Police in Argentina Discover Cache of Nazi Artifacts Hidden Inside a Secret Room

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A gleaming bust of Adolf Hitler. Children’s toys and musical instruments emblazoned with swastikas. A tool once used to measure individuals’ heads as a way of gauging so-called "racial purity." Police in Argentina discovered these disturbing Nazi relics, and dozens more like them, hidden inside a suburban home’s secret room earlier this week. Together, they comprise the largest group of original World War II–era artifacts ever discovered in Argentina, according to The Washington Post.

As part of an investigation of suspicious artworks found at a Buenos Aires gallery, officials visited an unidentified collector's home in the nearby residential neighborhood of Beccar. They discovered a wall hidden behind a bookcase, and then a door, which led to a chamber containing both Hitler-era memorabilia and mummified animals and items from Egypt, Japan, and China, according to NPR.

Together, the room contained 75 Nazi artifacts, all of which likely belonged to high-ranking German officials during World War II. At least one of the items—a magnifying glass—may have personally belonged to Hitler himself, judging by accompanying photo negatives that show Hitler holding the identical lens.

Perhaps most chillingly, the cache contained "Nazi objects used by kids, but with the party's propaganda," federal police commissioner Marcelo El Haibe told The New York Times. "There were jigsaw puzzles and little wood pieces to build houses, but they always featured party-related images and symbols."

Nobody knows quite yet how the illegal artifacts made their way to Argentina, but they're still of "of great interest due to their historical value," Argentina's Ministry of Security noted in a Facebook statement.

Once authorities have wrapped up their investigation, the Nazi relics will be given to the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires, according to Newsweek. As for the collector, he or she is currently under investigation by a federal judge.

Following World War II, thousands of Nazi war criminals and collaborators—including prominent party figures like SS leader Adolf Eichmann and officer/physician Nazi doctor Josef Mengele—escaped punishment by fleeing to South American countries like Argentina. To this day, vestiges of their presence are periodically uncovered, ranging from secret jungle hideouts to the newly discovered cache of Nazi relics.

They serve as a continuous reminder of a dark chapter in both Argentinian and world history.

"When I see these objects, I see the infamy of that terrible era of humanity that has caused so much damage, so much sadness," Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the Delegation of Israelite-Argentines Associations, told The New York Times.

[h/t The Washington Post]

On This Day in 1953, Jonas Salk Announced His Polio Vaccine

Getty Images
Getty Images

On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk went on CBS radio to announce his vaccine for poliomyelitis. He had worked for three years to develop the polio vaccine, attacking a disease that killed 3000 Americans in 1952 alone, along with 58,000 newly reported cases. Polio was a scourge, and had been infecting humans around the world for millennia. Salk's vaccine was the first practical way to fight it, and it worked—polio was officially eliminated in the U.S. in 1979.

Salk's method was to kill various strains of the polio virus, then inject them into a patient. The patient's own immune system would then develop antibodies to the dead virus, preventing future infection by live viruses. Salk's first test subjects were patients who had already had polio ... and then himself and his family. His research was funded by grants, which prompted him to give away the vaccine after it was fully tested.

Clinical trials of Salk's vaccine began in 1954. By 1955 the trials proved it was both safe and effective, and mass vaccinations of American schoolchildren followed. The result was an immediate reduction in new cases. Salk became a celebrity because his vaccine saved so many lives so quickly.

Salk's vaccine required a shot. In 1962, Dr. Albert Sabin unveiled an oral vaccine using attenuated (weakened but not killed) polio virus. Sabin's vaccine was hard to test in America in the late 1950s, because so many people had been inoculated using the Salk vaccine. (Sabin did much of his testing in the Soviet Union.) Oral polio vaccine, whether with attenuated or dead virus, is still the preferred method of vaccination today. Polio isn't entirely eradicated around the world, though we're very close.

Here's a vintage newsreel from the mid 1950s telling the story:

For more information on Dr. Jonas Salk and his work, click here.

Drunken Thieves Tried Stealing Stones From Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame.
Notre-Dame.
Athanasio Gioumpasis, Getty Images

With Paris, France, joining a long list of locales shutting down due to coronavirus, two thieves decided the time was right to attempt a clumsy heist—stealing stones from the Notre-Dame cathedral.

The crime occurred last Tuesday, March 17, and appeared from the start to be ill-conceived. The two intruders entered the cathedral and were immediately spotted by guards, who phoned police. When authorities found them, the trespassers were apparently drunk and attempting to hide under a tarpaulin with a collection of stones they had taken from the premises. Both men were arrested.

It’s believed the offenders intended to sell the material for a profit. Stones from the property sometimes come up for sale on the black market, though most are fake.

The crime comes as Paris is not only dealing with the coronavirus pandemic but a massive effort to restore Notre-Dame after the cathedral was ravaged by a fire in 2019. That work has come to a halt in the wake of the health crisis, though would-be looters should take note that guards still patrol the property.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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