Aug 18, 2010

A Pact with Lucifer: Otto Rahn and the Quest For The (Un)Holy Grail

Many young American boys (and of course more adventurous girls) over nearly three decades now permanently have the image of Nazis soldiers faces melting all the way down to the skull ingrained in their memories for a lifetime. These Nazis soldiers were on a crusade to find the much desired and legendary Ark of the Covenant in hopes to have an invincible army. This image of death and a literal Holocaust takes place in a fairly popular film directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas known as Raiders of the Lost Ark. One could say that these deaths via supernatural ark have become iconic. The melting of a group of Teutonic faces is a much warmer occurrence than the reality of a young man who froze to death on a mountainside near Söll in Austria. That unusual adventurer was SS-Obersturmführer Otto Rahn, whose lifetime of searching would lead to a Faustian pact with The Third Reich and a short life shrouded in mystery.

Although Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have never spoken of Nazi archaeologist Otto Rahn, he undoubtedly comes closest to being a real-life Indiana Jones. Rahn was an artistic man that was obsessed with the history of the Cathars and the suffering they faced during the crusades as heretics. Otto Rahn believed that the Cathars guarded the Holy Grail in their castle at Montsegur located in Southern France. The best evidence of Rahn being an artist at heart is his belief that Wolfram von Eschenbach’s medieval epic Parzival held the key to the mysteries of the Cathars and where they were secretly hiding the Holy Grail. Rahn’s book Crusade Against the Grail is a bizarre work of history that combines poetry, anti-catholic sentiment, and wild speculation for a truly original look at medieval Catharism. Otto Rahn traveled to the Pyrenees region of Southern France in 1931 to complete his research for Crusade Against the Grail which was completed in 1933.

It should be noted that Crusade Against the Grail was published three years before Otto Rahn would join Heinrich Himmler’s sinister SS. Rahn came to the attention of Heinrich Himmler after Gabriele Dechend, private SS secretary of secret(occult) king Karl Maria Wiligut, read Crusade Against the Grail and gave it to Wiligut. Karl Maria Wiligut was impressed by Crusade Against the Grail and immediately informed SS leader Heinrich Himmler of the book. Himmler was highly impressed by the book and summoned Otto Rahn to meet him in Berlin, Germany. At the time of meeting Himmler, France had just denied Rahn his much desired visa. Otto Rahn, to his embarrassment, had also just gotten dropped by his publisher. One could not find better timing for a Faustian pact with a metaphorical devil known as Heinrich Himmler. Heinrich Himmler’s elite SS would give Otto Rahn the opportunity to travel Europe and write in a travel diary which would later become his second (and final) book Lucifer’s Court (1937). Rahn believed that Lucifer was bearer of light and true illumination and his journeys recorded in Lucifer’s Court were mean to shed light on “the ghosts of the pagans and heretics who were (his) ancestors.”

Otto Rahn’s work Lucifer’s Court was made required reading by SS leader Heinrich Himmler for the Nazi elite and higher. One could say that Rahn was responsible for writing part of the gospel for the short lived but eternally remembered Third Reich. The SS also required Otto Rahn to do something that one might consider much physically and emotionally stressful than reading merely about heretics of the past. Rahn was forced to do four months’ military service with the SS-Death’s Head Division ‘Oberbayern’ at Dachau concentration camp, an experience that apparently forever changed the romantic young man for the worst.

Otto Rahn’s personal life would also find him to be an enemy of the Nazi state. Rahn did not do much to hide his homosexuality which would eventually result in the most undesirable of fates. Rahn was caught twice engaged in homosexuality activities which Heinrich Himmler warned him against. SS secretary Gabriele Dechend believed that Otto Rahn was being spied by someone in the SS that was jealous of Rahn. Dechend speculates that on Himmler’s third time catching Rahn engaged in homosexual activities resulted having to “save his honor” via suicide. Surprisingly, the Judeo-Christian propaganda book The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, a work that argues the Nazi war machine was fueled by German homosexuality, forgets to mention Otto Rahn’s sexual persuasion.

Otto Rahn’s mother, who knitted her son a sweater which displayed a lightning bolt similar to that found in the SS emblem, was also found out to be Jewish. The 2001 documentary on Otto Rahn, The Secret Glory directed by Richard Stanley (Dust Devil, The White Darkness), reveals that Rahn was Jewish although he may have not known that until he did his genealogical research for the SS. According to rabbinical law (and of course the Nuremberg racial laws), Otto Rahn was Jewish. It would be very hard to find a stranger and unconventional character as Otto Rahn in the SS. But then again, Emil Maurice who founded the Stosstrupp Adolf (which later became the SS) with Adolf Hitler, also was of Jewish ancestry. Maurice was also apparently bisexual, something you would not expect from someone that was partly responsible for founding the SS. When Heinrich Himmler brought to the attention of Adolf Hitler that Emil Maurice had Jewish ancestry, Hitler responded “in this one exception case” Maurice could stay in the SS. After all Emil Maurice was one of the first members of the Nazi party and one of oldest friends. Indeed, fact is truly stranger than fiction.

Many proto-Nazi and Nazi authors had a much different interpretations of the Holy Grail than Otto Rahn. Nordicist writers would interpret the blood of Christ with Aryan blood which is interesting as Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg would later claim that Jesus Christ was not Jewish (but Aryan) in his best selling book The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1929). Ultimately, Aryan propagandists finally brought forth the thesis that the “Aryan” grail would only begin to shine again with the Nordic races return to racial purity. At the conclusion of Crusade Against the Grail, Rahn stated, “What happened to the Grail, the Occitan Mani?" According to Pyrenean legend, the Grail moves farther away from this world, and upward toward the sky, when humanity is no longer worthy of it .” Instead of finding the grail, Otto Rahn’s escapades led him to a tragic departure from this world and ultimately the destruction of the Third Reich. Certainly, the grail moved farther the earth as Rahn’s life progressed.

Drawing of Otto Rahn by his friend Paul Ladame

Before becoming involved with searching for the Holy Grail and later his fatal decision to join the SS, Otto Rahn had an interest in the art of cinema. Otto Rahn played an extra in the G.W. Pabst (Director of Pandora’s Box starring Louise Brooks) film Westfront 1918 (1930) with his friend Paul Ladame. Rahn and Ladame also collaborated on a screenplay for Drehbuch von Klabund’s marriage comedy XYZ but were unfortunately unable to financial backing for production of the film. Otto Rahn was also hoping to have an acting role in XYZ, a film which was collaboration between a German and French company. Now, the question is when is Hollywood going to make the ultimate Otto Rahn bio-pic? Unfortunately, I think the Indiana Jones series is as close to get as Hollywood will get to a serious film about Otto Rahn. If only there were courageous European director such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Pier Paolo Pasolini still living. Then maybe a serious film about Otto Rahn will be made.

Works Cited

Angebert, Jean-Michel. The Occult and The Third Reich. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.

Flowers, Stephen. The Secret King: The Myth and Reality of Nazi Occultism. Los Angeles: Feral House, 2007.

Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. The Occult Roots of Nazism. New York: New York University Press, 1992.

Graddon, Nigel. Otto Rahn and the Quest for the Grail: The Amazing Life of the Real Indiana Jones. Kempton: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2008.

Hakl, Hans. Unknown Sources: National Socialism and the Occult. Sequim: Holmes Publishing Group, 2005.

Hermand, Jost. Old Dreams of a New Reich: Volkish Utopias and National Socialism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Lively, Scott. The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality In The Nazi Party. Sacramento: Veritas Aeterna Press, 2002.

Machtan, Lothar. The Hidden Hitler. New York: Basic Books, 2001.

Rahn, Otto. Crusade Against The Grail. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2006.

Rahn, Otto. Lucifer’s Court. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2008.

Rosenberg, Alfred. The Myth of the Twentieth Century. Torrance: The Noontide Press, 1982.

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

I`ve said it before and i`ll say it again, how can Otto Rahn be worthy of anyones respect if he was a bloody dirty faggot?. if you you must write articles about Nazis make sure they are "HETEROSEXUAL" nazis O.K. !!!.

Anonymous said...

It's posts like this that remind me that i should crack open my copy of Weininger again, to remind myself of why I bought it in the first place.