Book Talk: The Ratline: The Exalted Life and Mysterious Death of a Nazi Fugitive
Baron Otto von Wächter: Austrian lawyer, husband, father, high Nazi official, senior SS officer, former governor of Galicia during the war, creator and overseer of the Krakow ghetto. He was indicted after World War II as a war criminal for the mass murder of more than 100,000 Poles, hunted by the Soviets, the Americans, the British, by Simon Wiesenthal, and on the run for three years, from 1945 to 1948.
Philippe Sands pieces together, in riveting detail, Wächter’s extraordinary, shocking story. Given full access to the Wächter family archives–journals, diaries, tapes, and more–and with the assistance of the Wächters’ son Horst, who believes his father to have been a “good man,” Sands writes of Wächter’s rise through the Nazi high command, his “blissful” marriage and family life as their world was brought to ruin, and his four-year flight to escape justice–to the Tirol, to Rome, and the Vatican; given a new identity, on his way to a new life via “the Ratline” to Perón’s Argentina, the escape route taken by Eichmann, Mengele, and thousands of other Nazis. Wächter’s escape was cut short by his mysterious, shocking death in Rome, in the midst of the burgeoning Cold War.
Philippe Sands is an international lawyer and, since 2018, the president of English PEN. He is a frequent commentator on CNN and the BBC World Service. In 2003 he was appointed a Queen’s Counsel. He lives in London.
Cullen Murphy currently serves as editor at large for The Atlantic and previously served as editor at large for Vanity Fair. He is on the advisory board of the literary magazine The Common, based in Amherst College. His first book, Rubbish! (co-authored with William Rathje) was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 1990. More recently, he has written Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America and Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe. Murphy was born in New Rochelle, New York, grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and currently lives in Massachusetts with his family.