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  • The Vatican’s Ratline

    During World War II millions of people in Europe were murdered in concentration camps by the Nazi SS in Poland and Germany and the Ustashas in Croatia. After the war the victorious Allies attempted to capture these war criminals and try them in an international court.

    This article explains how the Vatican helped these Nazi and Ustasha war criminals escape capture by the allies.

    Kronoslav Stjepa Draganovic was a Catholic Priest in Croatia from 1940 – 1943. Shortly after the Independent State of Croatia was formed in April 1941 by Anti Pavelic via support and approval by Nazi Germany.

    From 1941 – 1943 Father Draganovic was a leader of the Ustashas and was engaged in exterminating the Eastern Orthodox Serbs in Bosnia, Hercegovina and Croatia. The Ustashas also confiscated the property of the Eastern Orthodox Serbs and distributed it to the Ustashas which was a military unit of the Roman Catholic Church. Many Serbs living outside of Yugoslavia accused Father Draganovic of being personally responsible for the death of 10,000 Serbs.

    In January 1944 Father Draganovic went to Rome where he represented the Croatian Red Cross and was also regarded as an unofficial Charge d’affaires of the Croatian State at the Vatican. When the Croatian State collapsed in 1945, Father Draganovic was in the ideal position to help many Ustisha war criminals who fled from Yugoslavia, and as Secretary of an organization known as the Confraternite Croatia in Italy he issued papers with false names to many Croats, primarily Ustasha who were considered to be war criminals. Father Droganovic is the individual most responsible for making it possible for the Ustasha war criminals to emigrate to foreign countries primarily Argentina, but also Chile, Australia, Venezuela, and even the United States. Father Draganovic provided some German Nazi war criminals with identity cards and false Croation names, thus enabling many Nazi war criminals to emigrate from Europe and avoid standing trial at Nurenberg. Father Draganovic’s activities in Rome were conducted from the Ecclesiastical College of San Gerolamo degli Illirici, a college sponsored by the Vatican and used by young Croatian Catholic Priests as their home in Rome while pursuing various courses of study. It also became the sponsor of the Girolam Asylum for the Ustasha and other Croat emirges in Rome. Daganovic Claimed credit for helping in the escape of more then 10,000 Ustasha war criminals in Italy during 1943, 1944 and early 1945.

    With the end of World War II in sight the Vatican became the hub of traffic in counterfeit identity papers, forged travel documents, passports and money to assist Nazis and Nazi collaborators seeking to escape capture by the Allies. Rome became the start of a road to freedom for Nazi and Ustashi war criminals, this road was known as the Rat Line.

    When it became apparent that war criminals: Klaus Barbie, Adolf Eichman, Heinrich Mueller, Franz Stangle and a long list of other Nazi war criminals had escaped capture by the Allies, the central figure in aiding their escape was Bishop Alois Hudal. Bishop Hudal a native German, born in Graz, Germany became the Rector of the Pontificio Santa Maria dell Anima. He had served as commissioner for the Episcopate for German speaking Catholics in Italy, as well as Father Confessor to Rome’s large German speaking community.

    Still in the post of Rector of Anima when World War II ended, Hudal was placed in a position to provide assistance to war refugees and ex Nazis in detainment camps because of an agreement between the Allies and the Vatican. Shortly before the end of World War II Pope Pius XII asked the Allies that a representative of the Vatican be allowed to render normal religious assistance to Catholic prisoners and refugees that were living in the detainment camps in Italy. President Roosevelt approved the Vatican’s request, and then Pope Pius XII appointed Bishop Alois Hudal to be the Vatican’s representative to give aid and assistance to the German speaking internees and refugees that were living in detainment camps in Italy.

    Mark Aarons and John Loftus the authors of the book Unholy Trinity, found it to be astonishing that Pope Pius XII appointed the most notorious pro-Nazi bishop in Rome for this extremely sensitive mission, when it was well known that these civilian camps were teeming with fugitive Nazis who had discarded their Nazi uniforms and were hiding among legitimate refugees. As the assistance of a bishop in Rome, who was able to guide displaced persons became known throughout the refugee camps, word spread among ex-Nazis that he was sympathetic to their plight, and that he, Bishop Hudal had the means to facilitate their escape. Among documents that he could supply were: a Vatican identity card, Red Cross papers, along with travel passes and visas.

    According to Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal, the rat lint that Bishop Hudal ran facilitated escapes for Adolf Eichman, the chief architect of the "Final Solution of the Jewish Problem" by extermination in death camps: Franz Stangl, comandant of the Treblinka concentration camp; Alois Brunner, Comandant of Sobibor; Gustaf Wagner, Deputy Comandant of Sobibor; and Waltar Rauff, a friend of Hudal; who had been an ambitious SS officer who oversaw a development program for mobil gas vans

    In Gitta Sereny’s book Into the Darkness: An Examination of Conscience, based on seventy hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, he described Hudal's work, "Bishop Hudal had been expecting Stangl.. and he was arranging passports, an exit visa, and work permits for South America. Hudal arranged Stangl’s sleeping quarters, transportation, by car, plane and ship and seemed to have ample money for bribes and emergencies that might arise." Stangl and other Nazi fugitives could obtain an identity card from Bishop Hydal and apply to the office of the International Red Cross for a passport. If, however, a fugitive Nazi had functioned in some capacity in the murder of Jews, then an intermediary would be sent to the Red Cross office to obtain the necessary documents, because there were dozens of Jews in the office every day. The danger was acute that a Jewish concentration camp survivor might recognize a former concentration camp official. Once fugitives had obtained new identification, they could safely venture to a soup kitchen run by the Vatican, Red Cross or the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Association, then mingle with other refugees until it was time to leave Rome. Then they would travel to a foreign country, usually in South America and primarily to Argentina. Bishop Hudal was appointed by Pope Pius XII to give council and aid to these German speaking Nazi war criminals, so obviously Pope Pius XII knew all about the Rat Line.

    In October 1946, a Treasury Department official, Pearson Bigelow, informed the department director of Monetary Research that pro Nazi Croatian fascists had moved valuables worth $240,000,000.00 from Yugaslovia at the end of the war. This money was never returned to Yugoslavia, but probably went to the Vatican bank. The declassified documents, dated October 21,1946 said, "Approximately 200 million Swiss Franks were originally held in the Vatican for safe keeping.

    Other documents established that Bigelow received reliable information from the OSS on Nazi wealth held in specific Swiss bank accounts. The Bigelow report quoted a "reliable source in Italy" as saying the Ustasha organization, the Nazi- installed government of Croatia during the war, had removed 350 million Swiss Franks from Yugaslovian funds it had confiscated. The memo said 150 million Swiss francs were impounded by British authorities at the Austria-Swiss border and the balance was sent to the Vatican, and that rumors said that a considerable portion of Vatican held money was sent to Spain and Argentina through a Vatican Pipeline.

    This information proves without a shadow of a doubt that the Vatican led by Pope Pius XII was a collaborator and a strong supporter of the Nazis and the Ustasha during World War II.

    Dark Mysteries of the Vatican by Paul Jeffers, pages 95 – 103