The Nazi party grew to power as part of the Völkisch or “folk” movement—a political and social notion that Germany ought to return to its countrified folkloric roots in the past instead of expanding the industrial urban complex of its growing cities. A part of returning to their roots, meant returning to the ancient occult ways of their ancestors.
Mixing Racism With The Occult
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Hitler and his Nazis believed their ancestors were a pseudo-mythic Indo-European group who had retained their purity, and therefore the possibility of their ancient super-powers overtime. Because obviously everyone in the past had super powers.
The belief in a pure Aryan race with occult powers actually predates the Nazis, but not by very long. This crazy is called Ariosophy, and it was actually set up in the 1890s by some wacked out philosophers Hitler really admired. He implemented Ariosophy symbolism wherever he could—that’s how the much older swastika or black sun symbols ended up on Nazi flags and on the floors of Nazi buildings. Like this one.
The SS’ Occult Branch
To strengthen the “scientific” validity of Ariosophy, Hitler’s henchmen like Heinrich Himmler here hit on the grand plan of using archaeology to prove their connection to the ancient past and to access its potential magic powers.
Under the auspices of a SS division called Ahnenerbe or “Ancestral Heritage Research and Training Organization,” they started looking into the various artifacts and sites they could find that would strengthen their argument that Germans were racially pure descendants of an ancient super-race and/or grant the modern Germans supernatural powers.
The obvious candidate for their hunt has always been the Ark of the Covenant—a mythic Jewish relic that could purportedly decimate armies and cities.
But the Ark of the Covenant was one of the few well known ancient magical objects the Nazis actually didn’t go hunting for hardcore. They dabbled in finding it, but nothing near as hardcore as “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” makes out. Mostly, because as far as the Nazis were concerned—the Ark was too Jewish. And if you’ll recall from high school history, the Nazis weren’t down with the Jews.
Seeking Out The Spear Of Destiny
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They were, however, big fans of Jesus. They pretended he wasn’t Jewish, but an Aryan pretender who had apparently infiltrated Jewish culture to set up Christianity for future Aryans. So the Nazis put a lot of effort into tracking down an artifact called “the Spear of Destiny.” It’s supposedly the spear that a Roman soldier used to put Christ out of his misery during the Crucifixion. Having played such a role in Jesus’ demise, the spear, was of course, granted special powers.
The Catholic Church venerated a couple of bits of spear that claimed to be a magical object, and Hitler made sure that as many of those bits as possible were stolen out of Europe’s museum and collected for him back in Berlin.
To further, their Aryan obsession, the Nazis really wanted to prove continuity between themselves and the ancient past. They went on excavating sprees throughout Germany trying to dig up an ancient super civilization, but to no avail. The ancient people of the area weren’t all that into architecture, so there wasn’t much for them to find.
So the Nazis decided the next best thing would be to say they were from the lost civilization of Atlantis. They tried their best to find the mythic sunken city with their subs, but had little luck.
Finding The Entrance To Thule
Atlantis wasn’t the only mythic ancestral land the Nazis were hoping to find or claim. There’s a much less well known legend of a similar Atlantis in the north, called Thule.
One section of the Ahnenerbe was devoted to studying ancient manuscripts like the ancient Viking Eddas and other similar sagas in the hopes that they would find the route to the ruins of this ancient civilization, or preferably, the portal to the possible inter-dimensional magic realm some of them thought it might be. No joke.
Looking For Magical Brethren In Tibet
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Since the Atlantean/Thule/Aryan homeland was meant to be derived from an even earlier proto-European culture believed to have been based on the Russian steppes and mountains of central Asia, the Nazis also thought they ought to look for any survivors who might still be in the area.
A team of six SS scientists lead by Nazi occultist historian Herman Wirth and naturalist Ernst Schäfer set out for Tibet in 1938. They wanted to measure everyone’s skull to see if they were still as pure as the German Aryans. They also wanted to see if they possessed any magic. This too, proved to be a dead end in terms of getting Hitler some super powers or proof of Aryan supremacy.
The biggest and most consuming artifact on the Nazi Ahnenerbe division was to find the Holy Grail. It wouldn’t connect them to the past—but the modern Germans could use the powers of immortality granted by the sacred last cup of Christ to turn themselves into a superhuman army.
It’s bizarre and terrifying, but pop culture has the Holy Grail thing and the magic super army thing spot on. Which pretty much validates “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” as well as some of the snippets from the “Captain America” aspects of the Marvelverse.
On The Trail Of The Grail
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Since the Holy Grail is hugely tied in with the legends of King Arthur, that also meant the Nazis were kind of looking for Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, and anything associated with them.
To hunt for the grail properly, Hitler and Himmler pulled in historian Otto Rahn, a fedora wearing grail obsessed figure who really was part Indiana Jones and part Ian McKellan’s character in “The Da Vinci Code.”
Himmler’s Spanish Hunt
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Rahn wasn’t super down with the Nazi cause, but he was down with them paying for his research focusing on the grail’s trail through the Cathar country of southern France and northeastern Spain and then northward through the Arthurian legends of the British Isles.
Rahn and subsequently Himmeler were particularly fascinated with the remote abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat in Spain. Both visited it numerous times, apparently in search of the Grail. Himmler went there in 1940, mid-war, in the hopes of retrieving it.
In Preparation For Arcane Acts
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Himmler had already had a special crypt designed to house the Grail when it was found.
He had the basement of the Wewelsburg Castle specially done up to suit his purposes. They installed a swastika on the ceiling above the grail’s future podium (now removed from the site above), and set up special gas pipes so that “eternal” flames could spout out of the walls at certain intervals.
Stealing Sacred Art
Anything that could get Hitler and Himmler closer to the mysteries of the past was fair game. Long before World War II even started, they had been pillaging museums for ancient art and artifacts that either supposedly possessed magical powers or could lead them to nuclear arcana like the Spear of Destiny or Holy Grail.
As early as 1934, the Nazi leaders were staging thefts for items like the Ghent altarpiece, which they believed had coded iconography that could lead them to the grail.
A Lack Of Immortality
Legend has it that the reclamation of his occult collection by the Allied forces was the final straw for the defeated Hitler.
Supposedly one of the last reports that reached Adolf Hitler before he committed suicide was the one letting him know that the pieces of the Spear of Destiny he’d collected had been taken by the enemy.