Red Cross and Vatican `helped thousands of Nazis escape`

A book sheds light on how Nazis managed to evade detection, start a new life.

London: The Red Cross and the Vatican had helped thousands of Nazis, including German dictator Adolf Hitler`s close aides like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, to escape justice after World War II, a new book has claimed.

In his book `Nazis On The Run: How Hitler`s Henchmen Fled Europe`, author Gerald Steinacher, a research fellow from Harvard University, sheds light on just how thousands of Nazis managed to evade detection and start a new life.

Much of the book is based on unpublished documents, held by the Red Cross, which revealed a system struggling to cope with the millions of displaced people in post-war Europe, and one that could be exploited by fleeing Nazis.

The historian estimates the some 8,000 Nazis managed to escape to Britain and Canada alone, using documents issued to them by the Red Cross by mistake, `The Daily Telegraph` newspaper reported.

But most fleeing war criminals either headed to Spain or South America; while the Red Cross provided inadvertent help, the Vatican may have provided more considered help for Nazis desperate to avoid prison or gallows, the book says.

Owing to a desire to revive a Christian Europe or out of a morbid fear of the Soviet Union, the Vatican, through its refugee commission provided leading war criminals with false identity papers, the book claims.

The Red Cross also depended upon Vatican references where issuing travel documents, it says.

The Vatican has always refused to comment on its wartime activities and has kept its archive closed to the public.