BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Abandoned buildings found in a remote Argentine nature reserve may have been planned as a potential hideout for top Nazi officers, archaeologists said.
German coins dating to the 1940s were found at the site in the Teyu Cuare park in Misiones province, some 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) north of Buenos Aires.
The buildings of thick walls evidently were designed as a hideout for fleeing Nazis following World War II, but they "never lived here because they realized they could live more comfortably, and in hiding, while in cities," Daniel Schavelzon, director of the urban archaeology center at Buenos Aires University and leader of the team researching the site, told The Associated Press.
A local legend had said the buildings served as a hideout for Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler's private secretary, but Schavelzon dismissed the rumor.
In 1972, during construction work in downtown Berlin, bones were unearthed that were identified as having belonged to Bormann through dental records. The location fit with an account that Bormann had committed suicide to avoid falling into enemy hands as he attempted to flee Berlin in the final days of the war in May 1945.
But rumors persisted that Bormann had found his way to South America until DNA tests done in 1998 conclusively proved that remains found in Berlin were those of Bormann.
Other local residents say Jesuits constructed the buildings more than 200 years ago, but Schavelzon also rejected this theory because the site dates back only to the 1940s. In addition to the coins, his team also found pieces of German porcelain.
Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office, said the findings are not yet definitive but if they were accurate "it wouldn't surprise me because there also ideas of Nazi-escaping refugees."
"Many leading Nazis went to Argentina — Josef Mengel, Adolf Eichmann, Josef Schwamberger — so this finding is possible, but the bottom line is that it never reached fruition, this secret colony of Nazis," Zuroff said.