UCL Faculty of Laws


Professor Philippe Sands QC releases new book The Ratline

16 April 2020

The Ratline: Love, lies and justice on the trail of a Nazi fugitive (Orion Publishing) is on sale from 16 April 2020.

The Ratline by Philippe Sands book cover

The Ratline: Love, lies and justice on the trail of a Nazi fugitive (Orion Publishing) by Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law at UCL Faculty of Laws, provides a unique account of a senior Nazi on the run through post-war Europe.

As Governor of Galicia, SS Brigadefuhrer Otto Freiherr von Wachter 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, Wachter 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, Professor 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 – exploring what happened to Otto Wächter, and how he died.

Professor Sands is Professor of Law at UCL, and a practising barrister at Matrix Chambers. Professor Sands frequently appears before international courts, and has been involved in many of the most important cases of recent years, including Pinochet, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq, Guantanamo, Chagos and the Rohingya in Myanmar.

The Ratline follows from Professor Sands’ successful BBC Radio 4 podcast of the same name, released in September 2018. The 10-part podcast explores the passionate relationship between Otto and Charlotte, through their secret private correspondence, read in the series by Stephen Fry and Laura Linney.

The Ratline is on sale now.

Praise for The Ratline:

‘Breathtaking, gripping, and ultimately, shattering’ - Elif Shafak

‘Hypnotic, shocking and unputdownable’ - John le Carré

'Elegant, painstaking, passionate and quietly enraging' - A. L. Kenney

‘A stunning achievement’ - Stephen Fry

‘A triumph of research and brilliant storytelling’ - Antony Beevor

Find out more or order a copy of The Ratline