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The Ratline:
1946-1955

 

According to Mark Aarons and John Loftus in their groundbreaking Unholy Trinity, "ratline" is a nautical term referring to "the rope ladder reaching to the top of the mast, the last place of safety when the ship is going down." The use of this term for the myriad operations and networks which carried out the rescue of some of the worst mass murderers in European history - including Klaus Barbie, Walter Rauff and nearly the entire leadership of the Ustase - could not be more appropriate.

Following the collapse of the Independent State of Croatia in May of 1945, the leadership of the Ustase fled for the Austrian border. The Croatian refugees they fled with were handed back to the Yugoslav government, but an incredible number of the Ustase ringleaders managed to escape. Poglavnik Ante Pavelic remained in Austria for a short while before proceeding to Rome. There he and several of his underlings concealed themselves on Vatican property while former Ustase officer and priest Fr. Krunoslav Draganovic masterminded their escape to South America.

Agent William Gowen of the CIC was assigned to the case, conducted surveillance of Pavelic's Vatican refuge and was prepared to make an arrest when his superiors intervened. Draganovic had been contacted at the same time and offered a quid pro quo by American agents stationed in Austria to smuggle their own assets - among them Gestapo Chief of Lyon Klaus Barbie - in return for their assistance to "persons of interest" to him. Pavelic remained in Rome for more than a year before departing for Buenos Aires, where he joined a dozen other officials from the Independent State of Croatia and began the resurrection of the Ustase movement in exile.

Documents

US Army File: Supreme Allied HQ to 12th and 6th Army (Austria)
June 5, 1945: "Ante Pavelic... may be in your area"

US Army File: Rome Area Allied Command to CIC
August 8, 1945: "Is Pavelic in Rome? Is San Gerolamo Monostery used as a haven..."

US Army File: Judge Advocate General to Army Counter-Intelligence
November 5, 1945: Form Inquiring after Pavelic's Whereabouts

US Army File: Rome Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) Memorandum
August 25, 1945: On News Reports of Pavelic's Arrest in Austria

Article: Interview with Marija Pavelic
May 22, 1992: Interview in Croatian newspaper Globus with Pavelic's daughter on his whereabouts in the Summer, 1945

US Army File: Dr. DRAGANOVIC' Krunoslav
Unknown: Information on Draganovic, Austria, Pavelic, the Vatican and the Krizari

Alleged Vatican Protection of Jugoslav War Criminals
July 12, 1946: Reference to a number of Nazi-allied figures taking sanctuary in San Girolamo

CIA File: Organization of the Ustase Abroad
October 1946: Intelligence report listing names of Ustase cells throughout Italy and Austria with their area of expertise

US Army File: Background Material on Krunoslav Draganovic
October 10, 1946: One of the first and most crucial extant files tracing Krunoslav Draganovic's role in the Ratline

US Army File: Unidentified Document (Index Card)
October 12, 1946: Possibly Sent to Confirm that Pavelic Had Been in U.S. Custody in Austria

US Treasury: The Bigelow Memo
October 21, 1946: Report from Emerson Bigelow on the fate of the wartime Ustase treasury

US Army File: CIC Memorandum from Agent William Gowen
January 17, 1947: Re: article about Pavelic in the Swiss Press

US Army File: CIC Memorandum from Agent Gowen
January 22, 1947: Investigation of Pavelic's Vatican Sanctuary; First Appearance of Krunoslav Draganovic in the Army Dossier

US Army File: CIC Summary from Special Agent Robert Clayton Mudd
January 30, 1947: Overview of Pavelic's Biography to Date; First Allusion to the "Ratline" in the CIC Files

CIA File: Background Report on Krunoslav Draganovic
February 12, 1947: Agent Robert Clayton Mudd's report on Draganovic's past and present activity vis-a-vis the Ustase and Pavelic

US Army File: Cover Letter by Ass. Chief of Staff G-2 Robert Stuart
February 25, 1947: A moment of equivocation as to the subject's whereabouts when forwarding Agent Gowen's latest report.

US Army File: CIC Memorandum from Agents Caniglia and Zappala
March 15, 1947: "In Rome Pavelic took refuge in a religious institution..."

US Army File: Unknown Document (Index Card)
April 14, 1947: An index card pulled from an unknown source. Interesting that Pavelic is classified in this one in a catagory of "Yugoslav Anti-Communists."

US Army File: Investigation by Capt. Marion Scott
April 18, 1947: Long investigation report on Pavelic and other Ustasa in Italy

US Army File: CIC Cover Letter to Scott Report
April 21, 1947: Note included with Scott report which casts doubt on the key informant's usefulness

CIA File: The Do Marius Report
May 6, 1947: A bizarre tale of a meeting with the Poglavnik

US Army File: Information Sheet
May 19, 1947: What appears to be information acquired from OZNA, the Yugoslav secret police, on Pavelic in Italy

US Army File: Unknown Document (Index Card)
May 25, 1947: Two sentence card, quoting Belgrade Radio as saying the British let Pavelic escape, presumably from their custody in Austria

CIA File: American Agents in the Krizari Campaign
July 3, 1947: Profiles of two Krizari operatives who claim Allied-American support

US Army File: Summary of Information from Agents Gowen and Caniglia
June 9, 1947: Report confirming Pavelic has not, as others have reported, left Rome at all

US Army File: "Ante Pavelic and other Ustasha Personalities"
c.July, 1947: Dated by other researchers in early July, this document appears to have been obtained in final preparation for Pavelic's arrest

US Army File: "Hands Off"
July 7 and 14, 1947: One of the most crucial documents in the archive: a two word, handwritten note appended to the bottom of this otherwise ordinary memo

US Army File: Memorandum from the Political Adviser to Supreme Allied Commander
July 29, 1947: "...military authorities should cooperate with the Italian authorities to the extent necessary and possible..."

US Army File: Memorandum from the British Political Adviser
August 2, 1947: Response to the American Political Adviser listed above

US Army File: G-2 Brief on Pavelic's Background to Allied Headquarters
August 7, 1947: In response to their request

US Army File: Memorandum by Agent William Gowen
August 29, 1947: In just 45 days, Pavelic has gone from a criminal to be captured to a potential collaborator whose chief victims - the Serbs - want him to be free as well

CIA File: Documentary Evidence of Krunoslav Draganovic's Ustase Activity
September 5, 1947: CIC Agent Mudd's report citing evidence of Draganovic's role in the Ratline, sent without results to his superiors

US Army File: Memorandum by Agent William Gowen
September 12, 1947: "...any extradition of Subject would deal a staggering blow to the Roman Catholic Church"

US Army File: Unknown Document
October 17, 1947: Small index card-type file with a few misc claims

CIA File: The "Alter Ego" of Ante Pavelic
November 26, 1947: Intelligence report on Fr. Krunoslav Draganovic

US Army File: Telegram Received by G-2
January 7, 1948?: Telegram regarding departure of Ante Pavelic from Rome

News: Yugoslavs Try Fifty as Spies
July 13, 1948: News account of the Yugoslav trials of captured Krizari, mentioning Draganovic

CIA File: The Croatian Resistance Movement (I)
June 14, 1948: CIA report on the organization and internal dynamics of the Krizari

CIA File: The Croatian Resistance Movement (II)
c. 1948: CIA report on leaders of the Croatian Resistance Movement, including the missing leader of the terror unit Crna Legija or Black Legion, Rafael Boban

US Army File: Rat Line from Austria to South America
July 12, 1948: Crucial memo from the CIC in Austria, written by the man who formed the Ratline with Krunoslav Draganovic's assistance

CIA File: Reported Arrival of Ante Pavelic in Argentina
December 2, 1948: Appears to be a microfilm document with information on the arrival of Pavelic and other Ustase in Argentina

US Army File: Unknown Document
February 16, 1948?: Another index card-type file with a quote about the "new" principles of the Ustase

CIA File: Franjo Cvijic and the Ustase Treasury
June 17, 1949: Report on movements of NDH bank president Franjo Cvijic and his expected emigration to Argentina

US Army File: History of the Italian Rat Line
April 10, 1950: Comprehensive history of the Nazi smuggling program and Krunoslav Draganovic's role

Order: Maks Luburic's Proclamation
August 9, 1950: The order from General Drinyanin (aka Maks Luburic) ordering Croats to cease enlisting in the armies of foreign nations

CIA File: CIA Internal Memo
October 16, 1950: Mentions Krunoslav Draganovic's relations with Pavelic, Macek and other Croatian leaders

CIA File: Notes from the Foreign Language Press
November 8, 1950: Newspaper reports on Krunoslav Draganovic and Dragutin Kamber's wartime record

US Army File: Unknown Document
1950s: Index card-type file, undated, from some larger file on the Croatian Resistance Movement

US Army File: Unknown Document
December 4, 1950: Index card-type file with contact information for the "Croatian Catholic Union"

US Army File: Unknown Document
1950s: Index card-type file, undated, from some larger file on the Croatian Resistance Movement

News: Exile Denies Tito Charge
May 6, 1951: United Press article dating from Artukovic's first extradition hearings

US Army File: Ustasha Resurgence in Europe
December 11, 1951: This document has been pulled by the CIA. The first page is a series of references to the file, but the next two pages are still classified, 51 years later.

News: Tito Asks Peron to Yield Pavelic
May 24, 1951: News report of an early Yugoslav extradition request.

CIA File: "An Uncompromising and Dangerous Extremist"
July 24, 1952: Overview of Fr. Krunoslav Draganovic's activity from 1943 to 1952

US Army File: Unknown Document
June 24, 1953: An index card-type file referring to another report alleging Ustase using Caritas (Catholic refugee service) offices in Austria as an "information collecting agency"

CIA File: Irregular Activity of Krunoslav Draganovic
October 1, 1953: Report, possibly intercepted, of Krunoslav Draganovic's alleged corruption

MUNICH REPORT: Croatian Emigrant Movement (1)
August 23, 1954: Report sent from Munich, Germany to the US State Department on activity of the Croatian exile groups, including the fugitive Ustase in Buenos Aires, Argentina

MUNICH REPORT: Croatian Emigrant Movement (2)
c. October 1954: Second report sent from Munich, Germany to the US State Department, including information on Pavelic's meeting with Milan Stojadinovic and promises to cede Croatian territory to Italian and Hungarian rightists

CIA File: Attempt to Penetrate US Guard Companies
December 10, 1954: Summary of report detailing attempts by Krunoslav Draganovic to infiltrate US guard companies in Central Europe

CIA File: Dismissal of Krunoslav Draganovic from San Girolamo
November 19, 1958: Document outlining circumstances behind Draganovic's departure from the former nerve center of the Ratline

CIA File: Summary of Activities of the SILC
November 20, 1958: Summary of the unidentified SILC, with reference to Krunoslav Draganovic's activities in Italy in 1944

CIA File: State Department File on Krunoslav Draganovic
January 9, 1968: Summary of Draganovic's public 'career' a few months after his defection to Yugoslavia

CIA File: DOJ/OSI Investigation of Klaus Barbie
1983: First admission of the existence of the Ratline and Krunoslav Draganovic's role as a 'prime mover'

Article: The Return of Bolivia's Blood-Stained Dictator
1997: Draganovic and the Butcher of Lyons, Klaus Barbie

Article: Peron's Bloody Ties
November 9, 1998: Krunoslav Draganovic and Argentina, the Last Redoubt of Nazism

Article: Holocaust Gold Taints the Vatican
July 27, 1997: From the Sunday Telegraph, UK

Article: Pope's Apology to Jews an Empty Gesture
October 30, 1997: "...Ante Pavelic, the Croat Fascist leader, arrived in Argentina dressed as a priest and carrying a certificate of safe conduct from the Vatican..."

Article: A Vow of Silence
March 30, 1998: "Did Gold Stolen by Croatian Fascists Reach the Vatican?"

Article: The Vatican Response
April 29, 1998: One of the Vatican officials with access to the wartime archives responds to criticisms in these news stories and others

State Department Report: Holocaust Assets: The Fate of the Wartime Ustasha Treasury
June 2, 1998: Report from the US committee investigating the fate of Nazi gold looted from their victims

 

Features

Exhibition: Top Secret
A Guide to Ante Pavelic's Army File.

 

External Links

- None.

 

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