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The 7 Most Notorious Nazis Who Escaped to South America

December 27, 2017 in History

By Christopher Klein

After Allied forces defeated Germany in World War II, Europe became a difficult place to be associated with Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich. Thousands of Nazi officers, high-ranking party members and collaborators—including many notorious war criminals—escaped across the Atlantic, finding refuge in South America, particularly in Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

Argentina, for one, was already home to hundreds of thousands of German immigrants and had maintained close ties to Germany during the war. After 1945, Argentine President Juan Perón, himself drawn to fascist ideologies, enlisted intelligence officers and diplomats to help establish “rat lines,” or escape routes via Spanish and Italian ports, for many in the Third Reich. Also giving aid: the Vatican in Rome, which in seeking to help Catholic war refugees also facilitated fleeing Nazis—sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.

As thousands of Nazis and their collaborators poured into the continent, a sympathetic and sophisticated network developed, easing the transition for those who came after. While no definitive evidence exists that Hitler himself escaped his doomsday bunker and crossed the ocean, such a network could have helped make it possible.

Below, a list of some of the most notorious Nazi war criminals who made their way to South America.

Adolph Eichmann

WHAT HE’S INFAMOUS FOR: The “world’s most wanted Nazi,” Eichmann was the architect of Hitler’s “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jews from Europe. The notorious SS lieutenant colonel masterminded the Nazi network of death camps that resulted in the murder of approximately 6 million people. Eichmann orchestrated the identification, assembly and transportation of European Jews to Auschwitz, Treblinka and other death camps in German-occupied Poland.

HIS PATH TO SOUTH AMERICA: After World War II ended, Eichmann went into hiding in Austria. With the aid of a Franciscan monk in Genoa, Italy, he obtained an Argentine visa and signed an application for a falsified Red Cross passport. In 1950 he boarded a steamship to Buenos Aires under the alias Ricardo Klement. Eichmann lived with his wife and four children in a middle-class Buenos Aires suburb and worked in a Mercedes-Benz automotive plant.

HOW HE WAS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE: Israeli Mossad agents captured Eichmann in a daring operation on May 11, 1960, then snuck him out of the country by doping and disguising him as an El Al flight crew member. In Israel, Eichmann stood trial as a war criminal responsible for deporting Jews to death …read more


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