The Nazis, including Adolf
Hitler, swore by the idea that a white Nordic superior race – people of “the purest blood” – had come from Atlantis. As a result,
Heinrich Himmler set up an SS unit, the Ahnenerbe – or Bureau of Ancestral Heritage – in 1935 to find out where people from Atlantis had ended up after the deluge had destroyed their homeland.
Himmler in particular was infected by a virulent strain of spiritualism which fed into his racist, supremacist world view. For him, establishing a new Aryan empire meant resurrecting ancient Germanic myths and iconography. He believed the war against the lesser races required the overturning of traditional Christian morality, replacing it with a new kind of pseudo-religion that drew on chivalry and mysticism.
The now-notorious insignia of the SS, resembling two lightning bolts, was based on runes devised by an Austrian occultist and pagan called Guido von List. The SS itself was, in Himmler’s mind, an elite organisation in the tradition of the Teutonic Knights – an order which, like the
Templars, came into existence during the Crusades. Himmler’s grand scheme was to establish Wewelsburg Castle as the Camelot of his modern-day knights. One of the rooms was even named after
Arthur, while another was designated the ‘Grail Room’.
Despite his aversion to conventional Christianity, Himmler was fascinated by the legend of the Grail, perhaps seeing it as a source of immense power. After all, he believed that another fabled artefact – Thor’s hammer – could be requisitioned as a weapon by the Third Reich. In an outlandish letter to the Ahnenerbe, a think tank set up to give academic backing to Nazi racial ideology, Himmler stated his belief that Thor’s hammer was ‘an early, highly developed war weapon of our forefathers’. For this reason, Himmler demanded that Ahnenerbe’s team should ‘find all places in the northern Germanic Aryan cultural world where an understanding of the lightning bolt, the thunderbolt, Thor's hammer, or the flying or thrown hammer exists’.
Himmler personally embarked on a failed mission to find the Holy Grail in 1940, visiting an abbey perched within the Montserrat mountain range in Catalonia. He was presumably led there by the belief that Montserrat was the real-life ‘Montsalvat’, location of the Grail in an Arthurian opera by Hitler’s favourite composer, Richard Wagner. This opera, Parsifal, was based on a medieval German poem called Parzival, written by a knight named Wolfram von Eschenbach. And this poem had already been an inspiration to another Grail hunter in the Nazi regime: Otto Rahn.
Rahn was a somewhat eccentric medievalist who believed there was a link between the story of Parzival and Catharism – a movement that flourished in medieval Europe, particularly in France. Condemned as heretics by the Catholic Church, the Cathars revived old Gnostic concepts that radically overturned traditional Christian thinking. They believed, for example, that the God of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament were separate entities – the latter sinful, and the former good. Such ideas led to a crusade against the Cathars, and their wholesale slaughter.
A major Cathar stronghold was Montségur, a remote fortress in southwestern France. This became the site of a dramatic confrontation between the Cathars and French royal forces in 1243. Thousands of French troops besieged the fortress for nine long and gruelling months before the people inside eventually surrendered. Hundreds of Cathars were burnt alive in a bonfire after refusing to renounce their blasphemous beliefs. However, it’s believed that a number of Cathars managed to smuggle themselves out of the fortress, undetected, before their brethren surrendered.
It’s been speculated that these survivors of the siege took some kind of treasure with them. Gold, perhaps. Or maybe even the
Holy Grail itself, brought back to Europe from the Holy Land, by the Templars or other Crusaders. Otto Rahn, prompted by previous occultists and mystics, identified Montségur with the ‘Montsalvat’ Grail castle of Parzival. His ideas appealed greatly to Himmler, and Rahn eventually joined the SS himself.
The extent of Rahn’s own Nazi beliefs have been a subject of debate. He himself apparently said, ‘A man has to eat. What was I supposed to do? Turn Himmler down?’ But having such powerful patronage certainly spurred him on to publish more about the Grail, with the SS brazenly inserting anti-Semitic passages into his romantic, mystical prose. Rahn eventually resigned from the SS and died of exposure on a mountain in 1939 – allegedly suicide, though the details have never been confirmed.
Colourful theories regarding the Cathars, the Grail and the potential involvement of Crusader warriors have persisted in the decades after the fall of the Third Reich. Most famously, in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which theorised that the Cathars knew the secret of the Holy Grail – namely, that it was the bloodline of Christ, from the marriage of
Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This concept fuelled the plot of Dan Brown’s bestseller
The Da Vinci
Code, which also portrays the Templars as guardians of this
THE LOST CITY
- SANTORINI, CRETE
GERMANY - SPECIAL NAVAL OPERATIONS
- GOD OF THE SEA
GUARDIAN - LOST CITY OF ATLANTIS RISES AGAIN TO FUEL A DANGEROUS MYTH
- GERMAN SUBMARINES
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