In a startling, if sensational, statement in the Introduction to his 1973 book, The Spear of Destiny, author Trevor Ravenscroft states that Sir Winston Churchill “was insistent that
the occultism of the Nazi Party should not under any circumstances be revealed to the general public.” He explains further: “The failure of the Nuremberg trials to identify the nature of the evil at work behind the outer facade of National Socialism convinced him [Dr. Walter Johannes Stein, Ravenscroft’s source] that another three decades must pass before a large enough readership would be present to comprehend the initiation rites and black-magic practices of the inner core of Nazi leadership.”
Just as my time in the Odenwald was centered on the mystical and its counterpart, white magic, October 15 and the days beyond were focused on its dark opposite, black magic, commonly known as the occult. There is no room here for a thesis on the connections between the Nazis and the dark arts (dozens of books have been written on the subject, from Morning of the Magicians in 1960, to Ravenscroft, to more recent and sober works like Peter Levenda’s Unholy Alliance, A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult). As “expert” opinions on this controversial subject ran the gamut from pure balderdash to sacred canon, I had to add this difficult leg to my trip to see for myself.
I got on the road early Saturday morning and, without traffic jams or major miscues, headed straight north through Frankfurt to Marburg, where I stopped to take in the famed Elisabethkirche. This magnificent gothic structure was a Catholic cathedral dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary prior to the 16th century religious wars, when it became the Protestant church it is today. Elizabeth’s guide along the path to sainthood before and after her death was the priest Conrad of Marburg, one of the first and most vicious heretic hunters in the early 13th century. Conrad’s zeal for burning alleged heretics alive so enraged the locals that they ambushed and killed him, even though he was the Pope’s personal ambassador. He was later emulated as a model Inquisitor when that ecclesiastical office was formalized during the crusade against the Cathar heretics of southern France. Suffice it to say here that this priest, and his protégée Elizabeth also, were intrigued the protagonist in my novel. The similarity between the persecutions that occurred in Marburg seven hundred years before and the genocide developing in the Germany around him forms the crux of his internal conflict.
From Marburg, I continued north to Wewelsburg, near Paderhorn. I’d set Wewelsburg Castle, a lesser-known monument appropriately called Himmler’s Camelot by one author, as a must-see. It was here that SS leader, Heinrich Himmler, endeavored to establish supreme headquarters: an intellectual, cultural and spiritual center worthy of his Black Order, the SS. From here he envisioned his knights, three-million strong in its heyday, spreading the Nazi gospel throughout a vanquished Europe. Even though the demands of the war and implementation of the Final Solution (the SS manned all the concentration camps, among other duties) curtailed the completion of Himmler’s elaborate dream (the architectural plans for the complete complex are on display in the Wewelsburg museum), progress on the renovation of the previously existing castle buildings was far enough along to demonstrate what this place might have become had the war’s outcome been more favorable to the Reichsführer. Since the castle’s convoluted history, including its partial destruction on Himmler’s orders as the Allies advanced on the town in April 1945, is impossible to cover in a blog, I suggest those interested take a look at the
official museum site here.
A personal footnote: I’d read enough on Himmler, the SS and Wewelsburg that there was little, even in the mysterious SS crypt and exclusive meeting hall in the cathedral-like North Tower of the complex, that took me by surprise. Even the smiling portraits of SS leaders with their families, which can be viewed in the extensive museum attached to the castle, were short of shocking. My emotion, beyond rage, was a low-key nebulous nausea evoked by the idea that it was these seemingly ordinary men, with wives, kids and innocuous hobbies, who had committed the horrendous crimes attributed to Nazism.
Although diabolical and fiendish are words rightly applied to these SS men, in the use of such terms for them there is the sense that we are evading a far greater evil. It is easier to assign effects of this magnitude to a few psychopaths who are not like us than to admit that these psychopaths would have been powerless without millions behind them, even if passively, who are like us. At Wewelsburg, the “conspiracy of silence” still reigns. There is no mention of the occult. In spoken and written presentations, the damning evidence of the ritual rooms in the North Tower is passed off with “purpose unknown.” Given the German obsession for keep records on everything, I can’t believe that there’s no further data about the goings-on there.
Those familiar with my work, especially readers of The Anathemas, will not be surprised at
my passion about and investigation of the connection between Nazism and occult beliefs and practices. As an investigator of the paranormal, I am indeed delving into this still-taboo subject and will, within the framework of the novel form, present a searing and innovative interpretation of it along with the facts and hypotheses that support my conclusions. You didn’t expect just another novel from me anyway, did you?
Fortunately, I was very tired that Saturday evening as I went to bed in my tastefully decorated and efficiently designed motel room in the tidy town of Salzkotten, all neatly German, a few miles from Wewelsburg. As I drifted into the darkness, I was tempted to think I’d now seen it all, but then I remembered that tomorrow I would cross into the recently Communist eastern part of Germany and head for my next destination, the Buchenwald concentration camp .