BBC Radio 4 presents Intrigue: The Ratline - a new 10-part podcast

BBC Radio 4 presents a major new podcast in the Intrigue strand - The Ratline, presented by barrister and writer Philippe Sands.

Published: 18 September 2018
The Ratline has it all: a mysterious death, political intrigue, spies, Nazi hunters, dark forces within the Vatican, a castle in Hagenberg and a son grappling with the sins of his father
— Mohit Bakaya, Commissioning Editor

The Ratline is an investigation into Otto von Wächter, a senior Austrian Nazi indicted for mass murder, who escaped justice after the war.

Over ten episodes Sands uncovers remarkable new evidence about what exactly happened to Otto von Wächter leading up to his unexpected death in 1949. Accompanied by Wächter’s son Horst, Sands embarks on a journey that goes right to the heart of ‘the ratlines’, the post-war Nazi escape route out of Europe, and tries to discover the circumstances of Otto’s death in Rome.

The Ratline is a story of life and love, murder, denial and a curious death.

We hear about the passionate relationship between Otto and his wife Charlotte, through their secret private correspondence, read in the series by Stephen Fry and Laura Linney. We gain insights on ‘the ratlines’ and the enigmas that surround them from a host of contributors including Nazi hunters working for the US government, and from the world's best-known spy writer.

Philippe Sands says: “I first came across Otto Wächter while researching East West Street, and could never quite get him out of my head. His son Horst has been hugely generous in giving access to a unique family archive and the opportunity to explore this in audio for Radio 4 was irresistibly exciting and replete with unexpected discoveries.

"Making a radio series - a first for me - is entirely different from writing a book, not least for the magic of introducing the human voice directly into the storytelling, a different and exciting way of opening up the audience’s imagination.”

Mohit Bakaya, Commissioning Editor of factual programming at Radio 4, says: “The Ratline is a story that has it all: a mysterious death, political intrigue, spies, Nazi hunters, dark forces within the Vatican, a castle in Hagenberg and a son grappling with the sins of his father.

"We are thrilled Philippe Sands chose to bring this story to us, and, through painstaking research, recordings and sound design, we have entered a complex, fascinating universe where love and denial, those two most powerful of human emotions, drive the action. It also reminds us that this period in history still harbours extraordinary secrets and stories.”

Philippe Sands QC is Professor of Law at University College London and a barrister and arbitrator. He acts as counsel before international courts, and sits as an arbitrator. He is the author of Lawless World and Torture Team, of academic books on international law, and contributes to the Guardian, the Financial Times, the New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair.

His latest book East West Street: On The Origins Of Crimes Against Humanity And Genocide was the winner of the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize, 2017 British Book Awards Non-Fiction Book of the Year and 2018 Prix Montaigne. It was accompanied by a BBC Storyville film, My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did.

Intrigue is a Radio 4 current affairs strand which began in 2017 with Murder At The Lucky Holiday Hotel, presented by Carrie Gracie. Each series of Intrigue tells the story of an unexpected death which pulls back the curtain on how the world works.

Podcast release date and TX details
First two episodes of Intrigue: The Ratline available as a podcast from 18 September
TX: 8-19 October at 1.45pm-2pm on BBC Radio 4

  • Presenter: Philippe Sands
  • Producer: Gemma Newby for BBC Radio 4
  • Editor: Hugh Levinson