Friday, March 22, 2024

Nazis Find a Safe Haven

 By Sherri Stewart

After Germany was defeated in World War II, and the world finally discovered what really happened in concentration camps, those who had masterminded the camps needed to run for their lives. With help from friendly governments, thousands of SS members changed their identities, quietly escaped to South America, and began new lives. 

Some were never tracked down, but Ricardo Klement wasn’t so lucky. On May 11, 1960, he stepped off a bus after finishing his shift as an assembly line foreman at a Mercedes-Benz automotive plant. As he hurried to his small brick house in a middle-class Buenos Aires suburb to avoid a thunderstorm, he passed by two men working under the open hood of a black limousine. Suddenly, Klement was grabbed by the men and forced into the back seat of the vehicle, which sped off into the night.

Klement was actually Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi SS lieutenant colonel who was in charge of transporting European Jews to concentration camps. And the men with the limo were Israeli secret service agents, part of an elite team of Nazi hunters tracking former high-ranking SS members to bring them to international justice.  

Eichmann was just one of the Nazis leaders who found refuge in South America after the fall of the Third Reich. According to a 2012 article in the Daily Mail, prosecutors discovered that as many as 9,000 Nazi officers and collaborators found sanctuary in South American countries. Brazil took around 2,000 Nazi war criminals, while around 750 settled in Chile. However, 5,000 Nazi leaders relocated to Argentina

Why were Nazi war criminals allowed to live in Argentina? Because so many German immigrants lived in Argentia before the war, the two countries maintained close ties during World War II. In the years after the end of the war, Argentine President Juan Perón secretly ordered intelligence officers to establish escape routes, so-called “ratlines,” to smuggle thousands of former SS officers and Nazi party members out of Europe. Perón sought to recruit Nazis with expertise in the fields of science and technology to help make advances in Argentina.

Perhaps the most notorious of the fugitives was Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” who conducted experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp. He fled to Argentina in 1949 before moving to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil a year later. Buried under an assumed name after drowning off the Brazilian coast in 1979, Mengele’s identity was confirmed after forensic testing of his remains in 1985. 

Not all escaped justice. Klaus Barbie, also known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” was convicted of crimes against humanity and was sentenced to life in prison. He died of leukemia in 1991. Adolph Eichman was also convicted of crimes against humanity by an Israeli court and was executed in 1962.


Selah Award finalist Sherri Stewart loves a clean novel, sprinkled with romance and a strong message that challenges her faith. She spends her working hours with books—either editing others’ manuscripts or writing her own. Her passions are traveling to the settings of her books and sampling the food. She traveled to Paris for this book, and she works daily on her French and German although she doesn’t need to since everyone speaks English. A widow, Sherri lives in Orlando with her lazy dog, Lily. She shares recipes, tidbits of the book’s locations, and other authors' books in her newsletter.

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  1. I find it interesting that so many Nazi criminals found refuge in Brazil, which fought with the Allies against Germany.

  2. Apparently, a lot of Germans lived in South America before WWII. I assume they moved there after Germany was devastated after WWI.

  3. Thank you for posting today. I am glad to read of successful prosecutions of some of these men.

    1. I'm glad that at least some of them were. Thanks for commenting.