The ideology of fascism caused colossal human and material destruction during World War Two. However, the fascist regime did not centre across Germany alone. The doctrine proliferated in various other parts of the world too.
One lesser known branch of Nazism was found in Brazil. The Brazilian Nazis were guilty of the very worst maltreatment of young black boys who were kept enslaved. The events came to light after a photograph of football players at a Brazilian ranch with a swastika flag appeared.
The puzzling discovery came from the commemorative photo of a football team found on a farm in the countryside 100 miles west of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The team’s flag, featuring a swastika symbol, makes the image particularly striking.
That photo likely dates back to the 1930s, following the Nazi Party’s ascent to power in Germany. However, the discovery took place on the other side of the world.
“Nothing explained the presence of a swastika here,” said Jose Ricardo Rosa Maciel. He is a former rancher from the distant Cruzeiro do Sul farm near Campina do Monte Alegre. Maciel happened to discover the photo by chance one day.
The picture was, however, his second encounter with something strange. Earlier, he made an unusual discovery in the pigsty. He recounted how the pigs broke down a farm wall one day and ran into the field. Maciel said he couldn’t believe what he saw on the bricks.
But what was so surprising? Each brick had a swastika stamped on its underside. It is safe to conclude that the ranch had a link with Brazilian Nazism. History Professor Sidney Aguilar Filho corroborates the claim.
It’s well-established that Brazil and Nazi Germany had strong ties before the war. Both were economic partners. In addition, Brazil had the biggest fascist party outside of Europe, boasting over 40,000 members.
However, Filho’s work has shed light on the farm’s history with the swastika. He uncovered that the Rocha Mirandas, a family of wealthy industrialists from Rio de Janeiro, once owned the ranch. Three of them, father Renato and his two sons, Otavio and Osvaldo, were part of the Acao Integralista Brasileira. It was an extreme right-wing organization that had sympathies with the Nazi party.
The family used to host rallies on the farm. Thousands of members from their organization used to attend them. But that’s not all! The farm also served as a cruel work camp for abandoned black children.
Enslavement at The Third Reich Ranch
Filho shared how the Rocha Miranda family enslaved black orphans at their ranch. Fifty boys around the age of ten were taken from an orphanage in three separate groups. The first group of ten kids was taken in 1933 by the owner of the Nazi ranch, Osvaldo.
According to documents, Osvaldo officially requested to become the guardian of the orphans. The officials granted him a legal decree. But Osvaldo had something else in his mind.
Aloysio da Silva, 90 years old today, was one of those orphans. He recounted the day he left the orphanage. Silva recalled that Osvaldo’s driver placed him and other kids in a corner after obtaining the children’s guardianship.
Then, Osvaldo selected ten of the twenty boys using his cane and put them to work on the farm. Despite promising a life filled with leisure activities like football and horseback riding, the boys received nothing. They merely got hoes to tend to the farm and remove weeds. Silva felt misled and deceived.
Additionally, the children faced regular beatings at the ranch. People at the farm used a palmatoria – a wooden paddle. The paddle came with perforations designed to lessen air resistance and intensify the pain.
Instead of calling the children by name, they referred to them using numbers. For example, Silva was number 23. The ranch even had vicious guard dogs to keep the children in check.
“One was called Poison, the male, and the female was called Trust,” said Silva, who still resides in the area. “I try to avoid talking about it.”
Argemiro dos Santos – another survivor – shared his story. Authorities brought Santos to the orphanage from the streets. Later on, Osvaldo took and him to the farm.
According to Santos, now 89, the Rocha Mirandas did not hold favourable views toward blacks. As punishment, they would withhold food. Like Silva, Santos also mentioned the beatings with palmatoria.
Santos recalled the pain of getting beaten up by that wooden paddle. He said that sometimes they used to hit the children twice. The maximum number of beatings was five. That’s because, after the fifth hit, an individual couldn’t bear it anymore.
In addition, Santos said they used to force children to salute photographs of Hitler. However, at that time, he was unable to comprehend the meaning of doing so.
Nonetheless, some members of the Rocha Miranda family claim that their ancestors ceased their support for fascsim before World War Two. Also, Maurice Rocha Miranda, great-nephew of Otavio and Osvaldo, has rejected the slavery claims. Regardless, Filho believes the accounts of Silva and Santos, given that they have significant similarities too.
Football Matches at Ranch
The only relief for the orphans at the farm came during football matches. They used to play against teams of local farm laborers. It is noteworthy that football held great symbolic importance in the Brazilian regime. Military parades held at the Vasco da Gama stadium propagated propaganda under Brazilian dictator Getulio Vargas.
“We’d have a kick around, and it evolved,” Santos said. “We had a championship – we were good at football. So there was no problem.”
However, Santos fled the ranch a few years later because he could not take it anymore. He went back to Rio and worked as a newspaper seller. Later, Santos joined the Brazilian Navy as a taifeiro, waiting on tables and washing up during World War Two. In addition, he also became one of the best Brazilian footballers of the 1940s.
Today, Santos leads a peaceful life in southwestern Brazil with his wife, Guilhermina. He enjoys simple pleasures like playing trumpet, relaxing on the veranda, and socializing with friends. Despite this contentment, he acknowledges that the trauma of his past is inescapable.
“Anyone who says they’ve had a good life since they were born is lying,” he said. “Everyone has something bad that has happened in their life.”