I know England has its Crown Jewels. The Vatican has its treasures. Russia has its famous crowns and jewels as do the Iranians with their Persian Jewels. I assume most countries have their own national treasures, but I did not realize the Germans have their own crown jewels, relics of the Holy Roman Empire, dating back to Charlemagne. The relics include a crown, an orb, a scepter, two ceremonial swords, and one other priceless artifact, the Lance of Christ. For hundreds of years they were passed down to successors, eventually being safe-guarded in Nuremberg. They were housed there for centuries until Napoleon came along who wanted to obtain the Spear of Christ. Supposedly, it has a supernatural power to help bring success to all who possess it. The Germans hid the jewels and the Spear of Christ form Napoleon by removing them from Nuremberg. Decades later the 19thcentury the jewels wound up in Vienna, Austria.
I enjoy history, including military history such as World War II. I am one of those who seem to watch and read just about anything on the 3rd Reich. If there is a God, who I believe exists, and who I believe is good, then the 3rd Reich personifies evil on earth. I enjoy exploring the origins or latent desires within Germanic culture that allowed one such as Hitler to touch a nerve of hope, however false it may have been. That desire of a Germanic Empire, that lust for power here on earth, that lure for glory, and the chance to wear a shiny uniform seemed to speak to millions even though they were a nation with a Christian background. This fascinates me.
One component of the 3rd Reich that has been written about extensively the last twenty years is the affect the occult had on several of the leaders of the regime. The occult is loosely defined as esoteric teachings about secret or hidden knowledge. In the case of the Nazis: knowledge of the origins of the Aryan race. There is no such thing as an Aryan race, or an Aryan man, but the Nazis were determined to convince the world of its existence. I do not know how much the occult actually influenced Hitler, I suspect he was bit more fascinated with the ancient Germanic tribes, and their ancient religions. Himmler, however, was a true occultist.
As I was searching the internet, I came across a book titled Hitler’s Holy Relics, written by Sidney Kirkpatrick, copyright 2010. I bought a copy, and it was indeed a fascinating read. It was perhaps the most enjoyable book I have read in some time. The book takes place during the closing months of the Second World War. First Lieutenant Walter Horn who is assigned to intelligence interrogates captured German soldiers to find out if any are SS officers, or if he suspects any of the soldiers want to start a 4th Reich. Horn also is interested in finding prisoners that he thinks will help with the rebuilding of Germany.
One of the many soldiers he is tasked with interrogating is older, almost fifty, and obviously one of the many last minute draftees into the German Army. This particular soldier did not seem defiant and conveyed a demeanor that he was one of those German soldiers that just wanted to help with the rebuilding. He regretted the war which he, like many, never wanted. He would like the war to end sooner than later. Additionally, for some strange reason, the prisoner asked Lieutenant Horn if he was interested in arts and antiques. Horn was definitely interested. He had been an art history teacher in civilian life back at Berkley, California. Art was his true love, not intelligence. As fate would have it, he just happened to be the one questioning this particular German prisoner.
The disheveled prisoner reveals he knows where the famous German Crown Jewels are hidden. Most Americans had heard of the British Crown Jewels but not any German Crown Jewels. Horn knew exactly what the prisoner was talking about. Lieutenant Horn had grown up in Germany not far from Nuremberg, coming to America in 1934 to flee Hitler. He had heard about the jewels of the Holy Roman Empire many, many times. The prisoner indulged that his parents were in charge of maintaining the proper temperature and air ventilation for thousands of treasures, housed in a secret bunker underneath his family home in Nuremberg. Hitler had brought the Holy Roman Crown Jewels to Nuremberg from Vienna in 1938. Hitler felt the jewels rightly belonged in Nurnberg. Thousands of other treasures looted by the Nazis during the war were also housed in Nurnberg.
Horn quickly files a report to higher officers. Almost immediately, the lieutenant is reassigned to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives division of the Army, tasked with recovering stolen treasure. Eisenhower and Patton gave him the challenging assignment of getting to Nuremberg as quickly as possible. The Americans had just captured the city, with some fighting still evident. He was to find the Crown Jewels, and if they had been stolen, find out by whom and get them back.
It was a true and compelling story of intrigue, suspense, adventure and hope. It is a story that should have been told decades ago. In the early 1980’s Jackie Onassis Kennedy, who was active with the National Endowment for the Arts, heard about the fascinating tale and began to have people research the story. I think it is better than an Indian Jones adventure or a James Bond movie. Why? Because it is true: and I absolutely love true stories.