BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Archaeologists say abandoned buildings found in an Argentine nature reserve may have been planned as a potential hideout for top Nazi officers.

German coins dating to the 1940s were found at the remote site in the Teyu Cuare park in Misiones province, some 680 miles north of Buenos Aires.

The buildings with thick walls evidently were designed as a hideout, but “the Nazis never lived here because they realized they could live more comfortably, and in hiding, while in cities,” said Daniel Schavelzon, director of the urban archaeology center at Buenos Aires University and leader of the team researching the site.

A local legend had said the buildings served as a hideout for Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler’s private secretary, but Schavelzon dismissed the rumor.

In 1972, during construction work in downtown Berlin, bones were unearthed that were identified through dental records as having belonged to Bormann.

The location fit with an account that Bormann had committed suicide to avoid falling into enemy hands as he attempted to escape from Berlin in the final days of World War II in Europe in May 1945.

But rumors persisted that Bormann had found his way to South America until DNA tests done in 1998 conclusively proved that the remains found in Berlin in 1972 were those of Bormann.

Other local residents say Jesuits constructed the buildings more than 200 years ago, but Schavelzon also rejected this theory because the site dates to the 1940s.

In addition to the coins, his team also found pieces of German porcelain, Schavelzon said.

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, said the findings are not yet definitive but if they were accurate, “it wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Many leading Nazis went to Argentina – Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann, Josef Schwamberger – so this finding is possible, but the bottom line is that it never reached fruition, this secret colony of Nazis,” Zuroff said.

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