The lines of rats or ratlines by their English name, were systems of escape for Nazis and other fascists that left Europe at the end of World War II after the defeat of the Axis countries . These escape routes usually ended in safe havens in South America , particularly in Argentina , Paraguay , Uruguay , Brazil , Chile , Peru, and Bolivia . Other destinations included the United States , Canada and the Middle East .

One of these lines of rats, which was made famous by the thriller of Frederick Forsyth The Odessa File (Document Odessa), was administered by the Organization ODESSA ( Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen , “Organization of former members of the SS “) , Network organized by Otto Skorzeny . However, more recent research has shown that the organization’s role in the flight of large numbers of Nazi war criminals was limited.

The lines of rats of the Vatican

The intelligence of Vatican

There are hypotheses about the creation of an intelligence service secret Vatican after the war , called Pro Deo [ citation needed ] , with an uncertain role in the ratlines [ citation needed ] , whose founder would be the Father Felix Morlion . Morlion was a Dominican Belgian who escaped in the year 1941 to the United States after being persecuted by the Nazis because of their activity in the Pro Deo International Centre of Brussels . In the United States worked in the Activities of Psychological War until 1944 . Later, he and his associates created an American-inspired university in Rome , the International University of Social Studies Pro Deo. 1 The aim of this university was to reinforce the fraternity of people of different religions and social backgrounds (with the particular collaboration of Jews), 2 and is also credited with a role in curbing the establishment of communist movements in Italy and other countries in Europe and America . 1

Early attempts: Bishop Hudal

The Catholic bishop Alois Hudal was rector of the Pontifical Teutonic Institute Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome , a seminary for priests from Austria and Germany , as well as being the “Spiritual Director of German Residents in Italy”. 3 After the end of the war in Italy , Hudal became an active supporter of the prisoners of war and internees who spoke German and were scattered throughout Italy. In December 1944, the Secretariat of State of the Holy See received an authorization to appoint an official to “visit German-speaking civilian internees in Italy,” a work assigned to Hudal. [ Citation needed ]

Hudal used this post to help escape sought-after Nazi war criminals, including Franz Stangl , Treblinka commander , Gustav Wagner , Sobibor commander , Alois Brunner , head of the Drancy detention camp near Paris and officer at Charge of deportations from Slovakia to German concentration camps , and Adolf Eichmann 4 – a fact later proven.

Some of these were interned in camps: usually without identity papers, so it was easy to put fake names on them. Other Nazis were hidden in Italy, and Hudal’s help in escaping began to be known in these circles. 5

In his memoirs, Hudal would say of his actions: “I thank God that He [would allow me] to visit and comfort many victims imprisoned or detained in concentration camps, helping them escape with fake papers . 6

Hudal explains that according to his vision:

The Allied war against Germany was not a Crusade, but a rivalry between economic complexes in which they had fought for victory. This business … used slogans like democracy, race, religious freedom and Christianity as bait for the masses. For all these reasons after 1945 I felt compelled to dedicate all my charitable work mainly to former National Socialists and Fascists , especially to the so-called ‘War Criminals’.

According to Mark Aarons and John Loftus in his book Unholy Trinity , 7 Hudal was the first Catholic priest who set out to create escape routes. Aarons and Loftus claim that Hudal provided to persons subject to its charity with money so they could escape, and even more important with identity cards false of the Organization of Refugees Vatican ( Commissione Pontificia d’Assistenza ).

These Vatican documents were not exactly passports , and were not enough to allow them to move to other continents. They were the first stage of a long list of steps: thanks to Vatican documents, the protégés could obtain a personal passport from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which in turn could be used to obtain a visa . In theory, the ICRC should conduct an investigation into the background of applicants for a passport, but in practice the mere word of a priest or particularly of a bishop was more than sufficient. According to information collected by Gitta Sereny from a senior executive of the ICRC’s Roman branch, 8 Hudal could use his position as bishop to request ICRC documents “according to his own specifications.” Sereny’s sources also revealed an intense illicit trade in ICRC documents.

According to reports declassified government intelligence United States of America , Hudal was not the only priest who helped the Nazis to escape. In the “Report La Vista” , declassified in 1984 , the agent of the Body of Counterintelligence, Vincent La Vista, reported how he had managed to easily get false documents of the ICRC for two alleged refugees Hungarian thanks to a letter from the Catholic priest Joseph Gallov. Gallov, who was administrator of a Hungarian refugee charity in the Vatican, wrote a letter to his “personal contact at the International Red Cross, which later obtained his passports.” Referring to Fig.

List of Nazis who escaped using ratlines 

Among those who made use of these lines are some of the most famous war criminals, such as Adolf Eichmann , Franz Stangl , Gustav Wagner , Erich Priebke , Klaus Barbie , Edward Roschmann , Aribert Heim , Andrija Artuković , Ante Pavelić , Walter Rauff , Alois Brunner And Josef Mengele . [ Citation needed ]


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b Files of the American Jewish Committee, May 22, 1957
  2. Back to top↑ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 30, 1965, pg. 1.4
  3. Back to top↑ Aarons and Loftus, Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, The Nazis, and the Swiss Bankers (St Martins Press 1991, revised 1998)
  4. Back to top↑ Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust
  5. Back to top↑ Gitta Sereny, “Into That Darkness”, Picador 1977
  6. Back to top↑ Translated from: Hudal Römische Tagebücher, p. 37)
  7. Back to top↑ Aarons and Loftus, op. Cit. Chapter 2 ‘Bishop Hudal and the first wave’
  8. Back to top↑ Gitta Sereny, op. Cit., Pp. 316-7
  9. Back to top↑ See Aarons and Loftus, op. Cit. Pp. 43-5