After people War II, countless Nazis fled to southern America along so-called ratlines — often with the aid of Catholic clergy. The Vatican is currently opening that is archives native the time. Will it it is in a moment of truth?


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Just exactly how much did Pope Pius XII know around the "ratlines" supplied by hundreds of Nazis?


In 1948, just three year after the finish of civilization War II, a top Nazi war criminal regulated to escape native a prison in Linz, Austria.

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Franz Stangl, a former SS-Hauptsturmführer and commander the the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps, was responsible because that the deaths of virtually 1 million Jews. Via Graz, Merano and also Florence, he made his method to Rome and also — many importantly because that him — come the Vatican.

In Rome, Bishop Alois Hudal, a other Austrian, greeted him v the words: "You must be Franz Stangl — I"ve been expecting you." He then handed Stangl forged files that enabled the Nazi war criminal to take trip to Syria, whereby his family at some point joined him. In 1951, the Stangl family members emigrated come Brazil. The male who perfected mass murder in the concentration camps invested years assembling cars at a Volkswagen plant close to Sao Paulo.

Franz Stangl is just one of thousands of Nazis and also collaborators who, with the aid of the Catholic Church, escaped Europve via routes referred to as "ratlines" — few of which ran indigenous Innsbruck over the Alps to Merano or Bolzano in southern Tyrol, climate to Rome and also from over there to the Italian harbor city of Genoa.

Stangl chose a detour via Syria, but the bulk of Nazis boarded ships headed straight to southern America — mainly to Argentina, the country Holocaust survivor and writer Simon Wiesenthal named the Nazis" "Cape of last Hope." Argentina was that last country to declare war on Nazi Germany.

Read more:The college student who hunted Nazi judges in postwar Germany


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Franz Stangl throughout his trial in Düsseldorf


Spontaneous cooperation?

"The ratlines were not a extensively structured system, but consisted of many individual components," claimed Daniel Stahl, a chronicler at the department of contemporary and Contemporary background at Jena"s Friedrich Schiller University. "It was an ext of a spontaneous participation of different institutions that gradually developed itself after people War II."

Some 90% of Nazi perpetrators that escaped Europe are thought to have fled across the Alps to Italy — that was the very first loophole.

Their an initial stop was in the south Tyrol region of north Italy: the monastery that the Teutonic order in Merano, the Capuchin monastery near Bressanone or the Franciscan monastery close to Bolzano. The battle criminals would regularly hide the end in abbeys — these ratlines are likewise known together the "monastery route" — for years, collecting money to proceed their escape overseas. Sometimes, the Nazis to be accommodated right next to their former victims, Jews headed to Israel.

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Rome to be the next stop. The Nazis who had actually a letter native the Catholic Church confirming their identification were handed a passport by the global Committee the the Red overcome (ICRC), i m sorry issued about 120,000 records until 1951 — a just formality.

"The story goes that even before the finish of the war, there was a plainly thought-out and elaborate setup for Nazi escapees," Stahl said. "That is wrong, even the likes that Franz Stangl an initial wandered around Rome without knowing what to execute next." details was happen on word of mouth.

A name that regularly plants up is Alois Hudal. The Austrian bishop had plainly positioned himself together a Nazi sympathizer during Nazi rule, and also later that said numerous of those persecuted to be "completely blameless" and also that the "snatched castle from their tormentors with false identity papers."

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Adolf Eichmann"s fake passport through the alias Ricardo Klement


Popular clandestine route

"It would have actually been much more daunting for Stangl and the others to flee" if the Catholic Church had not protected plenty of Nazis, Stahl said.

The perform of infamous Nazis who offered the ratlines is long.

Adolf Eichmann

Using the surname Riccardo Klement, the man who organized the Holocaust fled indigenous Bolzano to Argentina in 1950. His family later join him. Thankful for the Vatican"s aid in his escape, Eichmann converted to Catholicism. He functioned as one electrician in ~ a Daimler-Benz truck factory. In 1960, he was kidnapped through Mossad, Israel"s an enig service, and also brought to trial in Israel. He was executed in the night from may 31 to June 1, 1962.


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Eichmann to be kidnapped and brought to Israel to was standing trial


Josef Mengele

The sadistic Auschwitz concentration camp doctor fled to south Tyrol in 1949, whereby supporters provided him with a brand-new passport. His new name was Helmut Gregor, 38, a Catholic and a mechanic, born in the southern Tyrolean town of Tramin. The detail of his birth in southern Tyrol would certainly prove the many important problem for leave the country. Together a southern Tyrolean citizen, he was considered an ethnic German and also stateless, and therefore entitled to an ICRC passport. Mengele resided in Argentina, Paraguay and also Brazil, whereby he endured a stroke while swimming and drowned top top February 7, 1979.


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The man thought to be Nazi battle criminal Josef Mengele, 3rd from right, throughout a picnic with friends in Sao Paulo, Brazil


Klaus Barbie

Known as the "Butcher the Lyon," the French city"s former Gestapo chief collection off for south America as Klaus Altmann that Romania. V the aid of the CIA, Barbie obtained a visa because that Bolivia in 1951 and also continued to receive orders indigenous the US foreign intelligence service and also the German federal Intelligence organization (BND). His whereabouts came to be known to the public in 1970. Bolivia extradited him come France in 1983. He obtained a life sentence and also died of cancer in prison on September 25, 1991.

Erich Priebke

The SS captain was partially responsible for the massacre that 335 civilians in a reprisal death in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome in 1944. That fled indigenous Latvia come Bariloche in Argentina under the pseudonym otto Pape. Argentinian authorities extradited him come Rome in 1995. Three years later, he was sentenced come life in prison and also died under home arrest on October 11, 2013.

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Walther Rauff

Rauff developed mobile gas chambers, in i m sorry exhaust fumes to be fed directly into the back of redesigned vans. Follow to his arrest warrant, he was responsible for at the very least 97,000 murders. In 1949, the fled follow me the ratline in addition to his wife and also two children, come the Ecuadoran city Quito, then continued on to Chile. West Germany requested his extradition in 1963, but it to be rejected as the crime Rauff to be accused of had expired under Chile"s statute of limitations. Rauff came to be a affluent food producer and died that a heart attack on might 14, 1984.