At the turn of the twentieth century, Argentina witnessed a period of unprecedented migration. By the start of World War I, around 33% of the Argentine population was foreign born (Metz). This influx of immigration filled open jobs and led to the rapid growth of Argentina’s industry during this time. With this developed a large Jewish population in Argentina, the largest in South America.
Although relatively peaceful relations existed before World War I, tensions in Argentina began to increase after the war. With the rise of Peronism came increased nationalist fervor. This increased nationalism, combined with the Balfour Declaration in 1917 that received widespread support from the Argentine Jewish community, led to a “belief in the incompatibility between Zionism and Argentine nationalism” (Metz). Under Juan Perón, Argentine Jews faced little direct anti-Semitism, despite his overall policies that often did not fully support the jewish population.
For one, Perón publicly expressed sympathy for Jewish holocaust victims at the same time he halted jewish migration (Metz). Further, Perón had ties to fascism, with an interest in the ideas of Mussolini and Hitler, especially from his position within the military. Argentina, like many other South American Countries, offered refuge to Nazis after the war. Argentina accepted about 5,000, the most of any of the other countries (Klein). Perón also established a puppet organization, the Organizacion Israelita Argentina (OIA) through which he “sought direct control and leverage over the Jewish community” through immigration policies and other actions (Metz). In response to pressure from his more anti-Semitic supporters, Perón thought that the best solution was to try to assimilate Jews as much as possible into Argentinian society, though this did little to diminish their independent identity (Metz).
What developed in Argentina under Perón was a tenuous relationship. His charisma and almost authoritarian rule allowed him to keep at bay anti-Semitism during his rule, however, he also used his power to influence the community and exert his control over it. It appears that much of Perón’s actions towards the Jewish community came not from anti-Semitism or from genuine support of the community but from a political pragmatism. Acts of anti-Semitism or violence would reflect poorly upon him, yet he was willing to accept Nazis if they were able to pay enough. Thus Perón’s rule was a time of many contradictions towards the Jewish community of Argentina, a community that has, since his time in power decreased in population with migration to Israel.
Klein, Christopher. “How South America Became a Nazi Haven.” History. 31 Aug. 2018, https://www.history.com/news/how-south-america-became-a-nazi-haven
Liebman, Seymour B. “Argentine Jews and Their Institutions.” Jewish Social Studies, vol. 43, no. 3/4, Summer/Fall81 1981, pp. 311–328. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=7118032&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Metz, Allan. “Reluctant Partners: Juan Peron and the Jew of Argentina, 1946-1955.” Judaism, vol. 41, no. 4, Fall 1992, p. 378. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9311193313&site=ehost-live&scope=site.