Joseph Goebbels' wartime press adjutant, Wilfred Von Oven, refuses to talk about the Holocaust because, at the age of 86, he wants to spend his last years in his Argentine bungalow rather than a German jail.
But his admiration for Adolf Hitler, to whom he was introduced by Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels near the end of the Second World War, cannot be disguised: "Some don't agree . . . but Hitler's eyes were magic," he told Reuters in an interview at his home in the leafy Buenos Aires suburb of Bella Vista. "I cannot change now the opinion I had back then."Von Oven emigrated after the war in a wave of 40,000 German refugees, including fugitive Nazi war criminals, attracted by Argentine President Juan Peron's open-door policy for Germans, which earned Argentina a reputation as a haven for Nazis.
Simon Wiesenthal Center Nazi hunters say Von Oven is not a wanted war criminal despite having been Goebbels' personal press assistant from 1943 to the end of the war. Goebbels, one of Nazi Germany's most venomous anti-Semites, killed himself in Hitler's bunker as Russian forces rolled into Berlin.
Von Oven said his job meant following Goebbels "everywhere, day and night" but that they never discussed the Holocaust. "Nor will I talk about it now, because I am a German citizen and German law forbids denying or casting doubt on the Holocaust and imposes a minimum 3 1/2 years in jail," he said.
He omitted mention of a lawsuit against him eight years ago, but lawyer Pedro Bianchi, whose clients also include convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke and ex-Adm. Emilio Massera, a feared leader of Argentina's former military dictatorship, told Reuters: "I defended him."
"Von Oven declared that the existence of the gas chambers and the Holocaust and deaths of 6 million Jews was not true. There was a lawsuit, but I got him off because it's not a crime in Argentina," Bianchi told Reuters.
Von Oven is still an upright, trim figure with thick silver hair and blue eyes. A small bandage on his temple over a skin tumor from the sun is the only sign of frailty. Twice widowed, he has two sons, one of them living in Stuttgart.
Von Oven says he was a member of the Nazi party and its "Brownshirt" uniformed arm but only from 1930-32, when he quit the party. That is why the victorious Allies' postwar "de-Nazification" courts cleared him, he says.
He arrived in Argentina in 1951. The post-war German community in Argentina was close-knit, and its members say all the former Nazis knew each other.