In a letter, Wächter says Nazis entered Brazil without passports

The SS commander explains to a Nazi colleague all of the procedures to flee to South America and says that, to land in Brazil, an identity card was enough

Roberto Almeida | Hagenberg (Austria)

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A typewritten letter, dated May 10, 1949, is one of the historical treasures in the attic of the Hagenberg Castle, in Austria, under the guardianship of Horst Wächter. The two-page document, preserved delicately, provides details of the famous “Ratlines”, the Nazi escape route concealed by Bishop Alois Hudal, that led Adolf Hitler’s former officers to South America.

The letter, according to Horst, was written by his father, Otto Wächter, a SS commander and former governor of Cracow and Galicia. The document is addressed to a certain Ladurner, a friend of his, living in Bolzano, Italy, but was never sent. Wächter died a month after writing it. The main subject of the letter are places to stay in Rome and escape routes to Brazil and Argentina.

Heard by Opera Mundi, specialists on the scape of Nazis to South America attest that several appointments suggest the veracity of the letter. Both Daniel Stahl, author of "Nazi Hunt: South America’s Dictatorships and the Avenging of  Nazi Crimes" (Wallstein, Alemanha), as Gerald Steinacher, who wrote "Nazis on the Run - How Hitler's Henchman Fled Justice" (Oxford University Press, Reino Unido), agree that the document shows important information about the scape route of Adolph Hitler’s allies.  

“The network of people that have made the scape possible was wide and, definitely, now we can say that Wächter is among them, which we ignored until today”, reports Stahl.   

Even saying that is not possible to be 100% sure that the letter is truthful, Steinacher points that this kind of mailing “with advises, writing coming from Italy going to old partners and people looking for emigration, in order to scape justice, is common”. "This doesn’t mean that Wächter was a great organizer, but that he gave orientation to others".

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The papers were collected by the officer’s wife, Charlotte Bleckmann, years after his death in the Italian capital. Otto Wächter, who was hiding under the fake name Alfredo Reinhardt, had succumbed to jaundice after swimming in the city’s canals, but there are no records of his death besides news published in Italian and Austrian newspapers of the time.

Poland govnerment

The Weltpresse newspaper on its September 9, 1949 issue confirms Wächter’s death and questions in its headline the whereabouts of his archive, which was destroyed. The letter, according to Horst, was one of the hundreds of documents kept by his mother. None of them talks about the Holocaust in the territories governed by the SS commander.

[Otto Wächter during his period in Poland]

Required documents

Otto Wächter maintained close ties with bishop Alois Hudal and gave orientation to his colleague Ladurner, in the letter, about methods to seek refuge in South America The SS commander managed to gather lots of information about the use of Red Cross passports to flee, visas, and the Brazilian and Argentinean borders official requirements.

"According to Hu. [possibly the Bishop Alois Hudal], Red Cross passports will not be issued after the end of May. This function will then be transferred to a Vatican department. He believes that the document issued by the Vatican may have less value than the current (which, in turn, already have very limited recognition)", writes the SS commander.

It is well known that the Red Cross, in the most vexing episode of its history, gave passports to Nazi officials, including Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele and Klaus Barbie, who fled - at least momentarily - to anonymity. According to research conducted by Gerald Steinacher, at Harvard University, at least 120,000 Hitler’s disciples benefited from those documents. The organization publicly apologized for what happened.

Now the Vatican, which also had its share of complicity with Nazi fugitives, never commented on the accusations of issuing false identities through a committee of refugees - they are, most likely, the documents Wächter cites in the letter as having "very limited recognition".

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Entrance to Brazil

Wächter clarifies to Ladurner that entering Argentina would entail "known difficulties" and states that "candidates" went to Brazil "to change jobs." "You should do the same when you're on the other side, to increase your chances of success," writes the SS commander, and then lists the Brazilian consulate’s requirements.

They are: Red Cross passport, as long as it’s accompanied by an older, prewar document, birth certificate, marriage certificate, employment record book and a declaration that the person is not a communist. Then the Nazi adds that "Brazilians do not actually recognize the Red Cross’ passports, but would settle for an Austrian passport or I.Karte [identity card]."

"Furthermore, it is possible to speak openly with them, without making Austrian authorities aware," Otto Wächter said, showing signs that Brazilians had a greater receptivity.

Accommodation and food

"Concerning a possible stay here [in the zeal of the Catholic Church in Rome], you could get free lunch and dinner in the papal cafeteria for a week (renewable)", Wächter recommends to his friend Ladurner. "It is rather primitive, as well as the company, but it is all there is", he completes.

The SS commander had up his sleeve all costs necessary to stay hidden with the help of Bishop Alois Hudal and wrote about the possible funding of an organization that could help them escape, which only accepted Protestants. At the end of the letter, Wächter reaffirms that the main offer is to go to Brazil.

"If you are interested in the things discussed here and still manage to face all obstacles and fulfill all the requirements, then your expenses and your time will be more than justified. In case you do not want to go to Brazil, and this offer is valid only to get there, you can save your money and leave it to me to keep the crank moving", he wrote.