After civilization War II, countless Nazis fled to southern America along so-called ratlines — often with the aid of Catholic clergy. The Vatican is now opening its archives indigenous the time. Will certainly it be a minute of truth?


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


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

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

In Rome, Bishop Alois Hudal, a fellow Austrian, greeted him through the words: "You must be Franz Stangl — I"ve to be expecting you." He then handed Stangl forged papers that allowed the Nazi battle criminal to take trip to Syria, where his family at some point joined him. In 1951, the Stangl family members emigrated come Brazil. The male who perfected mass killing in the concentration camps spent years assembling cars at a Volkswagen plant near Sao Paulo.

Franz Stangl is just one of thousands the Nazis and collaborators who, v the assist of the Catholic Church, escaped Europve via routes dubbed "ratlines" — some of which ran native Innsbruck over the Alps to Merano or Bolzano in south Tyrol, climate to Rome and from there to the Italian harbor city that Genoa.

Stangl decided a detour via Syria, however the bulk of Nazis boarded pearl headed directly to south America — mostly to Argentina, the country Holocaust survivor and writer Simon Wiesenthal called the Nazis" "Cape of critical Hope." Argentina was that last country to declare war on Nazi Germany.

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Franz Stangl during his attempt in Düsseldorf


Spontaneous cooperation?

"The ratlines were no a completely structured system, however consisted of countless individual components," stated Daniel Stahl, a historian at the room of contemporary and Contemporary history at Jena"s Friedrich Schiller University. "It was more of a spontaneous teamwork of different institutions that gradually established itself after human being War II."

Some 90% that Nazi perpetrators that escaped Europe are thought to have actually fled across the Alps to Italy — the was the an initial loophole.

Their very first stop was in the south Tyrol an ar of north Italy: the monastery that the Teutonic bespeak in Merano, the Capuchin monastery close to Bressanone or the Franciscan monastery near Bolzano. The war criminals would regularly hide the end in abbeys — these ratlines are additionally known as the "monastery route" — for years, collecting money to proceed their to escape overseas. Sometimes, the Nazis were accommodated right alongside their previous victims, Jews top 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 identity were handed a passport through the worlgendergeek.orgide Committee the the Red cross (ICRC), which issued around 120,000 files until 1951 — a only formality.

"The story goes that even before the end of the war, there to be a plainly thought-out and also elaborate arrangement for Nazi escapees," Stahl said. "That is wrong, also the likes the Franz Stangl an initial wandered approximately Rome without knowing what to carry out next." information was passed on word of mouth.

A name the regularly crops up is Alois Hudal. The Austrian bishop had plainly positioned himself as a Nazi sympathizer throughout Nazi rule, and also later that said numerous of those persecuted were "completely blameless" and that the "snatched lock from your tormentors through false identity papers."

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Adolf Eichmann"s fake passport through the alias Ricardo Klement


Popular clandestine route

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

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

Adolf Eichmann

Using the surname Riccardo Klement, the guy who arranged the Holocaust fled from Bolzano come Argentina in 1950. His family members later join him. Thankful for the Vatican"s assist in his escape, Eichmann converted to Catholicism. He operated as one electrician at a Daimler-Benz truck factory. In 1960, he to be kidnapped by 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 stand trial


Josef Mengele

The sadistic Auschwitz concentration camp doctor fled to southern Tyrol in 1949, wherein supporters detailed him through a new passport. His new name was Helmut Gregor, 38, a Catholic and a mechanic, born in the southern Tyrolean village of Tramin. The information of his bear in south Tyrol would certainly prove the most important condition for leaving the country. As a southern Tyrolean citizen, he was taken into consideration an country German as well as stateless, and also therefore licensed has been granted to one ICRC passport. Mengele stayed in Argentina, Paraguay and also Brazil, whereby he endured a stroke when swimming and also drowned ~ above February 7, 1979.


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The man believed to it is in Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, third from right, during a picnic v friends in Sao Paulo, Brazil


Klaus Barbie

Known as the "Butcher the Lyon," the French city"s former Gestapo chief set off for south America as Klaus Altmann of 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 the German federal Intelligence organization (BND). His whereabouts came to be known to the general public in 1970. Bolivia extradited him to France in 1983. He received a life sentence and died the cancer in jail on September 25, 1991.

Erich Priebke

The SS captain was partially responsible for the massacre that 335 civilians in a reprisal killing in the Ardeatine Caves close to Rome in 1944. That fled native Latvia to Bariloche in Argentina under the pseudonym otto Pape. Argentinian authorities extradited him to Rome in 1995. 3 years later, he to be sentenced come life in prison and also died under home arrest ~ above October 11, 2013.

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Walther Rauff

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