The Argentine central bank has been condemned for the decision to issue a banknote depicting a former health minister and “admirer of Hitler”.
The new 5,000 peso note features Ramón Carrillo, who despite being the architect of the nation’s health service in the 1940s, allegedly employed SS officer Dr Carl Vaernet, who conducted medical experiments on homosexuals in concentration camps.
The Latin American chapter of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation, slammed the decision.
Dr. Shimon Samuels and Ariel Gelblung, directors of the Centre’s Latin America chapter said in a joint statement: “We emphatically reject the choice of such a character, that will sully Argentina with his image on its highest-denomination banknote.”
Adding his voice to the criticism, the British ambassador to Argentina Mark Kent tweeted: “Nazism was the greatest evil of the 20th century. […] We should not commemorate anyone who participated in this terrible episode.”
Israel’s ambassador in Argentina, Galit Ronen, also took offence with the honouring of Mr Carrillo. “When we say ‘Nunca más’ (“Never again”) in reference to the Holocaust, there is no point in commemorating someone who at least sympathises with this ideology,” she wrote.
However, Ginés González García, the current Argentinian health minister denied there was any evidence for the claims against Mr Carrillo in a recent piece for the Clarín newspaper, insisting Mr Carrillo was “a source of pride for the Argentine people”.
And according to the Buenos Aires Times, Facundo Carrillo, Ramón's son, alleged a “smear campaign” was behind the controversy.
Mr Carrillo allegedly employed the Danish Nazi doctor on a five-year contract in 1947. Dr Vaernet was known to have conducted experiments on gay prisoners of the Buchenwald concentration camp, including injecting synthetic hormones into their testicles to see if it could alter their sexuality.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell claimed Mr Carillo “personally employed Vaernet, according to the contract they signed in 1947, to fund his ‘scientific specialism’, which was treatments and cures to stamp out homosexuality.”
Mr Tatchell said Mr Carillo also “sympathised with Nazi ideas of eugenics”. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre added that he “created the concept of the ‘ideal soldier’ who would reject conscripts who were he considered as racial and gender ‘oddities.’”
Mr Carrillo died in exile in Brazil in 1956 following a coup d'état.