Most people come to the Alpine-style town of San Carlos de Bariloche to explore the great outdoors and the rich climbing heritage of the town. The town is located in the Argentinian lake district within the province of Río Negro, Argentina, situated in the foothills of the Andes on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake.
It was put firmly on the map as an outdoor sports destination by Otto Meiling, a German with a taste for adventure, who moved here in 1930. He began teaching the new sport of skiing, made a number of first ascents on the surrounding mountains and established a mountaineering club called the Club Andino de Bariloche, still here today. In addition to the club, the town also boasts numerous restaurants, cafés, and chocolate shops and even is home to The Centro Atómico Bariloche; a research center of the National Atomic Energy Commission, where basic and applied research in many areas of the physical sciences is carried out.
But the town has a dark past…
After the Second World War many Nazis fled Germany to escape justice and the mountaineering club – Club Andino de Bariloche – became their meeting point.
The club’s membership from the period includes Hans Ulrich Rudel, former head of the Luftwaffe and a close confidant of Hitler, and Frederich Lantschner, the former Nazi governor of the Tyrol.
Then, in 1994, a chilling discovery was made. One of the club’s members, Eric Priebke, responsible for the murder of 330 Italian civilians in the Ardeatine Massacre in Italy, was discovered still living an ordinary life in the town.
Journalist, Abel Basti, was at his house when the police came to arrest him.
‘When the police arrived he saluted in the military fashion and said ‘I’m ready’. It was like he was back in the Second World War and had his enemies in front of him. It was as if he had been preparing for this moment for years…’
So many Nazis came to the area after the Second World War that Abel has written a guidebook to the places where they took refuge. It’s even rumoured that one of the houses on the shores of the lake belonged to the most notorious Nazi of all, Adolf Hitler…
main image: View of the Nahuel Huapi National Park landscape surrounding Bariloche.