An Argentine archaeologist who discovered what he thinks was a hideout built for German Nazis to flee to after World War II said Monday more dark secrets may be buried there.
Daniel Schavelzon grabbed headlines and revived uncomfortable memories for Argentina, a notorious refuge for Nazi war criminals, when he went public at the weekend with his discovery of mysterious ruins deep in the jungle that he suspects were planned as a Nazi hideout.
Excavating at the three stone buildings, his team found a swastika etched in the ruins, German coins stamped with the Nazi symbol and a fragment of porcelain plate bearing the inscription "Made in Germany."
But research at the site has only just begun, said Schavelzon, head of the urban archaeology center at the University of Buenos Aires.
"We brought out lots of material to study and there's more to excavate," he told AFP.
"Analyzing the material could take many months. It's even possible there are other buildings we still haven't found. It's a complicated area to work in, with lots of vegetation, impenetrable."
He said he needed to find more funding to continue researching the ruins.
Schavelzon spent two weeks excavating at the site, which is located in the Teyu Cuare provincial park in northern Argentina, near the border with Paraguay.
He suspects it was part of a project to build shelters for top Nazi leaders in rugged, inaccessible locations with easy escape routes.
"These buildings date from the mid-20th century. At that time, nobody could reach this spot. It was all jungle. That shows the secrecy of the place," said Schavelzon.
"In five minutes you can get to another country. You cross the river and you're in Paraguay. It's a strategic, very well thought-out site."
The nearest town, San Ignacio, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) away, did not exist then, he said.
The buildings were made from large stones typical in the area, with high foundations, he said. One, situated higher than the others, appears to have been a lookout post.
- 'Impunity and protection' -
Ultimately, however, Nazi leaders did not need a remote Argentine hideout.
"They didn't need to go into hiding deep in the jungle since they ended up living in Argentina with impunity and protection. They had passports and even used their real names," said Schavelzon.
Thousands of Nazis, Italian fascists and Croatian Ustasha fled to Argentina with the blessing of late president Juan Peron, according to the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center.
In 1960, Adolf Eichmann, one of the masterminds of the Holocaust, was captured in Buenos Aires by an Israeli commando team and tried in Israel, where he was executed.
Other Nazis who sought refuge in Argentina include Joseph Mengele, the Auschwitz death camp doctor who performed atrocious experiments on prisoners; Josef Schwammberger, a concentration camp commander; and Erich Priebke, an SS officer convicted of massacring civilians whose death in Rome in 2013 sparked an international dispute.
Argentina also has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, at about 300,000.