In Argentina, the ‘Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo’ (also known in the Netherlands as the Foolish Mothers) have been campaigning for decades to obtain clarification about the five hundred children who were stolen from their biological parents, opponents, during the military dictatorship (1976-1983). of the regime who have disappeared and been murdered. Forty years after the end of the dictatorship, only 137 of these children have been traced.
The babies were often given up for adoption to families of police officers or soldiers who supported the regime. Others ended up in orphanages and may also have been illegally sold for adoption or given to foreign couples.
It is suspected that some of these stolen babies ended up in the Netherlands, either as adopted children of Dutch parents or as adopted children of regime supporters who left Argentina at the end of the dictatorship.
“In recent years, I have done a lot of research into this, like a kind of Sherlock Holmes,” says Alejandra Slutzky of the organization Hijos Holanda, the Dutch branch of the Dwaze Moeders, the Argentinian foundation that stands up for the disappeared children. ‘Through social media and thanks to my contacts in Argentina, I came across cases of families in the Netherlands that raise questions. But you can’t just show up on someone’s doorstep and say: you might be a stolen child.’
With the campaign, Fiom and Hijos Holanda ask people in their forties who were born in Argentina between 1977 and 1983 to report themselves for research if they have doubts about their origins.
According to Inge op ten Berg, who supervises international searches at Fiom, it is very likely that of the more than 350 missing predatory babies, some also ended up in the Netherlands. ‘The statistics we requested from Statistics Netherlands show that thousands of Argentinians came to live in the Netherlands at the end of the Argentine dictatorship. Of course, this often involved political refugees, but also supporters of the regime who fled the country because it became too hot under their feet.’
Time is running out
The babies from then are now in their forties, and in many cases they probably were not told by their parents that they were adopted. Fiom believes it is important to pay attention to this problem now, because time is running out for the surviving grandmothers of these predatory babies. “They hope to find their grandchildren before they die,” says Op ten Berg.
In 2014, an Argentinian living in the Netherlands was already identified as the disappeared ‘grandchild 115’, Ana Libertad. The woman talks in the TV program on Wednesday evening Without a trace how she discovered at the time that the people she had always thought she was descended from turned out not to be her real parents. She visited the prison where she was born in 1977 with a camera crew. She was probably taken immediately from her mother, Elena de la Cuadra. Her biological mother was never heard from again.
Her father, Héctor Baratti, was a member of the communist movement and was thrown from a plane into the sea by the military junta in 1978. Because his body was later found, DNA testing could determine that she is indeed the child of Elena and Héctor.
Doubts about origins
The woman grew up in Buenos Aires with Argentinian adoptive parents and came to the Netherlands for love in her twenties. The discovery at the age of 36 that she was not who she had always thought made her ‘very angry’, says Libertad – who goes by a different name – in Without a trace. ‘You think: this is my life, these are my parents. And that is not the case. You don’t know what to do.’
Because such a discovery turns someone’s life upside down, the Fiom campaign focuses mainly on people in their forties who already have doubts about their origins, and not so much on people who have a tip about someone around them. Op ten Berg: ‘It is conceivable that people might prefer not to know some things, and that is also their right.’