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The Ratline

The Ratline

*THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER*



FROM THE AUTHOR OF
EAST WEST STREET

As Governor of Galicia, SS Brigadeführer Otto Freiherr von Wächter presided over an authority on whose territory hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles were killed, including the family of the author’s grandfather. By the time the war ended in May 1945, he was indicted for ‘mass murder’. Hunted by the Soviets, the Americans, the Poles and the British, as well as groups of Jews, Wächter went on the run. He spent three years hiding in the Austrian Alps, assisted by his wife Charlotte, before making his way to Rome where he was helped by a Vatican bishop. He remained there for three months. While preparing to travel to Argentina on the ‘ratline’ he died unexpectedly, in July 1949, a few days after spending a weekend with an ‘old comrade’.

In The Ratline Philippe Sands offers a unique account of the daily life of a senior Nazi and fugitive, and of his wife. Drawing on a remarkable archive of family letters and diaries, he unveils a fascinating insight into life before and during the war, on the run, in Rome, and into the Cold War. Eventually the door is unlocked to a mystery that haunts Wächter’s youngest son, who continues to believe his father was a good man – what happened to Otto Wächter, and how did he die?

***

‘A gripping adventure, an astounding journey of discovery and a terrifying and timely portrait of evil in all its complexity, banality, self-justification and madness. A stunning achievement’ STEPHEN FRY

‘Hypnotic, shocking and unputdownable’ JOHN LE CARRÉ

‘Breathtaking, gripping, and ultimately, shattering. Philippe Sands has done the unimaginable: look a butcher in the eye and tell his story without flinching’ ELIF SHAFAK

‘A triumph of research and brilliant storytelling’ ANTONY BEEVOR
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Genre: Humanities / History / Military History / Second World War

On Sale: 16th April 2020

Price: £20

ISBN-13: 9781474608121

Reviews

A triumph of research and brilliant storytelling
ANTONY BEEVOR
A gripping adventure, an astounding journey of discovery and a terrifying and timely portrait of evil in all its complexity, banality, self-justification and madness. A stunning achievement
STEPHEN FRY
This is a burningly necessary book. Sands makes a gently unsparing dissection of deception, love, delusion and ineradicable evil. Elegant, painstaking, passionate and quietly enraging
A L KENNEDY
Hypnotic, shocking and unputdownable
JOHN LE CARRÉ
Breathtaking, gripping, and ultimately, shattering. Philippe Sands has done the unimaginable: look a butcher in the eye and tell his story without flinching
ELIF SHAFAK
A book of twists and intrigues as complex as any le Carré thriller . . . like its predecessor, [it] is replete with vivid descriptions and Sands brings to it the same relentless narrative momentum
LITERARY REVIEW
Remarkable . . . Sands's untangling of the mysteries surrounding Otto von Wächter is masterfully done
THE SUNDAY TIMES
Diaries, encrypted letters and secret documents are dissected by a mastermind . . . a great achievement
CEES NOOTEBOOM
Extraordinary. In fast-paced, John le Carré-like pages (spies, Nazi-hunters, dark Vatican forces) . . . THE RATLINE is an electrifying true crime for the contagion lockdown
EVENING STANDARD
The forensic stamina and precision that garnered such praise for Sands' 2016 work EAST WEST STREET are equally in evidence here. THE RATLINE is not only about events in the past, but their dangerous legacy in the world today. A formidable piece of historical sleuthing written with all the pace and suspense of a thriller, it is a timely reminder that crimes against humanity don't occur only at the level of states and governments. They take place also in the more secret and less fathomable depths of people's hearts and minds
Rebecca Abrams, FINANCIAL TIMES
Sands is a terrier at research . . . The seething world of post-war Rome, with its senior fascists reprieved and returning to prominence, its war criminals lurking in hiding, its spies and secret services brokering deals and its adventurers and profiteers making fortunes, has seldom been more vividly described
Caroline Moorehead, SPECTATOR
It is this present-day drama, rather than the historical story, that makes this book so extraordinary. Readers will, much like the author, find themselves longing for Horst to open his eyes. That he finds this so difficult to do is simultaneously poignant and grotesque
BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE
In a story that is as gripping as any thriller, Philippe Sands uncovers new evidence about exactly what happened to von Wachter leading up to his unexpected death in 1949
JEWISH RENAISSANCE
Engrossing . . . Part history, part memoir and part detective story, it's a thought-provoking read
CHOICE MAGAZINE, Book of the Month
Vivid and complex . . . Sands has skilfully avoided the catalogue of inhumanity often detailed in books about the Nazis, preferring a low-key, gently poignant approach that makes the occasional intrusion of moments of horror all the more shocking
DAILY EXPRESS
Brilliant . . . extraordinarily moving
DAILY MIRROR
A gripping tale, crammed with twists and turns . . . enthralling
HISTORY TODAY
A riveting exposé . . . a gripping blend of historical scholarship and clever detective work
STRONG WORDS
Has the illuminating brilliance of a magnesium flame and a pace worthy of John le Carré . . . THE RATLINE is a cunningly constructed courtroom drama in book form . . . It is detailed, it is damning - all the more so because of the author's dispassionate decency
SUNDAY EXPRESS, S MAGAZINE
Fascinating . . . Switching between the distant and very recent past, the book is episodic in nature, but this only makes it more compelling. It combines a mystery with a straight retelling of history - shining a light into one of the less investigated corners of the Nazi era and its aftermath - and a thoughtful inquiry into how we reckon with it
David Bennum, MAIL ON SUNDAY
An astonishing amount of research and expertise has gone into the making of this book . . . a compelling historical and human drama
THE TABLET
This is a taut and finely crafted factual thriller, reminiscent in density and pace of John le Carré . . . a feat of exhilarating storytelling - gripping, gratifying and morally robust
OBSERVER
THE RATLINE is a compelling piece of forensic historical research - one that is every bit as good as EAST WEST STREET
THE TELEGRAPH
THE RATLINE is tragic and unforgettable . . . Sands has the artfulness of a born storyteller, as well as deadly forensic skills and formidable patience at reaching his ends. He unwraps his evidence in spare, clear, convincing prose with a taut control that keeps one on tenterhooks . . . Sands's intellectual passion, his crusading zeal and his compassion for the dead and wounded make this a great book
THE OLDIE
A truly extraordinary book - a forensic yet deeply humane and measured exploration of the human capacity for self-deception and cruelty
HENRY MARSH

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