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]