Argentina moves to redress Nazi-era wrongs

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When Diana Wang won the right to change her religious affiliation from Catholic to Jewish on her 1947 entry papers to Argentina, it represented another step forward by the current government to right past wrongs.

And it was an emotionally charged moment for Wang, president of Generation of the Shoah, a group in Argentina. “It has been nice to celebrate the New Year as my real self,” she said.

The government announced it would make the revision for Wang; that would set a precedent for others who say they too had to lie about their religion to gain entry to Argentina. The government also will waive the $75 cost of such a change.

Since President Nestor Kirchner took office just over two years ago, his administration has revised a half-century of Argentine policies turning a blind eye to the entry of Nazi war criminals following World War II, when the country had barred entry to Jews trying to escape the Holocaust. Some of the government’s major actions include:

• Opening long-closed Immigration Service records to promote the search for Nazi war criminals. The government of Carlos Menem had promised such a step in the 1990s, but strict control and bureaucratic snags over the dissemination of files and documents made the promise a farce.

• Ordering the removal of a plaque in the Foreign Ministry honoring Argentine diplomats who supposedly saved Jewish lives during the war. Historians argued that some the diplomats had consistently refused to give Jews visas, essentially dooming them to death.

• Finding and annulling a 1938 Foreign Ministry order, sent to diplomats around the world, to bar entry to Jews.

• Disbanding CEANA, the Foreign Ministry commission set up during the Menem years to clear up the skeletons of the country’s Nazi past. The commission seemed to hide more than it revealed, and was riven by internal strife. The Kirchner government says it’s looking at revamping the commission so that it can do a major historical documentation.

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