Since this is an interesting and important topic in its own right, I will present here the unpublished sections of my article, which were cut for space. There is a small bit of overlap with the published piece, but the material below is almost entirely different from the material in the printed piece. I urge you to buy the magazine and read my article on wonder weapons alongside the discussion of post-Nazi fringe views of the wunderwaffen.
After the war, the United States brought former Nazi scientists to America to continue their work in rocketry as part of Operation Paperclip, which unintentionally reinforced the prestige of Nazi science even in the face of a growing understanding of Nazi atrocities. In an effort to resolve the contradiction between the respect afforded to German scientists and the unimaginable evil of Nazi Germany, some popular writers began to propose that Nazi scientific achievements had a supernatural origin.
In France in 1960, Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels published The Morning of the Magicians, a book of occult philosophy that speculated wildly about lost civilizations, ancient visits from space aliens, and Adolf Hitler. Bergier and Pauwels described the collapse of the Nazi Empire as the Twilight of the Gods from Germanic mythology, and to explain that trauma, they turned to the supernatural. They cited the wonder weapons Hitler had built—the rockets and the planes and “infrared ray detectors” and entirely new fields of organic chemistry—and then they said that Hitler could achieve so much because he was in contact with space aliens, or demons, or both—what they considered supernatural cosmic evil. According to the authors, Hitler had studied under occult mentors, had the mind of a medium, and could communicate with powers beyond the Earth. This, they said, remade the tragedy of the Second World War into something noble, “where it ceases to be absurd and becomes worth living, despite the suffering entailed, because it is a spiritual level.” Despite this, “it has obviously not been our intention to revalorize the philosophy of Nazism,” the authors warned. “But it is inherent in, and has influenced events.” Later writers would not be so cautious about embracing the image of omnipotent Nazis. In the immediate aftermath of the war, some, like the Chilean diplomat and “Esoteric Hitlerist” Miguel Serrano, even considered Hitler a messianic spiritual leader, who never died but lived on under the ice in Antarctica, waiting to lead humanity to an Aryan enlightenment.
These ideas were hugely influential, and they merged seamlessly with science fiction’s efforts to process the horror of the war years. In science fiction, the idea of Nazis as masters of time and space emerged immediately after the war. Robert Heinlein published Rocket Ship Galileo, about a Nazi moon base, in 1947, and the concept reappeared in 1950 in the Dimension X radio serial. Even Star Wars modeled its storm troopers on the Nazis. By the 1970s, an imaginary vision of all-powerful Nazis with impossible super-weapons was widespread. It was in those years that German-Canadian Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel published UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapon? alleging that the Nazis made use of alien technology. Later books from his pen would elaborate a fantastical myth of Hitler’s alien-powered Antarctic spaceport. Zündel admitted to Skeptic magazine that the books were lies meant to raise cash, but it didn’t matter. The myth of Hitler as extraterrestrial wizard-king had taken root, and the Nazis became a sort of fetish, simultaneously the root of evil and, like Satan, somehow negative proof of the divine.
Indeed, the fetishization of the Nazis’ supposed command of technology and science had led to disturbing situations where polemicists and presenters found themselves praising Hitler and the Nazis in the hope of touching the divine, or an ET simulacrum of it. Evangelical broadcaster Jon Pounders, for example, rhapsodized over Nazi wonder weapons on his Now You See It YouTube broadcast: “Even though they were evil things, they did some really amazing things as well that really boggles my mind,” he said a couple of years ago. One of the stars of Ancient Aliens, Giorgio Tsoukalos, speculated on air that the Nazis reverse engineered flying saucers to create their own aircraft, and he cited the work of Jan Van Helsing, a Nazi sympathizer convicted in France of anti-Semitic agitation, to prove the wonderful extent of Hitler’s science. To seek Nazi wonder-weapons had become akin to hunting for the treasures the Nazis themselves sought, like the Spear of Destiny and the Holy Grail—magical talismans that connected the cosmos to the seeker. Also, in recent years, the myth has appealed to Indiana Jones fantasies, a character whose adventures were inspired by Nazi treasure hunts and, of all things, the same ancient astronaut books from which Ancient Aliens emerged.
The Nazi Time Machine
The practical and fantastical threads of interest in Nazi research had started to pull together with growing speculation about wonder weapons derived from space alien technology, but it took Polish researcher Igor Witkowski to push fantasies about Nazi wonder weapons to a new extreme. In his 2000 book Prawda o Wunderwaffe (“The Truth about the Wonder Weapon”), Witkowski claimed that Polish intelligence gave him access to classified documents outlining the history of a device called Die Glocke, or The Bell. This bell-shaped metal device, standing about 15 feet high and 9 wide, was said to have been developed by SS scientists at the defunct Wenceslaus Mine along the current Czech-Polish border. Witkowski was unsure what the Bell was intended to do, but he reported that its effects were detrimental to plants and animals and that the Bell could have been an anti-gravity engine.
No authentic records of the Bell have ever been produced publicly, and Witkowski alleges that he was shown records but could only transcribe them, not make copies. Similarly, no Nazi-era records of the device have ever been found, and the Wenceslaus Mine facility where it supposedly was tested had actually served as a conventional explosives production site. A circle of concrete pillars where the Bell was alleged to take off and land, called the “henge” by believers, appears to be only the remains of the base of a cooling tower.
Nevertheless, the idea of a bell-shaped anti-gravity machine—basically, a Nazi flying saucer—electrified those that speculate about the outer fringes of history. One was British writer Nick Cook, who popularized Witkowski’s claims in English and alleged in 2001 that a pseudonymous “Dr. Dan Marckus” working as a professor at a British university, whose identity he purposely obscured, informed him that the Nazis had developed a frightening new form of physics tinged with the occult, so dangerous that it could open vistas of cosmic horror. There was, of course, no evidence for an idea better suited to H. P. Lovecraft’s Depression-era science fiction stories of interdimensional terror than to serious science. Cook alleged that “Marckus” had explained the true purpose of the Bell: to generate a torsion field, a pseudoscientific quantum state allowing for faster than light travel, that could bend space and time to create “a fucking time machine.” Cook’s disguised source championed the false physics of torsion fields despite allegedly serving as a high-ranking university physicist. It was not the most credible of claims, rendered tasteless by Cook’s speculation that the SS followed Holocaust protocols in executing the time machine scientists, whose existence he never bothered to prove.
Nevertheless, Cook heavily influenced Joseph P. Farrell, an American author who wrote about theology in the 1980s before turning to UFOs, ancient high technology, and other speculative topics in the 2000s. In the mid-2000s, Farrell became fascinated by Nazi wonder weapons and published Reich of the Black Sun to explore this interest, citing the encouragement and help of the former head of America’s National Socialist Party, Frank Joseph (formerly known as Frank Collin). Farrell expanded on the foundation Cook laid, repeating and enhancing many of “Marckus’s” claims.
Farrell had already speculated in passing in an earlier book, The Giza Death Star Deployed, that the Nazi Bell and the Keckbsburg UFO were one and the same, but now in Black Sun, he chose to make the case at length. Rather than explaining how the Bell could possibly be a functional time machine, he instead attempted to prove his case by comparing the UFO to the Bell, and alleging that their similar size and shape suggested they were the same object. Disconfirming claims were dismissed—the “Egyptian” hieroglyphs of Kecksburg became Germanic “runes,” for example. “It may have been a Nazi secret weapons project, that inadvertently got away from its testers, was brought back under control, and deliberately crashed, only to be retrieved again,” Farrell wrote. He went on to write several more books about the Bell, expanding his claims with each new release. Both he and Cook believed that the American government had taken over such technologies after the war, and that doing so opened the users of Nazi science to the risk of becoming evil like the Nazis. There was more than a little fear of science in such postmodern speculations about the dangers of unchecked research.
Farrell’s claims might never have circulated beyond an extreme fringe of World War II and UFO enthusiasts if not for the insatiable appetite of the media for sensational content. Farrell’s books were published by David Childress, himself the author of a speculative books covering Nazi occultism, Nazi UFO research, and Nazi wonder weapons. Childress also happened to be a regular contributor to the Ancient Aliens television series. When it came time for that program and its spinoff series to explore Hitler’s wonder weapons, it was no surprise that a global audience numbering in the millions now heard that the Nazis had sent the Bell twenty years into the future, where it crashed in Pennsylvania.
By the time these episodes aired, starting in 2012 and continuing down to the present, Hitler’s real but only partially successful effort to develop technologically advanced weapons had transformed in the public imagination and in popular televised history into the pinnacle of scientific achievement and the foundation for a conspiratorial view of secret American military technologies even now being readied for imagined interstellar wars yet to come. The wonder weapons were a Rorschach test of sorts, letting audiences see in them a reflection of their hopes and fears for science and for civilization.
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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