The Catholic Escape Route for Nazi War Criminals

The entire era, 1932-1945 has left an evil legacy for the Catholic Church. Although many have argued that the Catholic Church lived in fear and under the thumb of a dictator, therefore the Church was powerless to help the enemies of the Third Reich. Perhaps we can give the Vatican the benefit of the doubt in February 1942, but what about in December 1944 or March 1945. Was the Catholic Church living in fear of a Nazi invasion in April 1945? Was the Church fearful of reprisals in May of 1945 by wondering SS divisions? No, the Catholic Church, not only intentionally helped Nazi war criminals escape justice, but helped them establish new lives in foreign countries. The Vatican used every means at their disposal to assist war criminals, including dressing SS officers in priests clothing and laundering hundreds of millions of gold bullion through Vatican banking channels. Granted that humanitarianism is one of the Church’s missions to fulfill on this earth, but does this mission of brotherly love include harboring escaped murderers and war criminals? Granted that love of ones neighbor is one of the bedrock principles of the Church, but does that include covering up the sins of former members of the SS who willing sinned against their fellow human beings? These questions I will leave to readers to decide for themselves.

Intermingled within the crowds of displaced persons were some of Europe’s most notorious war criminals, individuals who had the blood of millions on their hands. Just before the end of the war, the Holy See’s Secretariat of State conducted a lobbying campaign to provide spiritual and material assistance to the impoverished. The Vatican has "consistently claimed that they were unaware of the identity of those who were undeserving of their humanitarian assistance."  Unfortunately, a number of high ranking priests not only knew who these wanted war criminals were, they actively sought these men out, gave them extra assistance and afforded them benefits that very few people received throughout the war years.

Years later it became public knowledge that war criminals like Klaus Barbie, Adolf Eichmann, Heinrich Mueller, Josef Bluemle, Franz Stangl and a whole list of other war criminals escaped war torn Europe via the Catholic Church. Most of these men escaped through the work of one man, a Roman Catholic Bishop named Alois Hudal, Rector of the Pontificio Santa Maria dell’ Anima. "During the war Hudal served as Commissioner or the Episcopate for German speaking Catholics in Italy, as well as Father Confessor to Rome’s German community."  Hudal harbored anti-Semitic feelings and his pro Nazi stance was well known throughout the Catholic community. During Hitler’s rule, Bishop Hudal often spoke about the unity between the Catholic Church and the Nazi government.

In Gitta Sereny’s book Into That Darkness, Stangl described how Bishop Hudal was expecting Stangl (it seemed he expected over a hundred war criminals), and that he was arranging papers, passports, an exit visa and work permits for South America. Hudal arranged Stangl’s sleeping quarters, transportation, via a car, plane, ship, and seemed to have plenty of money for extra pay offs, bribes and emergency’s that may arise.  Hudal had contacts with the German Red Cross, the American Office of Strategic Services, British Intelligence, and even seemed well connected to two well known Nazi escape organizations, ODESSA and DIE SPINNE. Both of these organizations were well financed, connected, and secretly assisted ex Nazi officers to find new homes in the Middle East, South America and even the United States. Simon Wiesenthal has argued on numerous occasions, that Nazis, who were seeking an escape, knew they had to go to the Vatican and find Bishop Hudal. Wiesenthal believed that Stangl had the same help that his two good friends, Gustav Wagner, former Deputy Commandant of Sobibor, and Alois Brunner, a former commander of a mobile killing squad in Russia, received when they escaped Allied justice. According to several credible witnesses, Bishop Hudal was a very close friend with Walter Rauff, an ambitious SS officer who oversaw the development program for the mobile gas vans. Their friendship began around 1943 and many believed their friendship remained until Rauff’s death.

After the sudden death of Cardinal Magione in August of 1944, Pope Pius XII decided not to appoint a new Secretary of State and assumed personal responsibility over foreign affairs. One of the Pope’s closest advisors became Monsignors Domenico Tardini and Giovani Montini, the latter being a very close personal friend of Bishop Hudal. Once the war ended Bishop instantly transformed himself from a pro Fascist into an ardent anti Communist who sought potential allies in his holy crusade against Communism. Hudal convinced Montini that a lenient policy was needed with those individuals who were Catholic, anti Communist, and deemed valuable to the upcoming struggle against Communism. Martini and Tardini convinced his Holiness the Pope and ex Nazi war criminals flooded out of Europe to find new homes around the world. Eventually the Pope appointed Bishop Hudal the Vatican’s official Spiritual Director of the German People and was ordered to visit all of the German POW camps in order to find those worthy anti Communists and give them special assistance with the eternal blessing of the Vatican’s Holy Office. [5] U.S Intelligence agencies knew Bishop Hudal’s mission and even helped provide transportation, living quarters and even identity papers for some of Hudal’s chosen few. Over 30,000 Nazi war criminals made their way to freedom and a new life. ODESSA was an amateur escape organization when compared to the Vatican RATLINE. A large number of these escaped criminals were not even German, thousands were eastern European collaborators who willingly killed for the Nazis.

To see source and other Catholic War Crime activity go here: