Thousands of Nazis Escaped to South America After World War II

After the end of World War II, as many as 9,000 high-ranking Nazi officers escaped punishment in Germany and fled abroad, most of them to South America. Over 5,000 started a new life in Argentina, the rest were scattered across Brazil, Paraguay and other countries.

At the beginning of World War II, Argentina already had a large German community. President Juan Peron sympathized with the Third Reich and helped set up routes in Spain and Italy, through which Nazi officers escaped. He also gave them false passports and new identities.

With the help of the Vatican and relief organisations like the Red Cross, more and more Nazis poured into South America, building a network of contacts that made it easier for the rest of them to flee. In the decades after the war, some were tracked down and brought back to Germany, however many Nazis escaped justice.

One of the most famous Nazis who found his way to South America was Adolph Eichmann. He was an SS officer in charge of Hitler’s final solution – sending millions of Jews to death camps all across Europe. He lived in Buenos Aires until 1960 when a team of Israeli intelligence officers captured him and got him out of the country.  After his trial in Jerusalem,  he was hanged in 1962.

Another famous Nazi was Joseph Mengele, a doctor who conducted medical experiments at the Auschwitz death camp, where he often used prisoners as guinea pigs. He spent several years in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay where he died in 1979.

Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem in 1962
Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem in 1962

Words

  • abroad = to a country across the ocean; here: North or South America
  • capture = to catch a person  and keep them as prisoner
  • community = people who live together in the same area
  • conduct = carry out
  • death camp = place where a large number of prisoners are killed or die
  • decade = ten years
  • escape = get away from a bad or dangerous situation; leave a place because it is dangerous
  • false passport = here: a passport that is not real, with a made-up identity
  • flee – fled = escape; get away from a bad situation
  • guinea pig = someone who is used in a test or experiment to see how successful  something new is
  • high-ranking = in a high position in an organisation
  • hang – hanged = to kill someone with a rope around their neck
  • however = but
  • identity = name
  • in charge of = responsible for
  • intelligence officer = person of a foreign government who tries to collect secret information in other countries
  • justice = system by which criminals are punished
  • network = system
  • officer = someone who has power in the military or police department
  • pour into = come in large numbers
  • prisoner = someone who is kept in prison  for a crime they may have committed
  • punishment = to make somebody suffer because they have done something that is against the law
  • relief organization = organization that helps people who are in danger
  • scattered = spread over a large area of land
  • sympathize = here: like, support, help
  • Third Reich = period of Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler
  • track down = to find someone who  has been hiding
  • trial = legal process in which a judge and a jury in a courtroom decide if a person is guilty or not
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