History Question

According to a movie review of the PBS documentary “Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals” there was a so called Rat Line through which Nazi war criminals of high and low rank escaped punishment by fleeing to Argentina with help from sympathetic Vatican priests. Is this a sad truth or a slander against Vatican priests of that era???

I don’t know the accuracy of the charge, but apparently the documentary cited William Gowen, a former US counterintelligence agent.

Here is a news article from a few years ago when his testimony, and an official document he wrote back in 1947, were introduced in the trial of a class action lawsuit against the Vatican Bank and the Order of Friars Minor.

Is anyone familiar with Gowen and his claims?

There were hundreds of thousands of refugees coming to the Vatican. It was overwhelmed. And Nazis were not known for their honesty in their seeking help.

This allegation comes up periodically. Here are some previous responses on this forum.




The Vatican, and Pope Pius XII especially, were staunch opponents to Hitler, and responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews who were smuggled out of the country by the Church. Hitler, an atheist (unlike some of the neo-pagans in the Nazi hierarchy like Goebbels) despised the Catholic church, and murdered thousands of its followers, priests, nuns, monks, and laity in his death-camps. Individual Catholics with ulterior motives could possibly have helped some individual former Nazis escape, but why would the Vatican help its sworn foe?

If you’d like to research this more, read "The Myth of Hitler’s Pope"by David G. Dallin; “Did Pope Pius XII Help the Jews?” by Sister Margherita Marchione; “Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican” by Pierre Blet;
“Defamation Of Pius XII (Key Texts)” by Ralph McInerny; “The Nazi Persecution of the Churches” by J. S. Conway; and “Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II” by Harold H. Tittmann Jr.

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