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Vatican - The Ratlines - Nazis escaped

The Ratlines

From the May/June 2010 Trumpet Print Edition »

Adolf Eichmann, “the architect of the Holocaust,” escaped from Europe after World War II and remained hidden for 15 years before being captured. Germany holds a cache of sealed files detailing this history and is fighting to keep it secret despite critics’ objections. Some observers believe the documents would shed embarrassing additional light on German-Vatican collusion on the “ratlines,” an already proven postwar operation to protect Nazi leaders. Following are a few excerpts from the 1992 book Unholy Trinity, written by Mark Aarons and John Loftus, describing this important chapter in German-Vatican history.

It is absurd to believe that 30,000 fugitive Nazis escaped to South America on the few U-Boats remaining at the end of the war, or that they all made their own travel arrangements. Modern popular culture has presented the escape of the Nazis in an adventurous, almost romantic light. The most popular Nazi smugglers are odessa and Die Spinne, although other mysterious groups are also mentioned from time to time. But in the main these stories owe more to the fertile imagination of scriptwriters and novelists than to historical research and accuracy.

The truth is much more ordinary, almost mundane. It is all the more shocking as a result. For whatever successes odessa achieved, they were mere amateurs at Nazi-smuggling when compared with the Vatican. Draganovic’s Ratline [the name given to the Vatican’s smuggling operation] was truly professional, ensuring that many guilty war criminals reached safe havens. Often they did not end up in the remote jungles of South America, but settled instead in Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States. …

The Vatican has consistently claimed that they were unaware of the identity of those who were undeserving of their humanitarian assistance. But some influential priests not only knew who the Nazis were, they actively sought them out and provided extra-special treatment. …

In 1948 Franz Stangl wearily trudged along the road to Rome. Three years earlier he had been an important man: Commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp. He was meticulous in his work. When the boxcars crammed full of deported men, women and children arrived … Stangl insisted on order. The passengers were told to disembark for a routine rest stop and showers. … It was all so swift, so organized, so deadly. The showers were actually a gas chamber where 900,000 people, mostly Jews, were murdered immediately upon arrival. Unlike Auschwitz, no work was done here. Treblinka existed for one purpose only: mass murder of human beings. Franz Stangl had commanded the Third Reich’s most efficient death factory. …

Stangl said that when he came to Rome he was in fact looking for [Roman Catholic] Bishop Alois Hudal, rector of the Pontificio Santa Maria dell’Anima, one of three seminaries for German priests in Rome. It was Hudal’s name that had been whispered throughout the Nazi underground: “The bishop came into the room where I was waiting and he held out both his hands and said, ‘You must be Franz Stangl. I was expecting you.’”

Stangl described the power and influence of Hudal’s extensive smuggling network for fugitive Nazis. It was Hudal who arranged “quarters in Rome where I was to stay till my papers came through. And he gave me a bit more money—I had almost nothing left.” After several weeks, Hudal “called me in and gave me my new passport—a Red Cross Passport … [he] got me an entrance visa to Syria and a job in a textile mill in Damascus, and he gave me a ticket for the ship. So I went to Syria.” …

[Monsignor Karl Bayer, Rome director for Catholic relief organization Caritas] admitted, “Perhaps Hudal did get batches of passports for these particular people.” Finally he conceded that the money Hudal gave Stangl would certainly have come from Vatican funds. “The pope did provide money for this; in driblets sometimes, but it did come.”

Was Stangl an isolated case, a regrettable but unavoidable accident by a legitimate Catholic charity? Or was he one of many who escaped via Hudal’s secret church connection? Simon Wiesenthal, who was responsible for Stangl’s eventual recapture in Brazil in 1967, believes that a sophisticated Vatican network was involved. …

Wiesenthal is convinced that Hudal was also responsible for smuggling the most infamous war criminal of them all: Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect of the Holocaust. As head of the SS Department for “Jewish Affairs,” Eichmann’s careful supervision ensured that men like Brunner, Stangl and Wagner ran the machinery of death at peak capacity. Wiesenthal believes that Hudal equipped Eichmann with a new identity as a Croatian refugee called “Richard Klement,” and sent him to Genoa. There Eichmann was apparently hidden in a monastery under Archbishop Siri’s charitable control, before finally being smuggled to South America.

Someone so notorious could not be protected forever. Eichmann was eventually tracked down in Argentina by Israeli intelligence, kidnapped, tried and executed in Jerusalem in 1962. What angers Wiesenthal is that a Catholic relief organization, Caritas, “paid all of the traveling expenses for Eichmann” to reach South America.

Official Vatican historian Father Robert Graham admits that Hudal might have helped “a handful, a mere handful of Nazi war criminals to escape”: “When Eichmann was arrested it was alleged he passed through Rome and got some help from Bishop Hudal. Hudal was asked about this and said, ‘I don’t know, I helped a lot of people and Eichmann may have been among them.’” …

If Eichmann was a case of unauthorized assistance, he was certainly not the only instance. Hudal seemed to make mistakes with frightening regularity. Wiesenthal recalls, “During my search for Eichmann I found out that many [war criminals] were living in monasteries, equipped by Hudal with false documents,” showing they were refugees. One point is certain: Many war criminals who escaped to South America have gratefully acknowledged that they owed their freedom to the Austrian-born bishop.

It is not surprising that Wiensenthal accuses Hudal. The bishop’s pro-Nazi views were well known. Even Father Graham concedes the point: “Hudal was rather notorious in Rome for being openly philo-Nazi. He had this idea that it was his divine call to settle relations between the Nazis and the Catholic Church.” By the early 1930s, Hudal openly supported Hitler, traveling widely through Italy and Germany to address large crowds of German-speaking Catholics. From the very beginning of Nazi rule, he warmly embraced the new government as his own. …

Hudal gave a speech at the Anima in Rome. Among the invited guests were members of the German Diplomatic Corps, as well as local representatives of various Nazi organizations. The bishop [Hudal] told his approving audience that “in this hour of destiny all German Catholics living abroad welcome the new German Reich, whose philosophies accord both with Christian and national values.” … In 1936 he published a “philosophical” treatise, The Foundations of National Socialism. … [T]he book was fulsome in its praise for the ideas, program and actions of the Nazis .… Hudal was not the only cleric to hold these views. The primate of the Austrian Church, Cardinal Theodore Innitzer, was at that time strongly pro-Nazi. It was natural, therefore, that he gave Hudal’s book an “imprimatur,” or official church permission for publication. The cardinal glowingly endorsed it “as a valuable attempt to pacify the German people’s religious situation.” …

Apparently Hudal’s high Nazi profile did not harm his Vatican career. Since 1930 he had been a consulter in the Holy Office, a senior Vatican tribunal working “in the most rigorous secrecy,” as U.S. intelligence reported. … [A]s Hudal’s views grew more stridently and publicly pro-Nazi, nothing was done either to discipline or remove him from this powerful post. Instead the Vatican promoted him in June 1933 from priest to titular bishop, an extremely rare honor for a relatively lowly rector of a teaching college. …

Father Jacob Weinbacher … has no doubt that “Hudal was very close to [Pope] Pius xii … they were friends.” … Far from being just another anonymous cleric on the fringes of the Vatican, “Hudal may well have been the sounding board for the pope in the German-speaking countries.” …

By early 1944 when the Allies landed in Sicily, even Hudal could see that Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” was doomed. As long as the Nazi armies were winning, he had proudly driven around Rome with a “Greater Germany” flag on his car .…

Hudal had nothing but contempt for the American victors who helped him: “… I felt duty bound after 1945 to devote my whole charitable work mainly to former National Socialists and fascists, especially to so called ‘war criminals.’”

Hudal’s self-confessed activities are all the more controversial because he operated with the full authority of the Vatican.




    The Hidden Nazi Underground

    From the March 2011 Trumpet Print Edition » By Richard Palmer

    “We don’t understand German thoroughness,” said the founder of the Trumpet’s predecessor, the Plain Truth, Herbert W. Armstrong in May 1945. “From the very start of World War ii, they have considered the possibility of losing this second round, as they did the first—and they have carefully, methodically planned, in such eventuality, the third round—World War iii! Hitler has lost. This round of war, in Europe, is over. And the Nazis have now gone underground .… They plan to come back and to win on the third try.”

    Mr. Armstrong said this while Germany was surrendering. He predicted Nazism would not be rooted out, and that many Nazis would have important roles in the new Germany that rose from the ashes of the old.

    History has already proven Mr. Armstrong right. In 1956, he wrote, “The day that war ended, the Nazi organization went underground! Their plans for coming back have been proceeding, under cover, since 1945! Already Nazis are in many key positions—in German industry—in German education—in the new German Army!”

    But the full extent of Nazi subterfuge has not been revealed until today. A slew of new studies and declassified reports show how thoroughly Nazis infiltrated the new German government.

    Hiding Nazi Involvement

    After the war ended, the German Foreign Ministry maintained its innocence. We didn’t help the Nazis, it protested. We didn’t like them. We simply did our jobs and nothing more.

    It was a lie. In October last year, a commission of historians published an 880-page book detailing the Foreign Ministry’s cooperation with Nazism.

    “The Foreign Ministry wasn’t just somehow involved in national socialism or even a hotbed of resistance, as was long claimed,” Prof. Eckart Conze, who chaired the study, told Spiegel. “From day one, it functioned as an institution of the Nazi regime and backed its politics of violence at all times. After 1945, there was a high degree of staffing continuity within the ministry, and some of its diplomats were seriously tainted.”

    “The ministry contributed, as an institution, to the violent crimes of the Nazis, even including the murder of the Jews,” he continued. “In this sense, one can say that the Foreign Ministry was a criminal organization.”

    Not only were these diplomats allowed to remain in office, but the German government worked to protect them from prosecution. The Foreign Ministry then went on to aid fellow Nazis; its legal team helped Germans avoid prosecution for war crimes overseas.

    The Foreign Ministry’s civil servants were not the only ones to support the Nazis. The revelations about the Foreign Ministry prompted former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück to open up the Finance Ministry’s records. The result: “The Reich’s Finance Ministry literally plundered the assets of the Jews,” said Steinbrück. “It was systematic. … The Jews were stripped of savings, assets, anything with a financial or material value.”

    Prof. Hans-Peter Ullmann, who chaired the Finance Ministry study, said that at one point 30 percent of the German government was financed by stolen Jewish assets. The New York Times commented, “Plundering Jewish assets could not have been possible without an efficient civil service” (Dec. 26, 2010).

    Letting Criminals Go

    The German Intelligence Service, which became the bnd in 1956, also hired Nazis. Last March, it admitted that it hired 200 Nazi criminals for 15 years after World War ii.

    “Some had been involved in massacres in Poland and Russia, others were Gestapo torturers; all found a berth in the West German intelligence service,” wrote the London Times (March 10, 2010).

    The German secret service wasn’t the only force recruiting Nazis. The United States also protected Nazi war criminals so they would spy for it. A report published by the U.S. National Archives on December 10 shows that America lost interest in hunting down Nazis after 1946 and states that it “went to some lengths to protect certain persons from justice.” A separate Justice Department history of the era says America created a “safe haven” for Nazis.

    It is no wonder, then, that both the U.S. and German intelligence agencies covered up Nazi war criminals.

    Intelligence files leaked to the German Bild newspaper in January show that the German intelligence services knew where the infamous Adolf Eichmann was hiding, eight years before Israeli agents captured him and brought him to trial. The German intelligence file said he was hiding in Argentina under the name Clement. “Eichmann’s address is known to the editor of the German newspaper Der Weg in Argentina,” it stated.

    “With this information one could definitely have found Eichmann in 1952, and it would be an insult to any secret service to claim that the information wasn’t sufficient,” said historian Bettina Stangneth.

    The Independent reported, “German intelligence is known to be reluctant to surrender all its Eichmann documents because of fears that full disclosure would prove beyond doubt that German and Vatican officials colluded in helping him to avoid trial for war crimes and escape to Argentina” (January 10).

    Another example is the “Butcher of Lyons,” Klaus Barbie. Barbie cooperated with the Americans, so they helped him flee to South America. A French court sentenced him to death for his crimes in World War ii, in absentia.

    Then, in 1960, the German foreign intelligence agency recruited him as an agent in Bolivia. Spiegel reported that it did this knowing his true identity.

    Warnings Ignored

    America ignored Herbert Armstrong’s warnings. Too focused on Russia to worry about a resurgent Germany, it did nothing, and in many cases worse than nothing, when it came to hunting down Nazi war criminals.

    The same civil and diplomatic service that supported Hitler was allowed to keep functioning. The German government absorbed old Nazis.

    Now that same government is at the head of Europe. That should be a major warning to the whole world. ▪

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