My Nazi Lunch

Clark May 28th, 2007

While taking advantage of low airfares to do some overland travel, I was recently passing through Puerto Montt, Chile, changing from plane to bus, and had a spare hour to have some lunch. I went into sort of a pastry shop that had an executive lunch menu. It was spotless and decorated with frilly things. I ordered and then noticed the giant mural on the wall, a blown up photo of a couple. It said, in bad Spanish, “Heinz Rodenbeek and Hedwig Otten, founders of this restaurant, in Osorno in 1959. They introduced unknown specialties to this region (with examples in German).” This was all well and good, and the couple looked happy and respectable, except for the Nazi uniform!

Not subtle at all…full Nazi soldier togs with the eagle and swastika on his right breast, just below his young wife’s smiling face. I asked the waitress, who was completely clueless.

I couldn’t stop staring at the photo. The restaurant was filling up, but nobody else seemed to take note. Am I the only one here who notices the giant Nazi on the wall? Is there anyone else who is even mildly disturbed by the big Nazi staring down on us?

Nineteen fifty nine would have been a pretty bizarre time to be wearing a Nazi uniform, fourteen years after the fall of Berlin. If the photo was taken in Germany, that would have probably been the most objectionable place in the world to be seen in a Nazi uniform. The guy could not have been parading through the streets that way, so did he take his old uniform to the photo studio and specially wear it just for the photo?

When I finished my lunch I took it up with the owner. She pretty much stonewalled me. She said that they were her parents. I said, “But he’s wearing a Nazi uniform.” “Well, that was a long time ago.” “But that would have been 14 years after the war.” No answer. I didn’t know how to say objectionable in Spanish, so I asked, “Isn’t it a bit controversial to have a man in a Nazi uniform on your wall in a public restaurant?” “They are my parents.”

The lunch rush was in full swing and she was looking at me like I was a really irritating tourist who was wasting her time.

With my relentless investigative reporting, I found that Osorno is actually a town in southern Chile, so the photo was taken here rather than Germany. Were they just poor immigrants who came to the New World with nothing but their Nazi uniforms on their backs? Had he no other formal clothes to wear for the photo? I don’t think so.

There have always been tales and rumors about all the Nazis who fled to South America after the war, but this brought it a little closer to home. Elie Weisel found Josef Mengele by looking him up in the Buenos Aires phone book, after all.
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2 Comments »

Comment by Gert van den Berg
2010-12-31 17:19:15

My wife and I were in Chili and Argentina in november 2010. When we were in Puerto Montt we happened to get inside the restaurant of Otten. Once we had ordered a piece of very nice cake and a capuchino and we felt very warm and comfortable, We were attracted to the big brown picture on the wall of the couple Heinz von Rödenbeek and Hedwich Otten.
We were surprised that it was possible without negative economic effects to show oneself in a Nazi dress like that. My wife and I had both just read the book Sarah’s key and we had been fighting with our tears to stop them from bursting out.
We finished the cake and the coffee and I still hoped that there would not be a swastika and no german eagle on his uniform. When we left we saw it was a Nazi uniform indeed and his face seemed to express he was still proud to be an obediant Wehrmacht officer always blindly following Hitler and murdering anyone who was in the way….
So It is still the same….
Greetings and thanks for writing and posting the picture
Gert and Rini van den Berg, de Hoeve, Netherlands

 
Comment by Clark
2011-01-01 15:25:02

Hello Gert, I’ve had several replies to this post over the years, most of which I’ve had to delete because they were so weird. Thanks for the update on the nazi mural…I don’t think they’re going to take it down. We’re hoping to get back to Patagonia this year or next, this time by plane rather than boat. Cheers, Clark

 
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