After Allied forces defeated Germany in World War II, Europe became a difficult place to be associated with Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich. Thousands of Nazi officers, high-ranking party members and collaborators—including many notorious war criminals—escaped across the Atlantic, finding refuge in South America, particularly in Argentina, Chile and Brazil.
Argentina, for one, was already home to hundreds of thousands of German immigrants and had maintained close ties to Germany during the war. After 1945, Argentine President Juan Perón, himself drawn to fascist ideologies, enlisted intelligence officers and diplomats to help establish “rat lines,” or escape routes via Spanish and Italian ports, for many in the Third Reich. Also giving aid: the Vaticanin Rome, which in seeking to help Catholic war refugees also facilitated fleeing Nazis—sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.
As thousands of Nazis and their collaborators poured into the continent, a sympathetic and sophisticated network developed, easing the transition for those who came after. While no definitive evidence exists that Hitler himself escaped his doomsday bunker and crossed the ocean, such a network could have helped make it possible.
Below, a list of some of the most notorious Nazi war criminals who made their way to South America.