Radio review: Riveting account of the Nazi ratlines

Nuala McCann

The Ryan Tubridy Show RTÉ 1

Intrigue: The Ratline Radio 4, Podcast

The ratline was the American word for it ... the post-war escape route for top Nazis after the war straight through to South America.

Adolf Eichmann went along the rat line as did Josef Mengele – the doctor in Auschwitz whose nickname was the Angel of Death.

This interview with human rights lawyer and writer Philippe Sands was riveting. Tubridy himself was caught up with the twists and turns of the story.

Sands has worked with Horst Wachter, whose father Otto von Wachter was a senior Nazi governor indicted for mass murder.

They made a television documentary together and this latest podcast is now available from Radio 4.

Horst's father, Otto, disappeared on May 9, 1945, the day the war ended. He met an SS soldier who took him into the Alps where they hid for three years. Otto later died unexpectedly in 1949 in Rome.

Years later, Horst was talking to Sands about the soldier who hid his father and Horst happened to say: “He is alive, we have a phone number, we can meet him.”

That proved an interesting thread.

So did the truth about Horst's mother, Charlotte. Despite her protestations to her family, she made her way up to the mountains every two weeks, bringing food supplies and clothing to her husband.

The story goes straight through the Vatican where there was an element there that helped known indicted criminals get out.

It's a story that has a mysterious death, political intrigue, spies and Nazi hunters, dark forces in the Vatican and a son coming to terms with the sins of his father.

It's a story of such twists and turns that it is truly gripping. Yes, it is grim because this is truth, this is what happened. But it is certainly worth hearing.

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