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Hidden trove of suspected Nazi artifacts found in Argentina

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By DEBORA REY
Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -Argentine authorities believe they have found the biggest collection of Nazi artifacts in the country's history including a bust relief of Adolf Hitler and even a macabre medical device used to measure head size.

The find was made in recent days when a police raid revealed the stash in hidden room in a house near Argentina's capital. Some 75 objects were found in a collector's home in Beccar, a suburb north of Buenos Aires, and authorities say they suspect they are originals that belonged to high-ranking Nazis in Germany during World War II.

Among the disturbing items were toys that Bullrich said would have been used to indoctrinate children, a large statue of the Nazi Eagle above a swastika, a Nazi hourglass and a box of harmonicas. Police say one of the most-compelling pieces of evidence of the historical importance of the find is a photo negative of Hitler holding a magnifying glass similar to those found in the boxes.

"It is the original magnifying glass that Hitler was using", said Nestor Roncaglia, head of Argentina's Federal Police. "We have turned to historians and they told us it is the original magnifying glass. We are reaching out to international experts to deepen" our investigation.

The photograph was not released to the public, but was shown to The Associated Press on the condition that it not be published.

The investigation that culminated in the discovery of the collection began when authorities found artworks of illicit origin in a gallery in north Buenos Aires. Agents with the international police force Interpol began following the collector and with a judicial order raided the house on June 8.

A large bookshelf caught their attention and behind it agents found a hidden passageway to a room filled with Nazi imagery. Authorities did not identify the collector who remains free but under investigation by a federal judge.

Police are trying to determine how the artefacts entered Argentina. The main hypothesis among investigators and member of Argentina's Jewish community is that they were brought to Argentina by a high-ranking Nazi or Nazis after World War II, when the South American country became a refuge for fleeing war criminals, including some of the best known.

As leading members of Hitler's Third Reich were put on trial for war crimes, Josef Mengele fled to Argentina and lived in Buenos Aires for a decade. He moved to Paraguay after Israeli Mossad agents captured Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann, who was also living in Buenos Aires. Mengele later died in Brazil in 1979 while swimming in a beach in the town of Bertioga.

While police in Argentina did not name any high-ranking Nazis to whom the objects might have originally belonged, Bullrich noted there were medical devices.

Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the DAIA, a political umbrella for Argentina's Jewish institutes, called the find "unheard of" in Argentina.

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