The Elisabeth Käsemann Foundation supports the design and construction of a memorial on the site of the secret detention camp El Vesubio.


The site is located within Buenos Aires province, next to the motorway heading to Ezeiza International Airport. The camp consisted of three colonial style buildings. It had already been used as a torture camp since 1975 by the paramilitary Alianza Anticomunista Argentina. Following the military coup in 1976, it served the same purpose under the First Army Corps commanded by General Guillermo Suárez Mason. Up until it was closed down and demolished in 1978 to mark the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos), 400 people had been held captive in El Vesubio, of which only few have survived. Among the victims of El Vesubio were Elisabeth Käsemann (German), four people of German descent – Héctor Oesterheld, Juan Thanhauser, Guillermo Ricny, and Rolf Stawowiok –, and Wolfgang Achtig (Austrian).
Foto: Memoria Abierta
Virtual reconstruction of the holding cells and torture rooms. Photo: Memoria Abierta


The captives had to lie on the floor in confined, casket-like recesses. They were not allowed to sit or stand up. This treatment resulted in muscular atrophy and total disorientation. They had to wear a kind of closed hood that covered the whole head and face, including the eyes and the mouth, at all times and were not allowed to take it off. Once a day the captives were led to the toilet, individually or together in a row, with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front and the hoods covering their faces. At times the victims were made to wait for hours so that they had to relieve themselves beforehand. There were other times when they did not get to use the toilet at all but had to use tin cans that were left in their cells for days afterward.
Virtual reconstruction of the holding cells and torture rooms. Photo: Memoria Abierta
The captives received one meal a day which consisted of rice or pasta and was often infested with worms. At best they were given some tea in the morning, and perhaps a piece of bread. The detainees were led to the showers naked, amid scornful verbal abuse. Often these situations were used as an opportunity for rape and sexual abuse, both of which were performed systematically in the camp. Each new detainee received a number. Instead of being addressed by their names, the detainees were called up by number for showering, for torture, or ultimately for their – staged or actual – execution. Being deprived of their identity and subjected to staged executions, the detainees severely suffered psychologically.

Physical torture of a detainee could last for days or even weeks at a time and consisted of beatings, of electric shocks applied to sensitive parts of the body, or of “submarino”, a form of waterboarding. Detainees were forced to watch their family members being tortured. In one particular instance, a mother had to witness the torture of her 14-year old son.


Today the former site of the El Vesubio detainee camp belongs to the district of La Matanza. There is a plan to save and preserve the archeological and anthropological remains of El Vesubio and to subsequently erect a memorial. The Elisabeth Käsemann Foundation intends to support this initiative.