ASUNCION -- Mengele grew up in Guenzburg, Bavaria. Guenzburg is the present-day site of Legoland Deutschland and is just a couple hundred miles from the ancestral hometown of Alfredo Stroessner. Stroessner, a year younger than Mengele, was born to a Bavarian immigrant father in Paraguay, and by the time Mengele arrived to settle in Paraguay permanent, he had ruled the country for nearly five years. Mengele thought a fellow fascist Teuton might see his flight from justice sympathetically. He was right.
I've come to the Paraguayan terror archives in Asuncion to examine the documents of Mengele's stay. The terror archives, a few small rooms on the ground floor, a thin wall away from the Palace of Justice's loading dock, exist mostly to document Stroessner's own extensive evils committed between 1954 and 1989. Stroessner employed a large corps of informants whom Paraguayans came to call piragues: in Guarani, "the hairy-footed," for the soft footfall that meant they could be lurking around any corner at any time. (Another Guarani name was "the wet-noses," for their ability to sniff out treason with sensitivity that matched the wet nose of a bloodhound.)
The documents describe a regime long toppled and repudiated, but they remain soaked in paranoia, and the natural instinct when reading these informants' reports is to look over one's shoulder. Bureaucrats sent in reports of Argentine lefties who may or may not have been massing along the border, and of Korean eccentrics who lived in jungle shacks and who may or may not have been feeding messages to Kim Il Sung. Most messages, though, concern Paraguayans themselves -- anyone remotely suspected of disloyalty faced interrogation -- and how best to make troublesome ones disappear. In retrospect few of these reports make sense (North Koreans in the Paraguayan jungle? What could they possibly want?), and the archive reads like a vast clinical document, evidence of a institution-wide neurosis.