Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Sun That Never Sets: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Landig Group Part III


Welcome to the third installment in my examination of the Landig Group, some times known as the Vienna Circle. This mysterious group has rarely been addressed by researchers except in the most outlandish literal and outlandish fashion (i.e. Joseph P. Farrell). Despite being largely unknown in the English speaking world, the Group has managed a very wide, if little understood, influence in mainland Europe and South America. Many of the modern mythos involving the Black Sun, Nazi UFOs, "the Last Battalion" and such like were heavily influenced by the Landig Group.

In the first installment of this series I mainly focused on the backgrounds of co-founders Erich Halik and Rudolf J. Mund while only briefly addressing the Group's namesake, Wilhelm Landig. With the second installment I briefly addressed Landig's "Thule novels" from which much of their ideology was spread to the general public and two key elements of said ideology: the Black Sun and Nazi UFOs. With this installment I would like to get back to Landig himself and do a more thorough examination of the man.

Landig's "Thule" trilogy
In the first installment I noted that Landig (like Mund, but not Halik) had been a member of the SS. Now I would like to go into more detail concerning his membership in the SS:
"... Landig was one of Hitler's earliest Austrian supporters and took part in the abortive putsch (coup d'etat) by Austrian National Socialists against the Vienna government in July 1934. In the wake of this failed uprising, the Austrian National Socialists were declared illegal and he fled to Germany. Landig joined the SS, being simultaneously inducted into the Sicherheitsdienst (SD; the intelligence agency of the SS and NSDAP) and the Waffen-SS (militarized component of the SS). He was stationed at the Arbeitswissenchaftlichen-Institut in Berlin (a component of the Deutschen Arbeitsfront [DAF]). Following the March 1938 unification of Austria and Germany, Landig returned to Vienna as an SD specialist under Reichsstatthalter Baldur von Schirach. He claims to have been responsible for coordinating production of a German secret weapon – flying saucers whose motive power was derived from an unknown energy discovered by SS specialist studying esoteric writings and symbols gathered during SS-Standartenfuhrer Ernst Schafer' 1938-1939 expedition to Tibet. While the German certainly worked on a wide variety of unusual experimental aircraft during the war, it is difficult to know from Landig's account where reality stops and fantasy begins; he claims to have overseen security at a military airport in Prague where he witnessed the operation of flying discs. In 1944, Landig was wounded during anti-partisan operations in the Balkans, and sent to a military hospital in Belgrade... He then returned to the Vienna and was posted to Abteilung I (Inland) of the SD. Despite his many years of service, Landig's final rank appears to have been that of an SS-Oberscharduhrer (Sergeant First Class). In September 1945, he was taken into custody by British occupation authorities and later released."
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pgs. 465-466)
Landig
While the possibility that Landig was involved with secret weapons research for the SS is seemingly highly improbable, acclaimed historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke speculated that it was possible that Landig met one of his chief ideological influences while serving in the SS during the final months of the WWII: the notorious occultist and philosopher Baron Julius Evola, who could charitably be called fascism's answer to Aleister Crowley. If ever there was a magician in this past century who could be described as "evil incarnate," the Baron would surely fit the bill. Evola's influence was present throughout the Landig Group.
"... The focus of their discussions were a secret center in the Arctic known as the Blue Island, which could serve as a source point for a renaissance of traditional life. This idea was taken from Julius Evola, whose Erhebung wider die moderne Welt [Revolt against the Modern World] (1935) became the bible of the Landig group. Landig's volkisch ideology of Ario-Germanic superiority was embedded within the high-flown metaphysics of Evola's primordial Tradition. Only the Northern Atlantic races, especially the Aryan Germans, understood the sacred nature of regal authority, the mystery of ritual, initiation and consecration, the divine origins of patrician rule, chivalry and a rigid caste hierarchy. Evola's polar mythology of Thule and trenchant anti-modernity had already been current among German conservative and right-wing periodicals during the Third Reich. As a Waffen-SS officer, Landig may also have met Evola during the last years of the war. After June 1944, Evola had worked in Vienna, helping to recruit a pan-European army of Waffen-SS volunteers from all over Europe to defend the continent against the invasion of the United States and the Soviet Union."
(Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 129)
the Baron
The likelihood of Landig and Evola having met during the latter's time in Austria during the final year of the war is greatly increased when one considers the agency within the SS that Evola had ties with.
"Despite the SS attack, as well as his own hesitation about Hitler, Evola spent World War II working for a section of SS intelligence, called the Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuhrers-SS (Security Service of the Reichsfuhrer-SS, or SD) in Rome, Berlin and Vienna. He may even have collaborated with the SD in Romania in the late 1930s. Founded in June 1931 by Reinhard Heydrich, the SD initially spied on the Nazi Party's domestic political opponents. It also ran a press and information service headed by Franz Alfred Six. After the Nazi seizure of power, the SD branched out into foreign intelligence operations. It developed a reputation for recruiting some of Germany's 'best and brightest' lawyers, economists, and academics into its ranks. At the outbreak of the war, the SD became part of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office, or RSHA), which was established in September 1939 to consolidate all SS intelligence operations into one super-agency."
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pgs. 315-316)
an SD patch
Despite the common perception that Evola was at odds with the SS (due in no small part to attacks made by Karl Maria Wiligut while he was in the SS's good graces on the Baron), as indicated in the above quote, he long held the organization in high esteem and seems to have become involved with it in an official capacity at least by the outbreak of WWII. Its possible his ties with the SS began even sooner thanks to the close relationship Evola developed with the Romanian Iron Guard, who long enjoyed patronage from the Nazi Party and especially the SS (I've written briefly on Evola's ties to the Iron Guard before here).

What exactly Evola did for the SS throughout the war is rather vague in general, but especially concerning the period he spent in Vienna as the conflict was winding down. Needless to say, there are some curious rumblings concerning Evola's work during this time.
"Evola's SD work at the end of the war is shrouded in mystery. Historian Richard Drake says that while he was in Vienna, 'Evola performed vital liaison services for the SS as Nazi Germany sought to recruit a European army for the defense of the Continent against the Soviet Union and the United States.' According to his own account, Evola spent his time living incognito while doing 'intellectual' research. But what kind of research?
"While Evola was in Vienna, the SD supplied him with a series of arcane texts plundered from private libraries and rare book collections. The SD bureau that provided him with these documents was Amt VII, an obscure branch that served as an RSHA research library. With this precious archive, Evola closely studied masonic rituals and translated certain 'esoteric texts' for a book called Historie Secrete des Societes Secretes. It never appeared because Evola claimed that all his documents were lost during the Russian bombardment.
"But why would the SD actively involve itself was arcane research at a time when hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers were sweeping into the Reich? And why would Evola choose to live in Vienna under a false name and devote his time to such a strange project? Could the answer to this question be found in the cryptic reference to Evola's 'efforts to establish a secret international order' in the 1938 SS report?
"I believe that Evola's Vienna project was intimately linked to the development of what I will call 'the Order,' a new kind of Knights Templar designed to successfully function sub rosa. Well before the end of World War II, the intelligence and financial networks of the Third Reich were hard at work preparing underground networks to survive the coming Allied occupation. Escape lines to South America and the Middle East were organized. Bank accounts were created in Switzerland and other neutral nations to finance the underground with plunder the Nazis had looted from occupied Europe. But how was this secret empire to be managed, except by a virtually invisible 'government in exile?'
"For years Evola had been fascinated by knightly orders as expressions of the Kshatriya caste of warrior aristocrats. In the formal structure of the SS, he saw the precursor to a new Ordenstaat, a State ruled by an Order. He also understood the great advantages provided by medieval orders of chivalry due to their transnational composition. Crusading orders, like the Knights Templar and the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, were pan-European, with separate national sections ('langues,' or tongues) unified through a Council presided over by a Grand Master. After the collapse of fascist state power, a new Order, an 'invisible college' of sorts, was needed not only to manipulate bank accounts and travel schedules but to have policy-making functions. Nor could it simply be run under the auspices of the Vatican, since Evola believed that Rome's downfall had been caused by the acceptance of Christianity by the dominant faction of the Roman elite. The Emperor Constantine's official embrace of the 'gentle Nazarene' in 313 A.D. had accumulated, a hundred years later, in Alaric's sack of Rome. With the American chewing-gum imperialist threatening in the West, and the new Hun sweeping in from the East, was the situation in 1945 really so different? The Order was a vessel for those 'Hermetic' elements of the Conservative Revolution, old ruling class, and new Nazi elite not entirely beholden to the political, cultural, and religious 'Guelf' wing of the European aristocracy, which remained ideologically loyal to the continued propagation of the ruling Christian mythology.
"This account of the origins of the Order is obviously speculative, and I advance it as hypothesis, not fact. Yet if I'm correct the SD really did have a need for Evola's unique talents. With his extensive knowledge of matters esoteric and occult; his fascination with secret societies and knightly Orders; his Waffen SS transnationalism; his ties to some of the highest figures in fascism, Nazism, and movements like the Iron Guard; and his loyal service to the SD, Baron Evola was a perfect candidate to help theorize a new underground Order. As the SD's equivalent of Albert Pike, the former Confederate Army general who designed the rituals for the Scottish Rite Masons in the late 1800s, Evola's task was to help create the inner organizational and ritual structure for the Grand Masters of a secret Shamballah whose financial nerve center was carefully hidden away in Swiss bank accounts."
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pgs. 319-321)
the Seal of the Knights Templar, who have long held a special place in Esoteric Nazism
While Evola's expertise would have certainly been useful in creating the structure of an underground Order, his extensive knowledge of history, psychology, mythology and the occult would have proven invaluable in crafting a mythos for this Order. That's why its quite suspect that fellow SD man Wilhelm Landig would begin to unveil an ideology in the early 1950s based around a secretive Nazi underground roughly modeled upon the Medieval military orders of old.

So, to recap: Evola and Landig were both SS men who served in the SD, one of the intelligence wings of the SS; they both ended up in Vienna during the final year of the war where Landig claimed to have been working on a secret weapons project while Evola was apparently creating (or "rediscovering") a new fascist mythology for the post-war years. Then, less than a decade after the war ends, Landig begins promoting an ideology based heavily upon Evola's published works and which also echoes a kind of "Black" Order which some researchers have alleged Evola was involved with during his final years in the SS.

increasingly in popular culture this "Black Order" Evola and Landig theorized has appeared in romantic accounts of a "Last" or "Final" Battalion at battle with the "Judeo-Masonic forces"
Obviously, this is quite a series of "coincidences." Further muddying the waters is the possibility that Evola and Landig even worked out of the same section of the SD. Of the mysterious Amt VII bureau that provided Evola with materials for his research into secret societies, the great Kevin Coogan notes:
"Amt VII maintained the RSHA's library, the Freemasonry museum, and other archives. Himmler even got Amt VII involved in the study of witchcraft during the Middle Ages.
"A 24 July 1945 CIC report on Amt VII gives its background:
"'When the SD moved from BERLIN to MUENCHEN late in 1934, it included Zentral Abteilung II and the Presse Abteilung. The former was divided into two Haupt Abteilungen specializing in enemy ideologies. Haupt Abteilung I dealt with Jewry, Freemasonry, and Catholicism; Haupt Abteilung II, with Marxism, Reactionary movements, and the LUDENDORFF movement.'
"After Franz Alfred Six, who headed the Press Department, decided he wanted not just to spy on the German press but to influence it, he made a power play to take over Zentral Abteilung II:
"'SIX succeeded in having himself made chief of this department in 1936 and then wrote articles about Freemasonry, Catholicism, and Judaism, which were sometimes published by the Nordische Verlag in HAMBURG.
"After a time there was friction between the Gestapo and Zentral Abteilung II. Both agencies often issued reports which were mutually contradictory. A re-organization of Zentral Abteilung II took place. It was officially dissolved, its papers and files of operational value were sent to the Gestapo, and what was left of Zentral Abteilung II became Amt VII of the RSHA...'"
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pgs. 327-328 n. 36)
Franz Alfred Six, one of Nazi Germany's leading "experts" on Freemasonry
As was noted above, Landig served in something known as Abteilung I (Inland) during his time in Vienna working for the SD. Unfortunately, there were several organizations bearing the "Abteilung" name (which seems to translate as "battalion") and I have not been able to determine whether this section was related to the Zentral Abteilung II (which was divided into two sections known as Haupt Abteilung I & II) bureau that eventually became Amt VII.

But it goes without say, the possibility that Landig was aware of Evola's research during this period is certainly present. Indeed, if Landig was working for Evola in some capacity this could explain how Landig was able to to devise such an elaborate mythos so soon after the war when there is scarce evidence of his interest in esoteric topics before or during the conflict. Perhaps Evola's research was the real secret weapon Landig observed rather than his ridiculous claims of Nazi UFOs.

they do make for a great sales pitch, however
Before wrapping things up, there is one last aspect of Landig's early post-war activities I would like to briefly examine: the possibility that he was involved with the so-called "Ratlines" in some capacity.

The Ratlines were routes established originally by forces within the Vatican that enabled Nazi and fascist war criminals to flee Europe for foreign lands, typically South America or the Middle East. By 1947 (if not sooner) the US Military and intelligence community had also become actively involved in these endeavors. One of the earliest Ratlines appeared in Landig's neck of the woods.
"The Ratline can be said to have begun in Austria. Salzburg and Vienna were the hotspots, with an emphasis on the CIC (the US Army's Counter-Intelligence Corps) presence in Salzburg, whose officers invented the term 'Ratline.' The CIC utilized the services of Roman Catholic Monsignor Krunoslav Draganovic as well as other Croatian priests. It is believed by many that Croatian Archbishop Stepinac was also involved in the smuggling of Nazis and Nazi wealth out of the hands of the Communists. Draganovic began the movement of the Ustashe war criminals to Argentina, and then continued with the Nazis in general using the same channels via Rome and Genoa."
(Ratline, Peter Levenda, pgs. 238-239)
Monsignor Krunoslav Draganovic, a Croatian priest who played a key role in establishing the early Ratlines
As was noted in part one, there is evidence that Landig was in contact with US intelligence officers after being released from an internment camp in 1947. Also noted there (and above) was the fact that Landig had established close ties with the Croatian fascists during his time serving in the Balkans to the point that he had received decorations from the Croats for his service. Landig's experience as an intelligence officer while working for the SD, his ties to the Croatian Ustashe regime and his presence in Vienna during a time when the Ratline there was active are highly suggestive. Certainly Landig would have been well suited to assist in such an endeavor, but unfortunately few seem to have considered this possibility.

And with that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I'll begin to examine Landig's post-WWII political career and its curious associations. Stay tuned.