The Americas 60.4 (2004) 589-616
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The Chilean Movimiento Nacional Socialista, the German-Chilean Community, and the Third Reich, 1932-1939:
Myth and Reality*
The relations between the Chilean Movimiento Nacional Socialista (MNS, or Nacismo) and the German-Chilean community, i.e., Chilean citizens of German origin, as well as the attitude of the former towards the Third Reich are still largely unexplored topics. Despite the growing number of studies on the nacista movement since the late 1980s, which rounded off and partly corrected earlier studies,1 and thereby substantially increased our knowledge of its ideology, political activities and leader, Jorge González von Marées,2 they have received little scholarly attention so far. In general, and this reservation applies to earlier as well as more recent publications, authors only briefly refer to the similarities between Chilean Nacismo and German Nazism, and either note the important role German-Chileans played in the organization or state that they were insignificant for its overall development.3 The only partial exceptions to this [End Page 589] rule are Olaf Gaudig and Peter Veit's as well as Jürgen Müller's works, which provide some information about these issues, and especially the relationships between the Chilean fascists and the German-Chileans.4
These lacunae in the secondary literature are noteworthy because assertions that the group simply copied its German namesake and acted as the "fifth column" of the Third Reich, preparing the way for its purportedly imperialist aspirations in Chile, had been one of the characteristics of the political confrontations of the 1930s. Throughout its existence (and beyond), the nacista movement would face these accusations. Only recently, without providing any evidence, yet another sensationalist book on the activities of German Nazis in Chile repeated the unfounded allegation that the MNS was a front organization of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers' Party, NSDAP).5 A detailed analysis of these relations is therefore appropriate. This article will look beyond stereotypes, generalizations, and myths surrounding the Chileans fascists, the German-Chilean community, and Nazi Germany. Against the background of the national and international developments, it will provide a subtly differentiating picture of the Nacistas' links with both the German-Chilean community and German National Socialism, and emphasize their changing and complex nature.
The Foundation and Early Development of the MNS
The MNS was founded by a small group of young men from the educated urban middle-class in Santiago on April 5, 1932, the 32nd anniversary of its future Jefe, Jorge González von Marées. The establishment followed talks on the formation of a fascist group which Francisco Javier Díaz Valderrama, a former inspector-general of the army with marked pro-Nazi inclinations,6 had [End Page 590] initiated one month earlier. His proposal to base the group on the program of the NSDAP, which he had translated into Spanish, had been rejected as inappropriate for a Chilean movement, however. González, a little known lawyer at the time, had successfully argued that it was necessary to draft a manifesto that reflected Chile's national traditions and addressed its actual problems.7 Notwithstanding this fundamental objection, which induced the retired general to form his own short-lived group, the Legión Social Nacionalista,8 the adoption of the name was a vivid reminder of the strong appeal Nazism, and more generally Germany, exerted in the early 1930s, not least on the two men who would subsequently dominate the MNS, the German-Chileans González von Marées and Carlos Keller Rueff, an established intellectual who had taken the side of González in the discussion with Díaz Valderrama.9 The new faction obviously wanted to benefit from the rising prestige and international recognition of the Nazi movement, a development that can be attributed to Hitler's unprecedented success in Germany's presidential elections of March and April 1932. Tellingly, on the day of its foundation El Mercurio of Santiago ran...