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1: I Become An Astrologer
2: Herbert Volck: The Embittered Veteran
3: Captain Lohmann: Rearmament by Stealth
4: In the Hands of the Gestapo
5: Felix Kersten
6: Find Mussolini!
7: My first meeting with Walter Schellenberg
8: Lunch with Heinrich Himmler
9: Counter- espionage Headquarters, Berlin
10: Himmler and July 20, 1944
11: Count Bernadotte's Mission
12: Himmler at the End of his Tether
13: The End Approaches
14: Heinrich Himmler's Final Orders


Zodiac & Swastika by Wilhelm Wulff: Chapter Four - In the Hands of the Gestapo

Chapter Four - In the Hands of the Gestapo

At the time of Captain Lohmann's death the political situation in Germany was catastrophic, and the country was close to civil war. Not long afterward the Nazis were to take over completely. These circumstances had a profound effect on my astrological practice. In the early 1930s astrology was not so popular in Germany as it is today. But it had achieved a particularly high standard. An unbiased British expert who worked for the Secret Service after 1945, and so gained access to a large number of astrological studies discovered in the Gestapo files, has said that German astrology was supreme in the 1930s and that he could not understand why the Nazis had turned their backs on the qualified astrologers in their own country. The fact that prominent National Socialists like Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler, and Walter Schellenberg-to name but a few-made use of astrology did not alter the official attitude. Soon after 1933 the astrologers in many German provinces were forbidden to practice. In other areas-for example, in my own hometown of Hamburg-the anti-astrology propaganda was enough to frighten the clients away. I have already mentioned that this new development created considerable financial difficulties for me. Virtually every one of my few "big" clients either went over to the other camp or kept away for fear of the political consequences, while my smaller clients were simply terrified. This left me with a number of Jewish clients, who were being subjected to even worse persecution than we astrologers. And so astrology acquired the aura of an esoteric doctrine. It was reduced to a trade which flourished in the underworld but which nobody dared mention in public. I was fortunate in that Prince Georg zu Sachsen-Meiningen, the father-in-law of Otto von Habsburg, still consulted me. He had quickly come to terms with the new government and, because of his social status, could afford to maintain his connection with me.

But these reversals were simply a foretaste of the great difficulties I was to face a few years later. The dark clouds then gathering on the German horizon were portents. Faced with the constant expansion of my astrological practice, I had virtually given up my artistic career, and now my new livelihood was also threatened. An astrologer is no medicine man. His knowledge and experience do not free him from the force of his own destiny. The fact that I was able to survive was due perhaps to my greater awareness of the problems and dangers which awaited me: arrest, the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, the Hartzwalde "branch" of Ravensbrück concentration camp, and, finally, Heinrich Himmler and his senior functionaries, for whom I was obliged to work under pain of death.

In June, 1941, one month after Hess' flight to Scotland, I, too, was caught in the Gestapo's net. Himmler's myrmidons liked to perform their duties at first light. I was lying awake when the Gestapo rang my bell between 3 and 4 A.M. When I opened the door, four Gestapo men rushed into my apartment, ransacked several rooms, tore books at random from their shelves, thumbed through my files and card indexes, and threw everything into disorder. I was ordered to dress and was taken at once to Fuhlsbüttel. At that time Fuhlsbüttel was a remand center, a penitentiary, and a concentration camp all in one. As the war developed, so Gestapo methods became less discriminating. I was subjected to the customary nerve-racking interrogations. I was asked whether I knew certain people, whether I had ever cast mundane horoscopes (horoscopes of nations, groups, or movements rather than of individuals), and to what extent I was versed in the occult sciences.

The treatment meted out to me was anything but humane. There was no question of my being accorded the legal rights of a prisoner on remand. I was given no opportunity of consulting my lawyer and, like all the other prisoners, was put on a daily regimen of hard labor. But things soon changed when the guards discovered that I was an astrologer. While the other prisoners were clearing up bomb damage, I was taken aside and questioned about astrology. I sat among the bushes surrounded by SS men, many of whom made me look into their future.

As I have already pointed out, others persecuted under the Nazi regime suffered far more than I did. For this reason I do not propose to give a detailed account of my own experiences. But my spell in Fuhlsbüttel was pretty unpleasant. I was worn out by the interrogations and physically broken. I was also uncertain about the fate of my family. I had had to leave my wife, my daughter, and the younger of my two Sons without any means of support; my elder son was serving in the army, and I had no news of him either. With things as they then were, it seemed improbable that the few clients I still had would keep faith with me, let alone do anything to help my wife. I was all the more surprised, therefore, when I subsequently learned that, immediately after my arrest, my wife had received assistance from several sources. In one instance an acquaintance of mine paid her a fee for a commission which I had never received. And so my family was saved from destitution. At the time, however, I did not know this, and the days and weeks passed in dreadful anxiety.

At the end of the four months I was released, as suddenly as I had been arrested. But I first had to swear that I would no longer work as an astrologer. I was also watched from that moment on.

When the gates of Fuhlsbüttel were opened for me in the late summer of 1941, I emerged into a strictly limited form of freedom. At the time I had no idea that the Gestapo, which had destroyed my livelihood and maltreated me, would soon be forcing me to work for them on orders from above. But, in fact, those very people who had forbidden me to follow my calling were to overwhelm me with commissions from the top SS leaders just a few months later. Meanwhile, however, I had other worries. I was not allowed to work as an astrologer, and as an opponent of the regime, I could hardly expect to receive commissions as a painter or sculptor. How was I to pay my way? I waited daily for a letter informing me that I was to report to some ammunition or armaments factory as an unskilled worker.

Shortly after my release from Fuhlsbüttel I received a visit from a former client of mine, the chemist and manufacturer Zimmermann. He offered me a refuge in his works at a modest wage. It was only later that I discovered that Zimmermann himself had engineered my re lease. He maintained close contact with the SS and so had considerable influence. Zimmermann's research department had been investigating the possibilities of milk irradiation and had developed a process that produced new substances in milk calculated to prevent the development of rickets. Zimmermann regarded this project as a real money-maker. But his endeavors to market irradiated milk for children had been constantly frustrated by his business rivals-often members of the pharmaceutical industry, who regarded this new method of his as a threat to their own products.

Now in a dictatorship, where the whole economy is subject to central control, the important thing is to obtain government approval and backing for any new projects, especially in wartime, when everything is rationed. It is distinctly possible that Zimmermann was hoping to promote his milk project by providing the SS leaders with some special treat. If so, I appear to have been the treat. What looked like the friendly act of a former client was probably part of a well-laid plan. The Gestapo knew that, as long I was in Zimmermann's charge, I was under constant surveillance. Conversely, Zimmermann could safely assume that by offering me employment he was doing the Gestapo a favor. And so, although I had no means of knowing it at the time, the position offered to me in the institute for milk irradiation was almost certainly a pretext. An entirely new and quite extraordinary phase of my life was about to begin.

In March, 1942, six months after my release from Fuhlsbüttel, I was instructed to leave Zimmermann's employ and proceed to an institute which I had never heard of in Berlin, to take up new duties as a scientific research assistant. I was recommended for this post by my friend, the Nuremberg astronomer and astrologer Dr. Wilhelm Hartmann.

I travelled to Berlin and reported to this institute, which was attached to naval headquarters. After the Outbreak of war in 1939 research institutes had been set up for the army, the navy, and the Luftwaffe to test any suggestions or new inventions sent in by members of the public which might conceivably contribute to the war effort. In Berlin I learned, to my utter amazement, that the National Socialist leaders proposed to use these "research centers" to harness, not only natural, but also supernatural, forces. All intellectual, natural, and supernatural sources of power-from modern technology to medieval black magic, and from the teachings of Pythagoras to the Faustian pentagram incantation-were to be exploited in the interests of final victory.

The navy's research institute, whose activities were top secret, was run by a naval captain. This officer commanded a very strange company which included spiritualist mediums and sensitives, pendulum practitioners (dowsers who used a pendulum instead of a dowsing rod), students of Tattwa (an Indian pendulum theory), astrologers and astronomers, ballistics experts, and mathematicians.

The institute had been instructed by the headquarters' staff of Naval Command to pinpoint the position of enemy convoys at sea by means of pendulums and other supernatural devices, so that the German submarine flotillas could be certain of sinking them. Day in, day out, the pendulum practitioners squatted with their arms stretched out over nautical charts. The results were, of course, pitiful. Whatever one may think about occult phenomena, it was simply ridiculous to expect that an unknown world could be forcibly opened up in this dilettante fashion and exploited for military purposes. Even in those cases where there was some initial success, no attempt was made to evaluate the findings by systematic scientific procedures.

One of the employees of the institute was a retired architect from Salzburg by the name of Straniak, a refined old gentleman in his sixties who revealed a certain facility as a pendulum practitioner. He was convinced that his talent was genuine, and although he had the misfortune to be the author of a short book entitled The Eighth Force of Nature, he did not give the impression of being a charlatan. Straniak had claimed that if he were shown a photograph of a ship, he could pinpoint its position on a map. Officials from the Admiralty had visited him at Salzburg and shown him photographs of the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen. Straniak had then established the positions of these two ships with the aid of his pendulum.

Many years before, Straniak had been persecuted by the Gestapo on account of his gifts. On that occasion he was packed off to the naval research institute in Berlin together with all his instruments and documents. The Naval Department, which lay behind this move, wanted to carry out certain tests. A Dr. Hartmann was then ordered to Berlin to check the movements of Straniak's pendulum for influences and deviations at sunrise, noon, and sunset and at the time of the full and the new moon. Other sensitives were also observed and tested at the same time.

Because Straniak was such an unusual case, a special experiment was devised for him: A small piece of metal was laid out for just a few seconds on a large sheet of paper. Straniak, who had been asked to leave the room during these preliminaries, was then brought back. There was no sign on the paper to indicate where the metal had been placed. But Straniak was able to pinpoint the spot time and time again and even did so from an adjoining room, using an identical piece of paper.

At this point the Institute for Research into Radiant Energy, in Berlin, which worked with strictly scientific methods, was asked to check the astonishing results obtained in the naval research institute. Not surprisingly the members of this scientifically oriented body were opposed to pendulum practitioners and all occult knowledge. The first investigation which they carried out resulted in fiasco for Straniak. For weeks on end he had produced excellent results; now he failed completely.

My own contact with the naval research institute coincided with the Japanese capture of Hong Kong. In this action Japanese soldiers blocked the loopholes of the enemy pillboxes with their bodies. Because of their complete disregard for their own lives, even the best-fortified parts of Hong Kong fell very quickly. At this point I was once again summoned to the research institute. As a student of the Vedanta and Buddhist Yoga I was told to submit proposals for the military training program which would enable the army to instil into German soldiers the Zen-Buddhist beliefs which inspired the Japanese.

Meanwhile, Straniak had fallen ill and was fast losing his powers. The other pendulum practitioners were in a similar plight, for their working day was extremely long and tiring. Gradually the members of the institute grew more and more nervous and irritable. Dr. Hartmann then suggested to the officer in charge of the institute that he should take his workers into a different environment.

Hartmann believed that the many disturbances and currents which pervaded the atmosphere in Berlin were frustrating the sensitives' endeavors. "Take your institute up into the mountains or to the sea," he said. "The sea air and the sunshine would do your people good, and they would work better." The officer followed his advice and in the early summer set out with his associates for the island of Sylt. In addition, working hours were reduced. But the results were even less successful than in Berlin.

Today it seems almost incredible that an institute of this kind could have been set up under the auspices of the Naval Command. In fact, the idea for this "research center" was not of Nazi origin. It went back to the plans evolved by my friend Walter Lohmann in the 1920s, when he was working in the Navy Office. It was learned after the war that other belligerent countries had set up similar institutes. Although no details have ever been published, it seems certain that England, the United States, Japan, and possibly the Soviet Union had centers of this kind.

Eventually Dr. Hartmann returned to his former post with the Luftwaffe, and I was once again placed in Zimmermann's "charge" in Hamburg, which at least meant that I was back home again. However, I was soon to be confronted with tasks which were even stranger and more dangerous and which were not so easily dismissed.

 Chapter 5: Felix Kersten

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