The Red Cross and the Vatican both helped thousands of Nazi war criminals and collaborators to escape after the second world war, according to a new book that pulls together evidence from previously unpublished documents.The Red Cross has previously acknowledged that its efforts to help refugees were used by Nazi war criminals to escape because administrators were overwhelmed, but the new research suggests that the numbers escaping were much higher than previously thought.Gerald Steinacher, a research fellow at Harvard University, was given access to thousands of internal documents in the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The documents include ICRC travel documents issued to thousands of Nazi war criminals and members of Nazi organisations among hundreds of thousands of documents.They throw significant new light on how and why mass murderers such as Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele and Klaus Barbie and thousands of others were able to evade capture by the allies.By comparing lists of wanted war criminals to travel documents issued, Steinacher says his research reveals that such was the chaos after the war ended, Britain and Canada alone inadvertently took in around 8,000 former Waffen-SS members in 1947.The documents – which are discussed in Steinacher’s book Nazis on the run: How Hilter’s henchmen fled justice – are particularly significant in offering an insight into Vatican thinking because its own archives beyond 1939 are still closed. The Vatican has consistently refused to comment on the incidents.Steinacher believes the Vatican’s help was based on a hoped-for revival of European Christianity and dread of the Soviet Union. But through the Vatican Refugee Commission and a few priests and bishops, even war criminals not seeking pardon were pardoned and knowingly provided with false identities.