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Event.png Ratline  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Date1945 - 1960
Interest ofCarl Burckhardt
DescriptionChannels where by prominent Nazis were spirited out of Europe to South America.

See also Operation Paperclip

Ratlines were a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascist fleeing Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

As Peter Dale Scott notes, no one was actually in charge of these structures, but as deep state milieux, they were unofficial, criminal enterprises run in decentralised fashion.

There were two primary routes: the first went from Germany to Spain, then Argentina; the second from Germany to Rome to Genoa, then South America. The two routes developed independently but eventually came together. The Vatican was of key importance to many of them, and they were later used by the United States Intelligence officers. Also prominent West German business circles and the Gehlen Organization gave protection for many people of interest.

Many Eastern Europeans, especially Croatian Ustaše, were helped to South America by the Church.


ODESSA is an American codename (from the German: Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, meaning: Organization of Former SS Members) coined in 1946 to cover Nazi underground escape plans at the end of World War II by a group of SS officers with the aim of facilitating secret escape routes, and any directly ensuing arrangements. The idea has been widely circulated in fictional spy novels and movies, including Frederick Forsyth's best-selling thriller The Odessa File (1972). Known goals included allowing the SS members to escape to Argentina or the Middle East under false passports.

Though an unknown number of wanted Nazis and war criminals did in fact escape Germany, and often Europe, the existence of an organisation called ODESSA is rejected by most experts. However, once again, the term itself is only recorded certainly as an American construction, to cover a range of planning, arrangements, including those enacted and those simply envisaged, and both known and hypothesised groups. There has been and remains some confusion over the years of the use of the term ODESSA.[1]

Ratline escapees

Some of the Nazis and war criminals who escaped using ratlines include:

  • Adolf Eichmann, fled to Argentina in 1950, captured 1960, executed in Israel on 1 June 1962
  • Franz Stangl, fled to Brazil in 1951, arrested in 1967 and extradited to West Germany, died in 1971 of natural causes
  • Gustav Wagner, fled to Brazil in 1950, arrested 1978, committed suicide 1980
  • Erich Priebke, fled to Argentina in 1949, arrested 1994, eventually died in 2013
  • Klaus Barbie, fled to Bolivia with help from the United States, captured in 1983, died in prison in France on 23 September 1991
  • Eduard Roschmann, escaped to Argentina in 1948, fled to Paraguay to avoid extradition and died there in 1977
  • Aribert Heim, disappeared in 1962, most likely died in Egypt in 1992
  • Andrija Artuković, escaped to the United States, arrested in 1984 after decades of delay and extradited to Zagreb, Yugoslavia, where died in 1988
  • Ante Pavelić, escaped to Argentina in 1948, initially survived an assassination attempt in 1957, but died of his wounds in Spain in 1959
  • Walter Rauff, escaped to Chile, never captured, died in 1984
  • Alois Brunner, fled to Syria in 1954, died around 2010
  • Josef Mengele, fled to Argentina in 1949, then to other countries, dying in Brazil in 1979. Remains exhumed in 1985 and probably destroyed.
  • Johann Feil
  • Martin Bormann


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Their Will Be Donearticle1 August 1983Martin A LeeHow the CIA targets powerful hierarchies for infiltration and influence. The Roman Catholic Church's claim to be the one and only authentic 'Church of Christ on Earth' does not exempt them from exploitation by deep politicians. This article powerfully demonstrates both the Catholic Church's power and its susceptibility to the machinations of Mammon. As they say in South America, "When the CIA goes to church, it doesn't go to pray."
File:Martin Bormann - Nazi In Exile.pdfbook1981Paul ManningA deep history of transnational corporate ownership networks originating from the fascist junction of state and economic power in Germany before and during WWII
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