The wikipedia article on Josef Mengele states:

After the war, Mengele fled to South America. He sailed to Argentina in July 1949, assisted by a network of former SS members. He initially lived in and around Buenos Aires, then fled to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil in 1960. Wikipedia:Mengele

My questions are:

  1. What made South America more suitable destination compared to anywhere else, say Asia or Africa?
  2. Did the South American governments offer any support (covertly), or were they completely unaware of it? Was there any attempt on their part to track down the Nazis?
  • 1
    Other than America, Brazil and Argentina had the highest german diaspora. Also the political climate there was quite accepting.
    – ed.hank
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 17:38
  • 3
    @ed.hank Other than America? Aren't Brazil and Agentina in America? By America do you mean United States?
    – John Doe
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 17:42
  • 1
    @ed.hank I'm looking for an answer that explains what the political climate was and why it was so. As I understand, Brazil and Argentina were allied with United States during WW2.
    – John Doe
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 17:43
  • 2
    Does Wikipedia:Ratlines answer the question? Ratlines were referenced in the article you cite, "Assisted by a network of former SS members, he used the ratline to travel to Genoa, " (the article you cite would be improved if it linked to the ratline article rather than using a jargon term as though it were common use.)
    – MCW
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 17:43
  • 2
    Concerning your first bullet point, the Americas, unlike Asia or Africa, are overwhelmingly European with regards to ancestry of population.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 23:54

1 Answer 1


South America was the most "neutral" part of the world, on a globe that was overwhelmingly pro-Ally.

Germany, Italy, and Japan were all occupied by the Allies, so they were "out." Moreover, nearly all European nations had suffered from German occupation. Spain and Portugal were important exceptions, and within Europe, might have been the "best" refuge. But there were others abroad further away from British and American power.

Africa (up to the late 1950s) was mostly colonized by Allied nations, Britain or France, or possibly Italy (which had been "turned"). Most of Asia had been colonized by Japan or threatened with colonization, so little sympathy there. One possible exception was Thailand, but that was not a destination for Germans of 1945 (maybe more modern tourists).

Most of Latin America was "officially" pro U.S. But the further south you went, the less "pro." It is noteworthy that it was the Central American and Caribbean nations that signed on to the Atlantic Charter on January 1, 1942, forming the core of the UN, with South American countries joining the UN later, and Argentina joining "last" (prior to the 1945 launch). Among South American countries, perhaps Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru were most threatened by the Germans and Japanese. In countries like Chile, sentiment was perhaps 40-60 Axis-Allies, and in Argentina and Paraguay,* probably 50-50 or "better" (in favor of the Axis). "Marching Orders"]1 tells of an unsuccessful Axis attempt to bribe members of the Chilean legislature to support them. These were also among the strongest South American nations as well as being the most "independent" of the United States.

Governments of countries like Argentine and Paraguay would not welcome the label of being "pro" Nazi. However, it was easy for them to turn a blind eye to immigrants that other countries might deem undesirable. For them to "do nothing" was to be more "welcoming" than most other parts of the world.

*Paraguay had a German-trained military that had won the Chaco war against Bolivia in the 1930s.

  • 1
    Answer could be slightly improved by including some words on middle east (e.g. Walter Rauff, Alois Brunner)
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 18:41
  • @Jan: I don't know much about the Middle East, so I'll "pass" on this.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 18:43
  • "so neither country [Spain and Portugal] was eager to step "off the line" and help former Nazis" - That's wrong. Franco gave refuge to several nazis in Spain, through the ratlines organized (among others) by Clara Stauffer Loewe. Some of those nazis, like Léon Degrelle, Otto Skorzeny or Johannes Bernhardt lived the rest of their lives in Spain. Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 2:59
  • @CarlosMartin: I deleted the last line reference to Spain and Portugal. Thanks for your help.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 4:24
  • South America was culturally closer to Europe than some other parts of the world. And with a non-colonial 'white' ruling class. Relatively industrialized, too, which might have allowed Nazis to work in their old jobs.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 5:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.