From Paris to Stalingrad, the Nazis systematically plundered all manner of art and antiquities. But the first and most valuable treasures they looted were the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. In Hitler’s Holy Relics, bestselling author Sidney Kirkpatrick tells the riveting and never-before-told true story of how an American college professor turned Army sleuth recovered these cherished symbols of Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich before they could become a rallying point in the creation of a Fourth and equally unholy Reich.
Anticipating the Allied invasion of Nazi Germany, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had ordered a top-secret bunker carved deep into the bedrock beneath Nürnberg castle. Inside the well-guarded chamber was a specially constructed vault that held the plundered treasures Hitler valued the most: the Spear of Destiny (reputed to have been used to pierce Christ’s side while he was on the cross) and the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, ancient artifacts steeped in medieval mysticism and coveted by world rulers from Charlemagne to Napoleon. But as Allied bombers rained devastation upon Nürnberg and the U.S. Seventh Army prepared to invade the city Hitler called “the soul of the Nazi Party,” five of the most precious relics, all central to the coronation ceremony of a would-be Holy Roman Emperor, vanished from the vault. Who took them? And why? The mystery remained unsolved for months after the war’s end, until the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, ordered Lieutenant Walter Horn, a German-born art historian on leave from U.C. Berkeley, to hunt down the missing treasures.
To accomplish his mission, Horn must revisit the now-rubble-strewn landscape of his youth and delve into the ancient legends and arcane mysticism surrounding the antiquities that Hitler had looted in his quest for world domination. Horn searches for clues in the burnt remains of Himmler’s private castle and follows the trail of neo-Nazi “Teutonic Knights” charged with protecting a vast hidden fortune in plundered gold and other treasure. Along the way, Horn has to confront his own demons: how members of his family and former academic colleagues subverted scholarly research to help legitimize Hitler’s theories of Aryan supremacy and the Master Race. What Horn discovers on his investigative odyssey is so explosive that his final report will remain secret for decades.
Drawing on unpublished interrogation and intelligence reports, as well as on diaries, letters, journals, and interviews in the United States and Germany, Kirkpatrick tells this riveting and disturbing story with cinematic detail and reveals— for the first time—how a failed Vienna art student, obsessed with the occult and dreams of his own grandeur, nearly succeeded in creating a Holy Reich rooted in a twisted reinvention of medieval and Church history.
In this fast-paced history, Kirkpatrick (A Cast of Killers) describes the efforts of German-born Walter Horn, a U.S. Army first lieutenant and art historian, to locate the missing crown, orb, scepter, imperial sword, and ceremonial sword of the Holy Roman Empire in Europe at the end of WWII. The objects, along with the Holy Lance of Longinus and many other artifacts, had been stolen by the Nazis from Austria after the Anschluss in 1938 and, conceivably, could have been used by Nazis to motivate Germans in the creation of a Fourth Reich. Through research, investigation, and amateur detective work, Horn explored the continuing threats inherent in Nazi mythology while successfully solving the core mystery of the disappearance of the crown jewels. Definitely speculative in the suggestion that a mysterious new order of Teutonic Knights might exist for malevolent political purposes, Horn's story is an interesting footnote to the history of WWII. 24 pages of b&w photos; 2 maps.