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Why Ghosts Of Hitler Keep Appearing In Colombia

Colombia's police chiefs must be dismally ignorant if they think it was "instructive" to expose young cadets bereft of historical education to Nazi symbols.

Why Ghosts Of Hitler Keep Appearing In Colombia

Nazi symbols were displayed in public at the Tuluá Police Academy

Reinaldo Spitaletta


BOGOTÁ — Adolf Hitler was seen in 1954, wandering around the chilly town of Tunja, northeast of the Colombian capital. The führer was, they said, all cloaked up like a peasant — they even took a picture of him. Later, he was spotted nearby at the baths in the spa town of Paipa, no doubt there for his fragile health.

A former president and notorious arch-conservative of 20th century Colombian politics, Laureano Gómez used to pay him homage. A fascist at heart, Gómez had to submit to the United States as the victor of World War II. He wasn't the only fascist sympathizer in Colombia then. Other conservatives, writers and intellectuals were fascinated by Nazism.

Fawning on his new masters, Gómez, the president in 1950-51, sent the Colombia battalion to fight in the Korean war. He thought he would wipe clean his record of sympathies for the Spanish Falange and the Swastika.

Ignorance of history

During World War II in Medellín, the Banco Alemán-Antioqueño, run by Reinhard Gundlach who was the German consul in the city, reportedly distributed Nazi propaganda, while the city hosted a network of Nazi militants that included pharmacists and beer makers!

Gundlach made bank employees read, "comment and praise" the pamphlets as they arrived at the bank, before sending them to Adolf Stober, the propaganda chief who represented German pharmaceutical firms in Medellín. Stober then had them distributed around the city, according to reports cited in a PhD thesis by Lorena Cardona González, Una Colectividad honorablemente sospechosa, on German influence in Colombia at the time.

Yes, people used to insist Hitler did not die in Berlin in 1945, but fled to South America. His spirit has certainly pervaded a number of fanatical, racist organizations on the continent, inconceivable though it may seem that anyone could, as they do in Colombia, adore a mass murderer.

Security forces are approaching a state of utter degradation

The recent incident at the Tuluá Police Academy (where Nazi symbols were displayed in public) isn't just an unusual and belated consequence of that horrific episode in history, but a symptom of the crass ignorance of members of our police force. It illustrates how stupidity is, as they rightly say, as pervasive through history as evil.

The exhibition of Nazi memorabilia at the police school, including someone dressing up as Hitler and his dog, shows our policemen and soldiers' monumental ignorance of history and its sensitivities. It was a little like the Colombian defense minister crassly declaring on a recent trip to Israel, that Iran is an enemy. It is the kind of sniveling attitude underdeveloped states adopt toward strong states (and our officials are experts at it).

What else can you expect here, when authorities invite someone like Alexis López, that fascist from Chile, to come and indoctrinate Colombian soldiers with his theories on the threat of a "dissipated molecular revolution?" Or when right-wing politicians brazenly say "it's bullets now, and lead later?" Or when security "concerns" condone state crimes like the "false positives in FARC body counts?"

The police school exhibited Nazi memorabilia, including someone dressing up as Hitler and his dog

Efrain Abaunza

Educational and mental backwardness

Under the government of President Iván Duque, to which most Colombians have become hostile, police and military forces have managed to reach the heights — or is it depths? — of ignominy and outrage. In a country where activists, environmentalists and protesters are killed and demonized, security forces are approaching a state of utter degradation.

They are associated with appalling incidents like the rape of an indigenous girl or killings of protesters (like Dilan Cruz). The shenanigan in Tuluá — if we can thus term the trivilization of mass murder — is a sign of the educational and mental backwardness of those who give, and take, orders in our country.

If it was an "educational" event as police authorities claim, why didn't they teach our policemen about Germany's writers, philosophers or architects? This was precisely grist to the mill of those who say in Colombia, "All you need to be a policeman is two photos and total ignorance."

Unlike the Timur Vermes novel Look Who's Back (Er ist wieder da), Hitler is back to life in Colombia, not Berlin. We are in the same country where, decades ago, "they saw him" wandering around the chilly streets of Tunja.

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