Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican on Mysteries at the Museum

British Army band playing St Peter's Basilica, June 1944
The British Army outside St Peter’s Basilica, June 1944 – A Vatican Monsignor evaded the traps set for him and saved thousands of troops and Jews from the Nazi occupiers of Italy

This episode of Mysteries at the Museum, Don Wildman looks at the case of the priest who became known as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican during WWII.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was an Irish Roman Catholic priest who at the time of WWII was based in the Vatican, Rome.

O’Flaherty was instrumental in saving thousands of allied troops and jews throughout the course of the war.

At the start of the war he searched POW camps to finds soldiers who had been reported missing in action, he then broadcast they had been found over the Vatican’s radio station.

However, by 1943 Italy was occupied by the Nazis and O’Flaherty took it upon himself to recruit other priests to help him and together with some allied secret agents they arranged to hide thousands of escaped prisoners and Jews.

The occupying German forces laid many traps for him and his ability to avoid these gave rise to his nickname of Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, based on the famous fictional character who saved French aristocrats from losing their heads during the French Revolution.

Although he was safe when with the walls of the Vatican, the German even went as far as painting a white line across the border of the and advised he would be killed if he crossed over it. It was also no secret that the head of the fascist police want to torture him before his execution. But Hitler had forbidden any German troops from entering the neutral Vatican.

There was even a movie made starring Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer called The Scarlet and the Black, which was based on a book about O’Flaherty.

Also on this episode is a town cursed with an undead problem and the risks people will take for love.

Watch Mysteries at the Museum – Limbo for Love; Vampire’s Grave; and the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican at 9 PM on Travel Channel.

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