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  • World War Two had come to an end, and the mad reign of Adolf Hitler ended with a bang

  • in a Berlin bunker.

  • With allied forces closing in, he and his wife Eva Braun took their own lives rather

  • than be captured.

  • As the allies investigated the remains of the Nazi empire, they were horrified by what

  • they found - a vast network of forced labor and extermination camps designed to murder

  • millions of Jews, Roma, Catholics, political dissidents, and disabled residents of Germany

  • and the many territories Hitler had conquered.

  • In total, over eleven million people had been murdered in what would come to be known as

  • the Holocaust.

  • The world was shocked by the scope of the Nazi regime's evil - and they knew this

  • couldn't be like other wars where peace meant forgiveness for the architects of the

  • losing side.

  • There would be justice - and the Nazi leadership was in its crosshairs.

  • Nazi leadership immediately began to go into hiding, seeking refuge anywhere they could

  • to avoid arrest.

  • But one prominent Nazi had a head start.

  • Heinrich Himmler was one of the most prominent members of the Nazi Party and the commander

  • of the Waffen-SS.

  • One of the key directors of the Holocaust, he eventually fell out of favor with Hitler

  • in the last days of the war and tried to open peace talks with the Allies.

  • When Hitler discovered this, Himmler was fired and his arrest was ordered.

  • He attempted to go into hiding under a false name, and as the Nazi regime collapsed, he

  • was detained at a checkpoint.

  • British soldiers noticed his fake documents had a stamp associated with SS members, and

  • Himmler was forced to admit who he was.

  • He was arrested, but when he was examined by a doctor, he bit into a cyanide capsule

  • and quickly died.

  • Heinrich Himmler had managed to escape justice just the same as his boss.

  • But there were many more targets out there.

  • The Nuremberg Trials were among the biggest post-war tribunals ever held in history, and

  • the Allies moved fast.

  • They were convened only months after the end of the war and ran for almost a year between

  • November 1945 and October 1946.

  • Im all, twenty-four of the biggest political and military leaders of Nazi Germany were

  • put on trial, including Reichmarschall Hermann Goring, the original head of the Gestapo.

  • While Hitler and his brief successor, famous propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, were both

  • dead by suicide, many of these men were among the architects of the military and genocide

  • machine he had built.

  • In total, thirteen of these men were hanged for war crimes, while the other were convicted

  • of lesser charges, acquitted, or released due to ill health.

  • Some verdicts, however, caused more controversy than others.

  • Albert Speer was one of Hitler's most trusted allies and the Minister of Armaments and War

  • Production.

  • While he wasn't in charge of the death camps personally, he was involved in the department

  • that evicted Jewish residents from their home and in the use of slave labor to build the

  • German war machines.

  • That led to him being charged for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and he was expected

  • to get the death penalty just like many of his comrades.

  • However, he narrowly avoided death and was sentenced to twenty years in prison.

  • From there, he took a different tact - portraying himself as a humble bureaucrat who had been

  • ignorant of the worst of Hitler's actions.

  • His interviews and two books were seen as a unique look inside Nazi Germany, but many

  • historians say his claims of not being directly involved in the Holocaust fall flat - a question

  • that will remain unanswered after his 1981 death from a stroke.

  • While most of the names at Nuremberg were military and government officials, there was

  • one big exception.

  • While the name Joseph Goebbels is most associated with the propaganda of Nazi Germany, there

  • was one man who led the way before him.

  • Julius Streicher, a regional leader and legislature, became famous as the publisher of the propaganda

  • newspaper Der Sturmer, which was notorious for its antisemitic propaganda.

  • Even before Hitler took power, Streicher's paper was inciting violence against specific

  • Jewish residents of Germany.

  • While Streicher did gain political office under the Nazi regime, he was never a member

  • of Hitler's inner circle and was accused of spreading false accusations against Hermann

  • Goring.

  • He was stripped of party offices in 1940 - but that didn't protect him in 1945.

  • He was arrested by Allied soldiers.

  • Despite not being a member of the military, he was charged with inciting genocide for

  • his role in disseminating Nazi propaganda, and on October 16th, 1946, he met the gallows.

  • The Nuremberg tribunals were over - but the hunt for justice was only beginning.

  • US military courts conducted twelve more military tribunals against accused criminals from Nazi

  • Germany, mostly high-level German industrialists who had used slave labor and looted occupied

  • territories, as well as remaining German military officers.

  • They were led by American judges, with the most famous being the Doctors' Trial, which

  • tried Nazi physicians for their role in mass murder by involuntary euthanasia.

  • In total, almost two hundred Nazis were executed at these follow-up tribunals - but many of

  • the most high-profile members of the Nazi regime were still at large.

  • In fact, some would never see justice at all.

  • In the aftermath of World War 2, the focus shifted to the next great conflict - the Cold

  • War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

  • Both countries were seeking any edge in the fast-moving race for military and technology

  • - and they would get it from anyone, even if they had been fighting them on the battlefield

  • only years earlier.

  • That led to the creation of Operation Paperclip, a secret US program that brought over 1,600

  • scientists from the Nazi regime and German military to the United States to share all

  • they knew on the Nazi's military technology.

  • The Nazis had gotten very close to the nuclear bomb, being beaten by the US in 1945, and

  • one of the most prominent names in their program was aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun.

  • While he used slave labor for many of his projects and was accused of brutal treatment,

  • he had fallen out of favor with Hitler in the later days of the regime - a common fate

  • when working for the paranoid dictator.

  • But his fortunes were about to change in a big way.

  • Himmler had falsely accused von Braun of being a communist sympathizer trying to sabotage

  • Germany, and he tried to escape to Britain, but high-ranking Nazi officials managed to

  • obtain von Braun's release by arguing he was indispensable to the war effort.

  • When the Nazis' defeat was imminent, he and his staff surrendered to the Americans,

  • and after a brief detention, he was recruited by the US Government.

  • His eventual fate was very different from most Nazi military commanders - he spent decades

  • working for NASA and helped the US develop a ballistic missile program.

  • He received the National Medal of Science in 1975, and died a free man in America much

  • more known for his science accomplishments rather than his Nazi career.

  • Most of the Nazi architects had their fates determined - but some were still in the wild.

  • In the aftermath of the war, countless Nazis fled Germany and prosecution via what became

  • known asRatlines”.

  • The Nazis would flee to either Italy or Spain, both of which were considered friendly locations

  • where the Allies weren't looking, and then on to their final destination - usually South

  • America.

  • Countries like Brazil, Argentina, and the rest of the continent became notorious havens

  • for high-level Nazi war criminals, most notoriously the mad doctor Josef Mengele.

  • Wanted for crimes against humanity for his twisted experiments on concentration camp

  • residents and prisoners of war, he was able to change his name and flee to Argentina.

  • He was able to avoid capture and extradition, and was only positively identified under a

  • false name after his 1979 death from a stroke while swimming.

  • It was getting harder to track down the remaining Nazis.

  • But new hunters were emerging.

  • Simon Wiesenthal was a Jewish man born in Austria-Hungary in 1908, and he and his wife

  • barely survived the Nazi concentration camps.

  • After the war, he collected a list of Nazi war criminals and presented them to American

  • officers.

  • This led him to a position with the American Office of Strategic Services, but it soon

  • became clear that the momentum for pursuing Nazi criminals was flagging.

  • Wiesenthal struck out on his own, collecting information on Nazi war criminals and trying

  • to locate them abroad.

  • He became one of the most dogged pursuers of justice for the victims of the Holocaust,

  • founding the Simon Wiesenthal Center to track Nazi war criminals and fight against antisemitism

  • - but he was a civilian, and he would need support from governments to root the surviving

  • Nazis out of their hiding places.

  • Fortunately for him, 1948 would bring a major change in the world.

  • In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the desire of the surviving Jewish people for a safe

  • haven grew.

  • That turned into a flashpoint in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, as

  • the Jewish residents in what had been their historical home fought for independence.

  • In 1948, the newly-formed United Nations voted to partition the land with the western half

  • becoming the state of Israel.

  • A brutal war formed, with most of the surrounding nations invading - but the newborn state of

  • Israel shocked the world and fended off the invading armies, winning its independence.

  • And its newly formed spy agency, the Mossad, had another mission in mind besides protecting

  • the homeland - hunting down the remaining Nazi war criminals.

  • And they had one name in particular at the top of their list.

  • Adolf Eichmann had more in common with his boss than just his first name.

  • He had been as much of a true believer in Hitler's extermination of the Jewish people,

  • and as an SS commander, he managed the mass deportation and extermination of the majority

  • of Europe's Jews.

  • While he was captured by the United States shortly after Germany's defeat, he managed

  • to escape from his first detention camp and hide in France for several years.

  • There, he escaped to Argentina in 1950 with false documents provided by a Bishop with

  • Nazi sympathies.

  • Working as a government contractor, he maintained a low profile, but by 1956 he was looking

  • to publish a biography with the help of Nazi journalist Willem Sassen.

  • That arrogance would set his undoing into motion.

  • Simon Wiesenthal had been pursuing Eichmann since the last days of the war, and he received

  • a report in 1953 that the fugitive had been seen in Buenos Aires.

  • But he didn't get a big break in the case until 1960, when Eichmann's father died.

  • Wiesenthal sent private detectives to photograph the funeral, and provided the pictures to

  • members of the Mossad.

  • An informant in Argentina, Lothar Hermann, had also reported that his daughter dated

  • a man who claimed to be Eichmann's son and identified his father.

  • They had enough evidence to arrest Eichmann and bring him over for trial - but Argentina

  • almost never granted extradition arrests.

  • Israel's Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, made the decision that they should take matters

  • into their own hands.

  • And so began one of the greatest missions in the Mossad's history.

  • An eight-man team led by Mossad agent Rafi Eitan was sent to Buenos Aires, where they

  • carefully tailed Eichmann and observed his routine.

  • They found an abandoned location where he would walk by every day on his way from the

  • bus, and chose that location to nab him.

  • Although the plan was almost abandoned when Eichmann wasn't on his usual bus, the agents

  • stood by - and he got off the next bus.

  • The team grabbed Eichmann, dragged him to a car, and hid him under a blanket.

  • From there, they moved him from one safe house to another over nine days, making sure they

  • had the right man.

  • There was only one more step to the operation - getting Eichmann back to Israel.

  • He was sedated, dressed as a flight attendant, and taken on one of Israel's planes that

  • had recently brought a diplomatic delegation to Argentina.

  • While the plane was delayed as the flight plan had to be reviewed, the Mossad's ruse

  • was not discovered.

  • Eichmann was flown back to Israel and his capture was announced to a nation full of

  • Holocaust survivors.

  • While Argentina was enraged by the stealth capture, Israel refused to back off their

  • plan to put Eichmann on trial.

  • He was interrogated for nine months where he showed little remorse and didn't seem

  • to acknowledge how deeply involved he had been in the Nazi genocide.

  • This led journalist Hannah Arendt to coin the termthe banality of evil”.

  • He was eventually charged with fifteen crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes against

  • the Jewish people and convicted of all fifteen.

  • And on Israeli soil, Adolf Eichmann became one of only two people to ever face the death

  • penalty and the first since the war of independence, hanging on May 31st, 1962.

  • Time went on, and the hunt for Nazis became less prominent - but they didn't stop.

  • As decades passed and many of the Nazi leadership died - either in custody or in their new homes

  • - the focus shifted to many of their younger collaborators.

  • Concentration camps were often staffed by brutal overseers who may not have been high-ranking

  • Nazis, but committed terrible crimes.

  • Under its new leadership, Germany tried many of them personally, and many were deported

  • from other countries in Europe or from the United States.

  • But as the 21st century dawned, the hunt for Nazis slowed to a trickle.

  • But it didn't stop - as one old man living in New York discovered.

  • Justice didn't have an age limit.

  • Jakiw Palij was a Polish Ukrainian soldier who guarded forced laborers at the Trawniki

  • labor camp.

  • While serving in the Striebel Battalion, he oversaw the mass murder of six thousand Jews

  • in a single day.

  • After the war, he was designated a displaced person after lying about his wartime service

  • and was allowed to immigrate to the United States.

  • There, he lived quietly until 1993, when the Justice department uncovered his name in Nazi

  • records.

  • He was tracked down and admitted to lying.

  • His US citizenship was revoked and the government initiated deportation proceedings.

  • There was just one problem.

  • No country would take him.

  • Germany, Poland, and the Ukraine all declined extradition requests, claiming that there

  • was insufficient evidence.

  • Palij was allowed to continue living in his New York apartment - albeit surrounded by

  • constant protesters.

  • The battle to hold him accountable continued until 2018, when Germany agreed to take responsibility

  • for his case, and the 95-year-old war criminal became one of the oldest people ever deported

  • from the United States.

  • Due to his age, he was never put on trial,and he died less than six months after his deportation

  • to Germany.

  • Are there any Nazi war criminals still alive out there?

  • Even the youngest soldiers would be in their 90s now, but if any have gotten away with

  • escaping justice until now, the odds are someone is still looking for them.

  • For more of the secrets of the Nazi war machine, check outHow Close Did Nazis Come to Creating

  • the Atomic Bomb?” or watch this video instead.

World War Two had come to an end, and the mad reign of Adolf Hitler ended with a bang

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What Actually Happened to Nazi Leaders After World War 2?

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/29
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