The Nazi Escape to South America


After World War II, a large number of German officials and wartime comrades who upheld the system from Germany, France, Croatia and different parts of Europe were searching for another home. Large numbers of them realised that they may be tried and prosecuted for their violations and activities. Their objective was to escape ideally as distant from the Nuremberg trials as quickly as possible. The inquiry isn’t about the explanation of their escape, which is self-evident given the circumstances, rather for what reason did a considerable majority of them pick Argentina commonly and the rest of South America less commonly as their new home.

When the Allies brought their flags up in Berlin, and when the German surrender was endorsed just before 8th May 1945, one thing was clear for these lawbreakers and collaborators: Germany, and surprisingly the entire European landmass, was certainly not a protected spot for them to remain or stow away in regardless of whether the whole system fell or whether remnants of it stayed intact. The conflict was over in Europe, however this did not mean that the whole organisation they had built had fallen. Previous admirers were still there. It was not like World War II finished in one day in 1945 and out of nowhere everybody recognised how dreadful the regime had been. Even after their loss, there were numerous influential men in Europe who had inclined towards their cause and continued doing so.

To understand this further, we can look to Spain which was an impartial nation. However, Spain was also an amicable state and ally of Germany. Spain was administered by Francisco Franco and had been a worn out and non-partisan country in view of its civil war. For quite a while, numerous outlaws would end up in a protected spot here yet they utilised Spain as a bridgehead to different destinations. Likewise, some significant Swiss innovators had been straightforward in their help of Germany. These men were in a situation to assist any escaping war criminals. The Catholic Church was also a vital factor for the majority of these escapees. A few high positioning church authorities effectively supported their escape. There was a window of time to get away from facing justice and potential scrutiny.

These individuals who needed to escape needed to consider their choices in a brief timeframe. To stow away somewhere else and adopt new personalities across the sea in Argentina. President Juan Domingo Perón was more than content to greet those individuals wholeheartedly. President Perón was an admirer of the German ideology of that time. He helped numerous war criminals to flee with the support of his own diplomats and intelligence agents deployed in Europe. The Argentines espoused ways for their travel through sections from Italy and Spain to Buenos Aires. During World War II, Argentina obviously preferred the admission. As a result of its leader – and presumably due to close social ties with Germany, Italy and Spain – Argentina was a Spanish province and it accomplished autonomy towards the start of the nineteenth century through long term movements of Italians and Germans which helped them make solid connections to these European nations.

Argentina was, thus, an ace-Italian and pro-German nation and this was because of the way that most Argentines were of Spanish, Italian or German descent. The German government saw their compassion and the two nations made uncommon connections between one another. Numerous German covert operatives were in Argentina; furthermore Argentine officials and representatives stood firm on significant footholds in Europe. Perón’s administration appreciated some authoritarian practices and attempted to lead the country more towards enormous military processions and militarisation. Numerous significant and compelling Argentines, rich money-managers or individuals from the public authority were transparently strong of the pivot and even the president Perón himself had filled in as a subordinate official in the Italian armed forces in the last part of the 1930s. Subsequently there were extraordinary connections between Germany, Italy and Argentina yet even in the present circumstance, Argentina would ultimately proclaim battle on the Axis powers inside a month prior to the conflict finishing. However, some Argentine specialists attempted to assist crushed German officials with getting away after the conflict.

There was also a monetary justification behind Argentina’s acknowledgement of these men. Some well off Germans and Argentine finance managers of German plummet were able to pay the way for getting away from sprinters in 1945.

At the time, the Allies were cleaning up the last leftovers of the war and the incredible struggle separated the capitalist USA and the Communist USSR. Certain individuals, including Perón and a portion of his counsel, anticipated that another world war would break out soon between the Allies and the Communists. Perón imagined Argentina having its spot as an essentially significant discretionary outsider in the conflict and arising as a significant entertainer on the world map, realising that these outlaw hoodlums were additionally against socialists. The Argentinian President felt that these men would prove to be handy in the conceivable impending contention between the USA and the USSR. The Argentine president tried to select a greater number of these escapees, specifically those with military and mechanical mastery that he accepted could help his armed forces and innovative advances.

A possible scenario could be that the United States and the Soviet Union poach researchers to help them in military and innovative matters.

Seeing this threat, Argentina adopted a better approach to keep these people immaculate and hidden. However, the circumstances somewhat changed, time had elapsed and the Cold War delayed. Hence, in ample time these men would ultimately be viewed as they at first were. The best help for them escaped away with time yet Argentina was not by any means the only spot in South America that acknowledged them.

Hundreds moved to places like Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and different pieces of the mainland. The circumstances changed only ten years later when Perón’s administration fell in 1955. Now there was a dread from the new administration that they probably will not see them with compassion. They were thinking that our reality on Argentine soil could send us back to Europe, predominantly because of the new government’s aggression towards Peron and all his previous arrangements. Over the long run, the presence of so many became something of a humiliation to the country. By the 1990s the vast majority of these matured men were residing straightforwardly under their own names. A modest bunch of them were found and sent back for trials. Numerous others lost their imprint and were absorbed into Argentina’s sizable German group and presumably never discussed their past again.

There is additionally one more integral justification for their getaway to Argentina. If we look at the map of 1945, we can see that Europe was clearly not a decent spot to stow away. Regardless of whether a portion of these individuals wound up in nations like Portugal, Spain or Switzerland. Towards the East, there was the Soviet Union, the contention in China and Japan and some partnered settlements. In the Southern Hemisphere was South Africa which was predominantly a French and British state. In the West there was the US and Canada. Yet from the US-Mexican line towards the south, the choice to run appeared to be most-conceivable. After considering all options, Latin America was the main region of the planet where genuine opportunities for another life existed. From the aforementioned multitude of states, Argentina appeared to be the most ideal choice for these crooks, associates and other people who escaped, considering the receptiveness of the Argentinian government towards accepting them.


This classified system is the sole reason and method of how thousands of Nazis and abetters who, with the help of covert organisations and underground escape routes, would walk into a new life free of all past crimes. These routes were known as ‘Ratlines’, a system of clandestine escape routes for Nazis and other Nazi abetters fleeing Europe following the aftermath of the Second World War. A figure of around 10,000 German offenders were believed to have used these ratlines in the early years after the war. They ultimately led to the refuge and relatively obscured havens in South America including Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Bolivia.There were two principal routes, the primary being from Germany to Spain and then Argentina. This was known as the ‘Iberian route’ and the other being from Germany to Rome to Genoa and then, South America. This was to be known as the Vatican route. These ratlines were sustained by underground organisations like ODESSA which was an organisation of former SS members and some contentious clerics of the Catholic Church.

History tells us that these routes were not just used by former Nazis and Nazi sympathisers who were running the ratlines across Europe. The American and British secret services helped some Nazis escape by recruiting them as spies. Due to the widespread rise of communism in Eastern Europe, former Nazis served as informants on communist activities. This was revealed in Britain’s 1988 all-Parliamentary report, in which Britain described the South American continent as “a haven for men who had willingly worked with the Nazis and committed atrocities against Jews and other civilians during the war.” In the 1970s, Americans aimed to seize as many German scientists as possible in the wake of the looming Cold War. The recruitment of such experts would not have been possible without the existence of these routes.

Notable Figures

According to an article by the Daily Mail in 2012, German prosecutors who examined secret files from Brazil and Chile discovered that as many as 9,000 Nazi officers and collaborators from other countries escaped from Europe to find sanctuary in South American countries. According to this study Brazil took in between 1,500 and 2,000 Nazi war criminals, while between 500 and 1000 settled in Chile. However, by far the largest number as many as 5000 relocated to Argentina.

One notable figure amongst these officers was one Otto Adolf Eichmann who was a German-Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust. Adolf Eichmann was the architect of Hitler’s “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jews from Europe. The infamous SS lieutenant was the brains behind the organised murder of Jews through means of death camps that resulted in the mass death of approximately 6 million Jews. At the end of World War II, Eichmann sought refuge in the continent of South America. After the fall of the Third Reich, Eichmann went into hiding in Austria. With the aid of a monk in Genoa, Italy, he obtained an Argentine visa and signed an application for a falsified passport. In 1950, he boarded a ship to Buenos Aires.

Perhaps the most notable figure in regards to the topic at hand was the infamous ‘Angel of Death’ otherwise more commonly known as Josef Mengele. The so-called Angel of Death was notorious for conducting horrid experiments on the prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp. An SS officer, Mengele was sent at the start of World War II to the Eastern Front to repel the Soviets and received an Iron Cross for his bravery and service. After being wounded and declared unfit for active duty, he was assigned to the Auschwitz death camp. There he used the prisoners, particularly twins, pregnant women and the disabled as his lab rats. Mengele is known to have even tortured and killed children through his trials. Post World War II, this vile physician spent over three yearsin hiding in Germany. In 1949, with the help of a Catholic ministry member, the “Angel of Death” fled through Italy to Argentina. Mengele lived in various Buenos Aires suburbs, but after hearing of Eichmann’s capture, went underground, first in Paraguay and then in Brazil. This is his last known location.

It is worthy of mention that it has been stipulated that the founder of arguably the most extreme movement regime in all of history, Adolf Hitler (head of the Nazi regime) also fled to the south American continent after facing defeat at the hands of the British. However, these have been declared as mere conspiracies that have so far failed to produce concrete and conclusive evidence but, as the death of the notorious dictator is still a mystery to historians, a migration to South America cannot be ruled out.

Antisemitism was aggravated by German racism and was shown even more commonly in government departments. Antisemitism had a long history in certain countries of the region. For example, the Paraguayan Nazi Party was created in Villarrica in 1927 and recognised by the German NSDAP two years later, making it the world’s oldest foreign Nazi party. The presence of a German community and the political situation in Paraguay made it possible for the party to thrive there. The affinity of the Paraguayan government for Nazism continued after the war during the 35 year-rule of military officer Alfredo Stroessner.

The Nazis did not create Latin American antisemitism but rather cultivated it using the massive afflux of Jewish refugees coming from Europe in the 1930s. They were often backed up by the catholic church, the most important religious institution of the continent. The main medium of Nazi propaganda all around Latin America was the press, much of which constantly played on fears of Jewish and Communist invasion. The antisemites would exaggerate the size of the Jewish population present in each country in order to scare the readers. Jewish immigration was also often associated with the Bolshevik threat, as reflected in the Argentinian newspaper Clarinada.

At first glance, it seems like Latin America was protected from the devastating effects of The Second World War. However, truth be told, it still had a lasting impact on the region. There was a strong connection between European fascism and various governments such as the reign of President Peron which was respected as a shape of corporate socialism. Perón’s open addresses were reliably patriot and populist. In Chile, some of the most notorious criminals of the time, Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko and Paul Schafer Schneider, had either personal or familial ties to the Nazi party. To this day, the biggest Jewish communities in Latin America are still located in Argentina and Brazil, these countries still have large German-speaking communities. Antisemitic acts have continued and the terrorist attacks on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 which entailed a death toll of 29 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association bombing of 1994 whuch entailed a death toll of 85 triggered a wave of Jewish immigration to Israel.

It is keeping this backdrop in mind that it is safe to say that with the mass movement of Nazi party leaders to South America, it could be plausible that a significant amount of Nazi leaders may have ended up there whom we knew nothing about. There is also a chance that Adolf Hitler may have even managed to escape to the South American lands. His death is shrouded in much mystery, as is the rest of this matter. Hence, the Nazi diaspora of the post-war era could well have had a strong hold in this corner of the world.


This article was originally published in the Annual Printed Edition of Majallatul Jamia

Jahanzaeb Khan

Jahanzaeb Khan

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