Hitler's Holy Relics
A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire
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Drawing on unpublished interrogation and intelligence reports, as well as on diaries, letters, journals, and interviews in the United States and Germany, Kirkpatrick tells this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.
Read an Excerpt
February 23, 1945
Every morning, like clockwork, Allied bombers would darken the skies over Namur, Belgium. In this last winter of World War II, hundreds and sometimes a thousand planes, flying in vast air armadas known as bomber streams, would thunder overhead for an hour or more at a time, leaving miles-long vapor trails that hung in the air long after the aircraft had vanished and the bombardiers had released their lethal cargo over targets in Germany and Eastern Europe.
The arrival of the bomber streams terrified the captured German soldiers at the U.S. Army detention... see more