Saturday, February 11, 2012

How top Nazi used 'ratline' escape route to flee to South America after the war, by daughter of woman he seduced

Nazi ratlines that spirited thousands of war criminals to freedom are revealed in a new book chronicling the murderous reign of a top foreign office official during the Third Reich.

The life of Horst Wagner, a man with the blood of at least 350,000 Jews on his hands, is detailed in Beloved Criminal: A Diplomat In The Service Of The Final Solution.

Wagner was the link-man between the foreign office and the SS In this role, he aided in the round-ups, deportation and extermination of both German and foreign Jews.

This first major work on him by Gisela Heidenreich is also an intensely personal one for the author - her own mother Edith met and fell in love with him during the war.

During his years in exile Wagner remained in contact with Edith by post, letters which her daughter uses in her work chronicling the escape routes and mini-Reich that the fugitives built for themselves in Argentina.

Heidenreich, who works as a family therapist, has the blood of the Nazi regime in her. She was born into a Lebensborn home - set up by the S.S. for unmarried mothers to give birth and donate their children to the Nazi state.

Her father was the commander of the SS officer school at Bad Toelz in Bavaria.

Wagner, she said, dreamed of becoming her stepfather after he began his affair with her mother.

After escaping from a Nuremberg jail in 1948, he later explained to Heidenreich's mother how he was aided on his way to South America on the so-called Kloster Line, being given sanctuary in a number of convents and holy orders in Austria before heading to Rome.

There the German bishop Alois Hudal, priest-confessor to the German Catholic community in the city, arranged for him to get a Red Cross passport in 1951.

He sailed out of Genoa to Argentina to join such killers as Adolf Eichmann, the supreme mastermind behind the Holocaust, and Josef Mengele, the perverted 'Angel of Death' of Auschwitz, notorious for his grotesque medical experiments.

Hudal also arranged the paperwork for Franz Stangl, the commandent of the extermination camps of Sobibor and Treblinka, to flee to Brazil on a Red Cross passport using Vatican funds.

Stangl, who was eventually extradited back to Germany in the 1960s and died in jail while serving a life sentence of his crimes, oversaw the murder of an estimated 1.4million people at the two camps.

Wagner settled in Bariloche, 1,000miles south of Buenos Aires on the edge of Patagonia, and celebrated weekly in Bavarian-style houses with old S.S. comrades, drinking beer and singing the marching songs of the lost regime.

'The line from Germany to South America lay across Austrian monasteries and an intermediate stop in Slouth Tyrol where the Nazis were to recover from the strains of their journeys,' said Heidenreich.

'Once in Genoa they received the friendly assistance of the Vatican, in particular from Bishop Hudal who furnished them with the International Red Cross passports.'

Using the letters Wagner wrote to her mother, Heidenreich set out to reconstruct the odyssey of the Nazi fanatic and even went to Bariloche to draw a fascinating portrait of how this chilling old boys clique lived so many thousands of miles away from the scenes of their crimes.

'It was a parallel world,' she said, 'developed so far away and with no condemnation in postwar Germany by the public or politicians.'


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