After World War II, dozens of Nazi criminals went into hiding in South America. A new study reveals how a 'coalition of the unwilling' on both sides of the Atlantic successfully stymied efforts to hunt and prosecute these criminals for decades.
All it took was a transposed number -- 1974 instead of 1947 -- for Gustav Wagner to be allowed to stay in Brazil. It was a mere slip of the pen by the man who had translated the German document into Portuguese that prompted Brazil's supreme court to deny West Germany's request to extradite the former SS officer. And yet Wagner stood accused of complicity in the murders of 152,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland.
Josef Mengele, the notorious concentration camp doctor at Auschwitz, also benefited from mistakes and delays because French officials with Interpol, the international police force then headquartered in Paris, refused to conduct international searches for Nazi war criminals. And, in the case of SS Colonel Walther Rauff, who helped developed mobile gas chambers used to kill Jews, it was an official with the German Foreign Ministry who sabotaged his own government's extradition request to Chile for 14 months.