Anti-Semitism.” Tel Aviv University (1997/8).

Varnagy, Tomas. “History and Memory: Short Stories of Argentine exercises of obliation.” Date and editorial unknown. http://lett.ubbcluj.ro/~echinox/caiete1/10.html

de Waisberg, Reina Esses. Personal interview via electronic. September 9, 2001.

Weiss, Beth. “The Virtual Jewish History Tour Chile.” American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (2005).

Yelenkiviez, Nurith. Personal interview via email. October 20, 2005.

[1]Luis Fleischman. “Pinochet-good for the Jews, tragedy for human rights.” New Jersey Jewish News (1998): www.jewishworld.com/0798/pinochet1.asp. September 16, 2005.

[2] Beth Weiss. “The Virtual Jewish History Tour Chile.” American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (2005). Place unknown.

[3] Graeme S. Mount. Chile and the Nazis from Hitler to Pinochet. (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2002),16

[4] Graeme S. Mount. Chile and the Nazis from Hitler to Pinochet, 16

[5] Graeme S. Mount Chile and the Nazis from Hitler to Pinochet, 17

[6] Beth Weiss. “The Virtual Jewish History Tour Chile.”

[7] Graeme S. Mount Chile and the Nazis from Hitler to Pinochet, 158

[8] Haim Avni Argentina and the Jews.( Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama, 1991), 179

[9] Haim Avni. Argentina and the Jews, 179

[10] Unknown author. “Why Argentina? Police Involvement in Argentinean Anti-Semitism.” Tel Aviv University (1997/8)

[11] Unknown author. “Why Argentina? Police Involvement in Argentinean Anti-Semitism.”

[12] Haim Avni. Argentina and the Jews, 207

[13] Goren, Rabbi Uri. Personal interview in person. October 11, 2005

[14] Goren, Rabbi Uri. Personal interview in person. October 11, 2005

[15] Goren, Peppy. Personal interview in person. October 11, 2005

[16] Goren, Peppy. Personal interview in person. October 11, 2005

[17] Yelenkiviez, Nurith. Personal interview through email. October 20, 2005.

[18] Marjorie Agosín. Always from Somewhere Else: A Memoir of my Chilean Jewish Father (New York: The Feminist Press, 1998.)

[19] Marjorie Agosín. Always from Somewhere Else: A Memoir of my Chilean Jewish Father, 212

[20] Goren, Peppy. Personal interview in person. October 11, 2005

[21] Goren, Rabbi Uri. Personal interview in person . October 11, 2005

[22] Luis Fleischman. “Pinochet-good for the Jews, tragedy for human rights.”

[23] Goren, Peppy. Personal interview in person. October 11, 2005

[24] Goren, Rabbi Uri. Personal interview in person. October 11, 2005

[25] Luis Fleischman. “Pinochet-good for the Jews, tragedy for human rights.”

[26] Simón Caro. “Fue antisemita la dicadura de Pinochet.” Unknown Source. (January 22, 1999): http://puntofinal.cl/990122/intertxt.html October 12,2005

[27] Timmerman, Jacobo. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number.( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981).

[28] Timmerman, Jacobo. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number.168

[29] Timmerman, Jacobo. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number. 71

[30] Timmerman, Jacob. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number. 71

[31] Timmerman, Jacob. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number. 70

[32] Timmerman, Jacob. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number. 131-132

[33] Timmerman, Jacob. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number.66

[34] Timmerman, Jacob. Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a number. 143

[35] Israel: Comison Israeli por los Desaparecidos Judios en Argentina. Minister of Exterior Relations and Minister of Justice. Jerusalem: date is unknown.

[36] Strejilevich, Nora. Personal interview via electronic. September 10, 2001.

[37] Strejilevich, Nora. Personal interview via electronic. September 10, 2001. This quote means, “piece of shit Jews, we are going to make ham with you and even though you have done nothing wrong, you will pay for it for being Jewish.”

[38] Paradise de Weisz, Ruth. Personal Interview via electronic. September 12, 2001.

[39] Paradise de Weisz, Ruth. Personal Interview via electronic. September 12, 2001. Translation is “any type of torture is terrible, but that type of torture (to the Jews)…one can only imagine.”

[40] Nuger, Juana. Personal Interview via telephone. October 22, 2005.

[41] Nuger, Juana. Personal Interview via telephone. October 22, 2005.

[42] Israel. Comison Israeli por los Desaparecidos Judios en Argentina. “Informe sobre la situacion de los detenidos-desaparecidos judios durante el geocidio perpetrado en Argentina.”. Jerusalem: 1998.

[43] Israel. Comison Israeli por los Desaparecidos Judios en Argentina. “El Terrorismo de estado en 1976-1983 sobre el transfondo de la politica argentina en el silo XX, by Luis Roniger and Mario Sznajder” Jerusalem: Date is unknown.

[44] Israel. El Terrorismo de estado en 1976-1983 sobre el transfondo de la politica argentina en el silo XX, by Luis Roniger and Mario Sznajder.

[45] Israel. Informe sobre la situacion de los detenidos-desaparecidos judios durante el geocidio perpetrado en Argentina. In translation this means “now sir you are no longer called what you used to be called, listen, never pronounce your name. Now you will be called Z-65.”

[46] Israel. Informe sobre la situacion de los detenidos-desaparecidos judios durante el geocidio perpetrado en Argentina. In translation this means “during the torturing, I was called constantly ‘Jewish bastard’ and “piece of shit Jew’, and they would tell me I was going to die because I am Jewish.”

[47] Israel. Informe sobre la situacion de los detenidos-desaparecidos judios durante el geocidio perpetrado en Argentina.

[48] Israel. Informe sobre la situacion de los detenidos-desaparecidos judios durante el geocidio perpetrado en Argentina. The translation is “ towards the Jews we applied all types of tortures but especially sadistic and cruel: the recto scope, which would consist of a tube would be placed inside the anus of the victims, or in the vagina of the women, and inside the tube a rat would be put inside.”


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