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Nazi Past Haunts Fallen Argentine Hotel

ByABC News
November 14, 2003, 6:50 PM

L A   F A L D A , Argentina, Nov. 18 -- It was supposed to be a paradise on Earth, a luxury spa deep in the New World. But this fallen Eden is now in ruins haunted by its past as an Argentine haven for Nazis and their supporters.

The Eden Hotel, famous before the end of World War II as aposh resort for Germans in central Argentina, is now an emptyshell managed by the local municipality, which offers tours andis trying to restore it as a museum.

Wending his way through the ruins on one such tour,33-year-old businessman Jose Ranz has come to learn of its tiesto Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and to unravel the mystery of hisown family's past.

The resort was a magnet for the rich and famous early lastcentury, luring Albert Einstein in 1925. But the heyday wasshort-lived and the hotel was plunged into disrepute andeventual ruin by the Nazi sympathies of its former owners.

The hotel is a haunting testament to the murky relationshipArgentina shared with the Nazis, hundreds of whom flocked hereafter the war, drawn by the open-door policy of General JuanDomingo Peron, who had fascist sympathies.

"My grandfather told me this was once the only place youcould contact Europe from," Ranz said, looking at the rooftopwhere a radio antenna connecting the hotel with Berlin oncestood alongside an iconic eagle torn down after World War II.

That wasn't all he told him. His grandfather sat him downwhen he was 12 and confessed: He was not Spanish as he hadmaintained since he fled to Argentina in the 1930s; he wasGerman.

"He told me what was good about Nazism and why it laterbecame deformed," Ranz said, explaining his visit as part of aneffort to decipher his grandfather's true sympathies.

"He explained why the Nazis hated Jews I don't know if heescaped from Nazism, or if he escaped because he was a Nazi."

His grandfather lived nearby, often spoke of the hotel andsocialized with the Germans who congregated around it.