That Inferno: Conversations of Five Women Survivors of an Argentine Torture Camp
Vanderbilt University Press, Jan 1, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 302 pages
In 1998 in Buenos Aires, five women began a series of conversations about their memories of torture in the ESMA, the School of Naval Mechanics, twenty years before.
In 1976 the Armed Forces seized control of Argentina and initiated the National Reorganization Process, which led to the quiet disappearance of 30,000 people, most taken from their homes at night by armed individuals in civilian dress. Between four thousand and forty-five hundred of those who passed through the Mechanics School died in torture or were thrown from an airplane into the sea. A few intellectual workers, like the authors, were spared.
But as Tina Rosenberg puts it in her foreword, "The women in this book inhabited a surreal hell in which they were never sure that the knock on the door at midnight meant they were to be taken to the torture table or out for a steak. There were torturers who fell in love with their prey. Munu Actis says, 'They'd come, they'd beat you to a pulp with a stick, and then at two in the morning they'd get you, put you in a car, and take you out to dinner. They'd sit you down at the same table, turn you into an equal: you ate the same food, they wanted to hear your opinions, and then back to Capucha [the wing where captives were kept hooded and shackled] you went. That would drive anybody crazy!'"
Tina Rosenberg continues: "The logic of life and death in the Mechanics School had nothing to do with whether one was really a Montoneros guerrilla or whether one broke under torture. The women in this book probably survived because they knew how to translate documents or could concisely summarize press clippings. These were skills of interest to Admiral Emilio Massera, chief of the navy, who was building his political career. Admiral Massera killed Montoneros as dangerous subversives, or kept them alive as0 his political advisers. Or both."
The book includes glossaries of the slang used by the militants and by Mechanics School personnel, an appendix identifying the torturers, and a topography of terror," a blueprint of rooms and functions.
Last year President Kirchner declared that the Mechanics School would be turned into a Museum of Memory of the atrocities of the "dirty war." Despite this vindication and their testimonies in legal forums, the five women authors continue to struggle with torture-induced terror in their daily lives, particularly in visits to the dentist or doctor.
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