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From Pendulums to Psychics: The Nazi Regime’s Bizarre Quest for Hidden Knowledge

On the 12th of September in the year 1943, SS Captain Otto Skorzny executed a bold incursion upon the Imperial Terrace Hotel nestled upon the Gran Sasso hill in Italy. His noble undertaking was to liberate the esteemed Italian leader Benito Mussolini, who had been deposed and apprehended by the Italian authorities subsequent to the Allied landings in Sicily during the months of July and August. For an interval of several weeks, the Italians clandestinely relocated Mussolini from one undisclosed venue to another, meticulously orchestrating his concealment to thwart any prospective rescue endeavor. However, notwithstanding these precautions, Skorzny astutely discerned the lair of the erstwhile dictator. In a matter of hours, his aerial contingent descended from the heavens aboard gliders, subduing Mussolini’s captors without the discharge of a single round.

Following a swift transfer to Vienna, Mussolini was instated as the leader of the nascent Italian Social Republic, a vestige of a German-administered realm contrived to stem the encroachment of opposing forces. Operation Bastion, the ultimate offensive maneuver of Germany in the Eastern theater, was foiled by the Soviet forces mere weeks anterior to the pivotal Battle of Kursk, wherein Operation Mussolini, cryptically denoted as Operation Oak, emerged as one of the culminating public relations triumphs of the Third Reich.

Nevertheless, the apex of intrigue within the raid lay not in Operation Oak but rather in the clandestine workings of the intelligence apparatus known as “Operation Mars,” which ascertained Mussolini’s whereabouts. Indications suggest that intelligence gleaned regarding Mussolini’s covert sanctuary was gleaned through orthodox intelligence channels deciphering Allied communications. Nonetheless, Himmler and Schellenberg adamantly professed that such information was divulged by a cadre of SS esoteric adepts summoned to the dacha.

Operation Mars constituted but one instance among numerous occurrences wherein astrologers, seers, and soothsayers were enlisted to bolster the regime’s endeavors. The SS recruited periphery scientists to explore military science and technology, endeavoring to augment morale, gather intelligence, and exert influence over cognition. Even the German navy partook, enlisting a retinue of diviners and astrologers to divine the whereabouts of Allied armadas.

By the summer of 1942, Britain had already commenced to reverse the tide in the Battle of the Atlantic, decimating a considerable number of German U-boats. Their success was not happenstance; rather, it was predicated upon natural scientific methodologies, namely radar and sonar. Concurrently, intricate cryptanalysis and the deployment of a plethora of frigates dispatched by the United States contributed to this triumph.

German naval officers, including U-boat captain Hans Rhodes, a savant of the Naval Patent Office, were confounded by the abrupt shift in the fortunes of the Battle of the Atlantic. Rhodes, also a dilettante in pendulum detection, fervently espoused the notion that the British employed this method to pinpoint German vessels.

In September of 1942, the proposal for the Rhodes Pendulum Institute garnered sanction from the Department of Naval Intelligence. Its mandate was to “discern the maritime coordinates of adversary frigates through the application of pendulums and other occult contrivances, thereby enabling the German submarine fleet to neutralize them.” Rhodes commenced assembling “an eclectic cadre of physicists, pendulum artisans, astrologers, astronomers, ballisticians, and mathematicians.” Among their ranks was Straniac, who professed to impart the ability to neophytes to employ a pendulum in locating substantial metallic entities hundreds of nautical miles distant. Rhodes also entrusted the renowned astrologers Klitzinger and Kraft, who were recruited directly from incarceration. Parapsychologist Gelda Walter, long under the purview of Heydrich’s surveillance, was extended an invitation to join their ranks.

The operations and whereabouts of the Berlin Pendulum Institute were to be shrouded in secrecy. However, within a scant few weeks of its inception, it became common knowledge that the regime had solicited the counsel of metaphysicians in military affairs. The principal methodology employed by the institute involved radiesthetic probing, wherein “an expanse of the Atlantic Ocean was delineated horizontally and scrutinized with a miniature model of a battleship.” Subsequently, a diminutive metallic cuboid “measuring one cubic centimeter” was suspended over the vessel via a short tether. Any resultant perturbations of the pendulum ostensibly denoted the presence of an authentic battleship in the corresponding direction.”

The institute engaged an array of “metaphysical cohorts and individuals, each tasked with distinct objectives and employing disparate methodologies.” Respected fringe scholars such as Rohde and Stragnac contended that the pendulum adhered to natural laws of physics, while less rigorous metaphysicians such as Gelda Walter invoked paranormal phenomena to explicate their findings. Day after day, the SS compelled the prognosticators to stand “in a state of receptive expectancy” poised to discern even the slightest oscillations of the pendulum. To heighten the likelihood of divination, a multitude of visionaries were maintained “in a perpetual state of distraction.”

According to numerous naval officers, the institute yielded scant significant results. Nonetheless, the Pendulum Institute serves as a testament to the Third Reich’s foray into a new, more unconventional phase of scientific inquiry spurred by the exigencies of warfare.

The pursuit of Benito Mussolini’s whereabouts epitomizes this enduring endeavor. It is highly conceivable that Operation Mars drew inspiration from the Pendulum Research Institute, thereby fostering collaboration between the SS and numerous preeminent fringe scientists such as Wilhelm Wulff. For reasons unbeknownst, on the 28th of July, 1943, Himmler decreed that the Gestapo escort Wulf to Berlin. There, he convened with Nebe, who imparted the particulars of the mission: Mussolini had been clandestinely sequestered, and Himmler sought Wulf’s astrological acumen to discern the Italian leader’s location.

Wulf was among the initial cohort of metaphysicians enlisted for this purpose. Within a brief span following Wulf and Nebe’s rendezvous, the clairvoyant Kurt Monch was transferred from Sachsenhausen to Berlin, whereupon he was implored to divine Mussolini’s whereabouts. Over ensuing days, nearly forty representatives of metaphysical disciplines convened in a commodious villa in Wannsee, purportedly serving as Nebe’s interim headquarters. Upon their arrival, they requisitioned copious provisions of victuals, tobacco, and spirits, all of which were promptly supplied.

Indulging in lavish repasts did naught to diminish the otherworldly faculties of Wulf’s ilk. As attested by Wulff, his calculations spanned the entirety of August, culminating in early September, thereby greatly facilitating the determination of Mussolini’s whereabouts. A similar feat was attributed to Monch, who asserted that the SS had replicated a pendulum and an Italian cartography, through which Monch discerned a “void” amidst the Abruzzo mountain range.

Notably, extant documents indicate that it was conventional intelligence gleaned from the Security Service and the SS, with auxiliary support from a German maritime reconnaissance squadron, that ultimately led to the location of Mussolini. Years subsequent, Hortel of the Reich Security Service himself conceded that they had relied upon orthodox intelligence methodologies to pinpoint the Italian leader.

He acknowledged that the entire operation had been orchestrated to assuage Himmler, renowned for his steadfast conviction in metaphysical sciences.

Nonetheless, it bears noting that Hortle’s initial memoirs regarding this episode (penned post-war, when there existed no censure of Nazi metaphysics) purport that astrological divination and radiesthetic probing did yield success. Such assertions suggest that numerous members of the Nazi Party, not solely Himmler, accorded credence to Operation Mars.

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