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Posted by on Feb 2, 2009 in Uncategorized | 9 comments

How the Vatican saved Eichmann

I have been reading Double Cross: the Code of The Catholic Church, by David Ranan, which was recommended to me by someone commenting here – anticant I think it was.

Anyway, it’s certainly a page-turner.

The book runs through Catholic behaviour down through the centuries, right up to the current problems with child-abusing priests. There are many jaw-dropping revelations.

Of course, it’s wise to approach such books with a sceptical eye, but it does seems very well researched and careful. Those bits of Catholic history I know a little about, such as the Galileo affair, are certainly accurate. Ranan doesn’t slide into the easy and sloppy exaggerations that less fair-minded books sometimes make.

One of the most shocking claims Ranan makes is that Catholic Bishop Hudal, a Nazi and Hitler supporter who actually published a book called “The Foundations of National Socialism”, worked from the Vatican to rescue Nazis and help them escape to South America.

Hudal was helped by SS Colonel Walter Rauff, the inventor of the mobile gas van.

This was a major Vatican-based operation involving other Catholic bodies including Caritas International, the Catholic relief agency, and spread over many countries.

The Vatican went to great lengths to save many prominent Nazis including:

Franz Stangl, commander of Treblinka, who killed nine hundred thousand.
Gustav Wagner, deputy commander of Sobibor, who killed a quarter of a million Jews,

and, wait for it…

Adolf Eichmann – architect in chief of the Final Solution.

Yes, Eichmann was shipped off to Argentina by the Vatican.

Ranan says:

“The Church did not forsake the Nazis. She may try to maintain that any action undertaken to help them flee justice was carried out by persons acting as individuals representing their own interests. However, the collective magnitude of these actions, the number of people involved, and the resources used in terms of money, properties and personnel, tell a different story…. It was a Church operation.”

If true, that’s absolutely extraordinary.


  1. Pope Pius XII – the former Cardinal Pacelli – was the Vatican’s chief representative in Germany for many years, and was the architect of the Concordat with Hitler’s government whereby the large [and largely anti-Nazi] German Catholic Party was dissolved in return for the Church’s retention of control over Catholic schools.As wartime Pope, he has been strongly criticized for his failure to speak out against the Nazi persecution of the Jews. The case against him is set out by John Cornwell in his book “Hitler’s Pope”.

  2. Uki Goni, an Argentinian journalist, has written a great book about the various routes for Nazis and (perhaps largely) Nazi sympathisers to get out of Europe after WW2, ‘The Real Odessa’. It’s maybe not the most excitingly written book, but it’s brilliantly researched. It makes it pretty clear that the some members of the Catholic Church were intimately involved, although, sadly, it wasn’t unique in that.

  3. Anon @9:06,Austrian boys were FORCED to be in the Hitler Youth, so that Pope Benedict was in the Hitler Youth is not evidence that he is/was a Nazi.

  4. We have to be careful here. There is a real case to be made, of moral failure by the most senior figures of the Catholic Church, at a historic moment of maximum human suffering. But scatter-gun attacks on what Pope Benedict did as a child are a distraction. Other contemporary figures, like Gunter Grass, actually come out worse in those terms.I also think there’s a danger of stretching this argument further than it can bear. Not everyone who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus will automatically wind up a Nazi. Clearly the White Roses didn’t. Were there any Quakers in the SS? Certainly not practicing ones.I hate it when some religious people – mostly American Protestants – say that all Atheists are really Satanists with no moral principles. But I don’t want to reverse it into an antimatter argument – claiming that all Christians are just itching for the chance to burn heretics at the stake, punish modern Jews for their ancestors’ alleged murder of Jesus, start a new Crusade etc.As a child I knew a school priest who was a disgusting racist. But as a student I knew plenty of Christians who were active in anti-Fascist movements against BNP attempts to recruit undergraduates.If religion is human-made, its “passionate intensity” can show us the worst and the best that humans are capable of. The Auto da fe and the St Matthew Passion, Pope Pius XII and Desmond Tutu. We don’t diminish the case for secularism and humanism if we admit it contains both.

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  6. Peter said: “Austrian boys were FORCED to be in the Hitler Youth, so that Pope Benedict was in the Hitler Youth is not evidence that he is/was a Nazi.”- True, but there were many who opposed and rebelled against the Nazi’s at the risk of their lives. If Pope Benedict is so godly and righteous, why did he wait till 1945 to desert (this is kind of late to be a saint, the war was at an end)? According to historic accounts he would have been operating as a Nazi for 5 to 7 years, and documents claim he was assigned to a slave labor camp where jews built aircraft engines.My point? – Why the hell is this guy the Pope if Catholicism is truly appalled at the actions of the Third Reich and all who participated in those actions?

  7. I do not think that the issue is Ratzinger’s short stint in the Hitler Youth. This was 65 years ago. He should be judged by his present actions; Sadly, but not surprisingly, these prove that the Church is incapable of change. His recent reinstating of a holocaust denying bishop, is a case in point.PS: thank you for your kind words about Double Cross.

  8. You’re welcome John – it’s a fascinating book. I’ve got my friends reading it now…

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