Unbeknownst to me, America Unearthed produced some brief “web exclusive” content for the past season, and a bunch of that material is now available on Hulu’s America Unearthed page and is now being promoted across various web platforms.
In one of these web exclusives, which was apparently released in October (to judge by Hulu’s dating), Scott Wolter discusses the Ark of the Covenant, which he wrongly believes was part of Adolf Hitler’s obsession with the occult. You can watch the video below, in which Wolter discusses the Ark and his belief that it held a treasure of “ancient texts,” but I have also transcribed the relevant part directly beneath the video.
I apologize in advance if Hulu makes you watch a commercial first.
Adolf Hitler developed a belief that the white Aryan race was the supreme race and became obsessed with that. It led to his belief that if he had objects of power that it would give credibility to this whole Aryan race supremacy idea that he had embraced. We know that he raided many museums and personal collections during his march across Europe, and he stole priceless works of art. This included his search for objects such as the Holy Grail—and that included the Ark of the Covenant. His obsession led him to hire people who were experts in these areas to try to find these artifacts. Adolf Hitler was looking for anything and everything that he thought could help make him ultimately superior and powerful and promote this idea of an Aryan race. He obviously didn’t find the Ark, and he didn’t achieve those goals, thankfully for humankind.
Let’s leave aside for a moment the strange contrast between Wolter’s on-screen condemnation of Aryanism and his use of the Aryan investigations of Nazi-affiliated scholar Jacques de Mahieu in From Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers to support his own belief that white Northern Europeans, including the Templars, once colonized the ancient Americas. I’ll just note that de Mahieu was pretty much as extreme an Aryan supremacist as you can get. Take a look at this mention of de Mahieu from an article by Gaston-Armand Amaudruz in a 1979 edition of a pro-Nazi fascist magazine called Europae, as reprinted in Roger Griffin’s Fasicsm reader:
Our friends and comrades Jacques de Mahieu and Jacques Bauge-Prevost have exposed why it is necessary to return the Afro-Asians, set on aryan land by unlucky politicians to their countries of origin and why a biological politic, scientifically based, must include the whole of our racial community. (orthography as in original)
And you wonder why Mahieu just happened to conclude that ancient Aryans once ruled over the Americas? Oh, right, for Wolter such concerns are “irrelevant and unimportant,” according to Wolter.
But to return to Wolter’s views on the Ark.
So far as mainstream works on Hitler’s occult beliefs are concerned, this is wrong. Hitler did not search for the Ark of the Covenant. That was Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the Indiana Jones movie that, in turn, borrowed ideas from Erich von Däniken (the Ark as an electrical device) and other fringe literature, particularly on the Nazi occult, a key element of the ur-text of the genre, Morning of the Magicians. Ken Anderson’s Hitler and the Occult (1995) makes no mention of the Ark, nor does Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s Occult Roots of Nazism (1985). Even fringe authors like Brad Steiger don’t believe that Hilter was searching to the Ark, as he wrote in Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier (2012), noting that this was a movie plot, not reality. Fringe writer David Lewis (not the philosopher) concurred in an article in J. Douglas Kenyon’s Forbidden Religion: Suppressed Heresies in the West (2006) on “Hidden History: What Are Movies Like Braveheart Not Telling Us?” which otherwise was a full-on Knights Templar-Freemason fantasy. The Ark story is the plot of an Indiana Jones movie.
The Holy Grail is a little closer to the truth: Hitler himself enjoyed the Grail legends as Germanic art (particularly Wagner’s version), but he wasn’t “obsessed” with finding the Grail. That claim comes from Trevor Ravenscroft in the semi-fictional The Spear of Destiny (1972), in which the fringe writer (actually an Anthroposophy follower) claimed Hitler was possessed by demons and personally annotated Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the medieval Grail romance. Although Hitler did not personally direct anyone to search for the Grail, Heinrich Himmler did—but not because he was looking for the chalice of Christ or a secret Jesus bloodline. Instead, he thought the Grail was a semi-pagan magic rock, because that was how Eschenbach described it in Parzival.
In turn, Himmler was drawing on popular ideas not just of his direct source, Otto Rahn (who actually did think that the Grail was stored with the Ark), but also the Austrian journalist and anti-Semitic figure Jörg Lanz von Liebenfelz (born Adolf Josef Lanz), who had become convinced around 1900 that the Grail knights of Parzival, the “Templeisen,” were in fact the Knights Templar! Lanz was once a Cistercian (expelled for sexual impropriety, according to the order, though he disputed it) and thus prone to connecting things back to the Cistercians, the close partners of the Templars, according to Goodrick-Clarke. Now here’s where things get interesting. According to Goodrick-Clarke, Lanz believed that the Knights Templar were actually Aryans who practiced eugenics, cleansing their bloodline to create a race of superhuman Aryan he-men who would conquer a “Greater Germany.” In his view, the Holy Grail was a symbol of the “‘panpsychic’ powers of the pureblooded Aryan race.” Thus, the efforts of the Templeisen to keep safe the Grail were really an esoteric symbol for the Templars breeding racial purity.
I suppose it is progress that today, in his radio interviews, Scott Wolter instead asserts that the Templars brought superior Old World Jesus genes to America and improved the Native Americans by storing said Jesus genes in Native populations. (To retrieve later?)
Wolter’s next sentence also seems to be a distortion of the truth. Again, Hitler was not personally responsible for hiring historians or occultists. That was Himmler again, via the Ahnenerbe, his historical investigation unit made up primarily of junior scholars, amateurs, and cranks—not typically senior experts—to search for ancestral Aryans, Atlantis, and artifacts.
The underlying connection between all of this and Hitler—and the reason that Hitler’s alleged search for the Arks seems superficially plausible—is that Hitler seized from Vienna the Holy Roman Empire’s coronation regalia, which included in the treasure the alleged Spear of Destiny. This medieval relic claimed to be the lance that pieced the side of Christ, but it was instead best known as a piece possessed by the Holy Roman Emperors as a symbol of their imperial power. According to researchers, the lance may have originally been part of Lombard coronation regalia before being taken over by Charlemagne when crowned King of the Lombards, but the lance itself is known to history only from the reign of Otto I a century later.
Although Trevor Ravenscroft claimed in 1972 that the lance exerted hypnotic power over Hitler, leading him to obsess over possessing its supernatural power (which Ravenscroft claimed to believe to be real), the reality was more prosaic: Hitler wanted to recreate an imaginary primeval German Empire and therefore sought to possess the regalia of the Holy Roman Emperors to help legitimize his future Empire. He saw the lance as representing the bloody lance of Parzival, but primarily as a symbol of power and a connection to medieval German triumphs. It also didn’t hurt that the regalia had last belonged to the Habsburgs, whom he hated and wanted to outdo.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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