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The Ratline

Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive
Length: 13 hrs and 54 mins
5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

Non-member price: $30.38

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Publisher's Summary

As governor of Galicia, SS Brigadesführer Otto Freiherr von Wächter presided over an authority on whose territory hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles were killed. By the time the war ended in May 1945, he was indicted for 'mass murder'. Hunted by the Soviets, the Americans and the British, as well as groups of Poles and Jews, Wächter went on the run. He spent three years hiding in the Austrian Alps before making his way to Rome and being taken in by the Vatican where he remained for three months. While preparing to travel to Argentina on the 'ratline' he died unexpectedly, in July 1949, a few days after having lunch with an 'old comrade' whom he suspected of having been recruited by the Americans. 

In The Ratline Philippe Sands offers a unique account of the daily life of a Nazi fugitive, the love between Wächter and his wife Charlotte, who continued to write regularly to each other while he was on the run, and a fascinating insight into life in the Vatican and among American and Soviet spies active in Rome at the start of the Cold War. Using modern medical expertise, the door is unlocked to a mystery that continues to haunt Wächter's youngest child - what was Wächter doing while in hiding, and what exactly caused his death?

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our Desktop Site.

©2019 Philippe Sands (P)2019 Orion Publishing Group
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

This is an amazing listen, made even better by great narration. I'm recommending this one to all my friends.

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  • PMG
  • 18-04-2020

Really engaging ... and shocking.

This is a really engaging and fascinating account of someone I had never heard of but considering the extent of his involvement in Nazi atrocities, I guess I should have. It is quite a unique type of history and gives a fascinating account of how some senior Nazis escaped justice and how some, here his wife and son, have not been able to condemn him.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Colin Dixon
  • 12-05-2020

The banality of evil, and how easily we accept it

After 1945, a fog of amnesia as well as an iron curtain descended across Europe. Scores were settled, populations expelled and collaborators punished in episodes which have often been excused as justified revenge, best forgotten. But we should not forget that a surprisingly large number of senior Nazis escaped justice, often turning up in key peacetime roles, or disappearing from view, often with the collusion of Western powers and The Vatican via the Ratline, an escape hatch from Europe. Otto Wachter, Governor of Krakow then Galicia, mass murderer and senior SS member never made it beyond Rome, where he died in the arms of a Bishop. Had this been the sole theme of the book it might not have attracted much attention, but Philippe Sands, whose own family were victims of Wachter's administration, has the remarkable advantage of a long acquaintance with Wachter's own son and access to his rich family archive of diaries, recordings, photographs and documents. He is able to reconstruct the private live of Wachter and his flamboyant and ruthless wife - the latter remained an unrepentant Nazi until her death decades later - to startle the reader with the macabre contrast between the glamour of their social life and the mechanised carnage of Wachter's work.

The moral ambiguity of the story is often outrageous. It's easy to be caught up in the love story of the couple, the casually shameless plundering of artworks by Wachter's wife, the motivation of Wachter's son in trying against all the evidence to exonerate his father as a noble victim, even a hero. Here the author's surprising moral restraint about Wachter's story breaks down, pressing his son for a sign that he accepts the guilt of his father, as if this somehow will bring about a measure of justice. It's a sign that has never come despite his collaboration, over years, with the author on many iterations of the story which have become projects in their own right - publications, a podcast, public debates. The author has developed the material across these projects into a powerful story, of which this book is the ultimate telling. It's well-honed, and well presented. It's certainly compelling. I completed it in two days, pushing aside almost everything else I was doing.

The contrast between the personal biographies and the historical narrative shows up in the choice of narrator. While the author narrates the historical background and the story of the project itself, the choice of well-known actors for the biographical sections seems reasonable. Possibly because this is such a well-produced and well-told tale, Stephen Fry may have seemed a suitable choice. It's hard to listen to him narrate however without registering an element of comic irony. The gap between the private comfort and self-satisfaction of the Wachter's and the ghastly reality of their public life stands for itself, and sometimes the audible italics and raised eyebrow during these passages is a little too 'on the nose'.

This book is a fascinating revelation of how unspeakable evil coexists with everyday life, and how the most egregious injustices are normalised. It's a book that engages our emotions, a quest that we have to complete. It's a great story.

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  • Mike
  • 22-04-2020

Close but no cigar.

I do not really understand why all these smart authors are so eager to ready their books. Part of this book is ready by Stephen Fry which is absolutely amazing, but most is read by the author which has a quite boring and dull voice.

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  • martin
  • 02-06-2020

A 14 hour story which should have been 6 hours.

Intricate detail by the author into the story of this Nazi War criminal and excuse of a human being. The whole story was explained in minute detail and beautifully read and told by a trio of excellent readers. The problem and major problem at that was there really wasnt that much to tell. He was a fairly despicable individual who was a womanizer, lacked any sense of morals, and was self-interested to the detriment of everyone else. This was an evil generation that Germany produced and he was an outstanding member of this evil generation. He was complicit in his war crimes and there was a rumour that he was poisoned by the CIA. Was it important ? Did it really matter ? Probably not. As a catholic I was ashamed to read about how those in high office within the Catholic church defended these monsters at the end of the war. In summary - not much of a story. Dont waste 14 hours of your life reading about a degenerate who really didnt do much apart from carry out and execute willingly orders from a barbaric regime that was thankfully defeated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Alison
  • 23-05-2020

Gripping

A detailed insight of humanity during an extraordinary period in history. Educational and enlightening which encourages tolerance of others perspectives whilst acknowledging the evil which existed.

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  • Ruth Kennedy
  • 09-05-2020

A Loving Couple Cheerleaders for Mass Murder

This is a story about two things:
1. Some horrifying truths
2. The patience, compassion and integrity it takes to uncover them.

Read it. Never forget.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew Spencer
  • 09-07-2020

it will question your morality

An exceptional true story. How do I feel now about my judgemental stance? Riveting Read.

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  • Andrew Davies
  • 16-06-2020

You’ve Got To Love History, Even When It’s Dark!

I have to commend the authors like Philipe Sands and the teams of researchers as they have to investigate, detect the truth via witnesses etc. “The truth will always out” as they say!

Very interesting book, tactful, and in the end some closure for the son who campaigned all his life... only to (NO SPOILERS HERE)

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  • Simon
  • 13-06-2020

Outstanding book.

I have listened to many books from Audible and this is absolutely one of the best. Neatly ties in the past with the present and is very well written, gripping and very well read.I almost never review books but this was such an outstanding book that it seems ungrateful not to do so! Listen to a sample of the book, read the ratings and reviews-buy it .You will not be disappointed .

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  • Maeve Fox
  • 01-05-2020

Gripping story!

Really enjoyed this. Very well narrated. Story told from a human point of view with well explained historical facts. Would thoroughly recommend it as a great read / listen.