Hitler's Holy Relics: A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire
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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.
at NA; interview with Antsiss and Elizabeth Hammond in January 2007 and June 2008; and correspondence from WH to Peter Watson, April 25, 1984, and January 9, 1986. MH’s knowledge of Allied looting: “The War and Art Treasures in Germany,” College Art Journal, March 1946, pp. 205–218. MH and Rorimer: James Rorimer and Gilbert Rabin, Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War, Abelard Press, New York, 1950, pp. 147–150. Theft of artwork and corruption by U.S. military personnel and
Der lange Weg zur Freiheit, Kremayr and Scheriau, Vienna, 1995, pp. 1–12. Trials of Fries and Schmeissner: “A Nazi Treasure Grab Upset by Army Sleuths,” MFAA report, January 1, 1946, at NA. Return of the Viet Stoss altar: Report from USFET to CG III Army, September 10, 1945, at NA; and Frank Waters, “Famed Polish Altar Piece Found Cached under Nuremberg Rubble,” Stars and Stripes Bavarian Edition, June 13, 1945, at WHA. Controversy over ownership of Crown Jewels and interest by Generals Patton
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stand guard outside the vault to see that nothing was removed. Thus mollified, Dreykorn waited in the corridor while Horn, followed by Thompson, entered the vault. Inside, packed in neat rows, floor to ceiling, were wooden shipping crates. A narrow aisle, just wide enough for one person to maneuver, ran from front to back. The only things out of place were two empty crates at the far end of the room and, nearby, a small pile of loose packing material strewn on the floor. “Don’t mind Dreykorn,”
Horn said. “You had also visited the vault many times before. You showed curators inside for inspections. And you had previously been there with Himmler.” Horn had gone out on a limb by referring to the Reichsführer. He had only guessed that Liebel had called Schmeissner and Fries to open the vault on the day of Himmler’s inspection. Schmeissner was apparently unruffled at the mention of Himmler. He admitted that he, Fries, and Lincke were the only people permitted to open the vault door or go