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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 May 2007, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
KLM accused of helping Nazis flee
Adolf Eichmann
Many Nazis were given refuge in Argentina, including Adolf Eichmann
The Dutch airline KLM is facing calls for an inquiry into reports that it helped Nazi war criminals escape to Argentina after World War II.

According to papers found by Dutch journalists, KLM asked Switzerland to let Germans cross its borders and fly to South America without proper papers.

Suspected war criminals were forbidden from leaving Germany by the Allies.

KLM acknowledges some of its passengers may have been fleeing justice, but denies it sought to help them escape.

A spokesman for the airline, Bart Koster, told the BBC that it was not responsible for carrying out background checks on passengers who had been allowed to leave by the Allies.

Dutch MPs, historians and Jewish groups have demanded an independent investigation into the reports first aired last week, particularly because a member of the Dutch royal family may have been involved.

Prince Bernhard, the father of Queen Beatrix, was the director of KLM at the time.

Mr Koster said KLM did not want to run away from the allegations and was willing to co-operate with any inquiry.

"We would welcome everything which could help clarify what may have happened," he said.

Royal controversy

According to documents found in Switzerland by Dutch TV documentary-makers, a local representative for KLM, Mr Frick, asked the Swiss border police in 1948 to allow his airline's passengers from Germany to enter the country without the proper papers so they could fly to Argentina.

KLM plane
We would welcome everything which could help clarify what may have happened
KLM spokesman

Sander Rietveld from the Netwerk programme said that although the memo from the border police about Mr Frick's visit showed his request had been refused, many Germans were allowed to enter Switzerland without permission.

"The point is that it shows KLM actively approached the Swiss police," he told The Times.

Marc Dierikx, an aviation historian at the Institute for Netherlands History, said other documents showed that many Germans had paid large sums of money to leave the country and that KLM was "intensively involved".

Mr Koster said KLM had no record of a former employee called Mr Frick in its archives, nor evidence that its board had known anything about the allegations.

"We have no information whatsoever that our board was actively involved," he said.

"However, it cannot be excluded that KLM representatives were not involved at a local level."

Experts say more research is needed in Europe and Argentina, because no passenger lists for KLM flights have been kept.

Argentina was notorious for welcoming war criminals into the country when President Juan Peron was in power between 1945 and 1955.

More than 150 Nazis were given refuge - among them Adolf Eichmann, who is considered to have been the chief architect of the Holocaust.

Argentina 'sorry' over Nazis
13 Jun 00 |  Americas
Argentina 'held Nazi gold'
27 Apr 99 |  Americas

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