The third book in my trilogy The Gift is based like the other two in the Interwar years. The research has been almost as much fun as the writing. Sometimes more fun when inspiration flags. But for anyone seeking material, search no further than the interwar years.
The period is weird for so many reasons. It makes Robert E Howard appear relatively mainstream.
Where do you begin? Who or what do you select? An obvious contender is Karl Maria Wiligut, nicknamed ‘Himmler’s Rasputin.’ Born in Vienna in 1886 Wiligut began an orthodox military career with considerable success.
The weirdness set in whilst stationed at Znaim in Moravia. There he became fascinated by prehistoric menhir — to the layperson, a bunch of stones — and began delving into Ariosophy, a relatively new moment that dabbled in the occult and the potent myth of Aryan Supremacy. Sometime after 1908 he joined the Order of the New Templars where he told startled members that he had intimate knowledge of Rune and had been entrusted with family secrets by his grandfather. Now at last the secrets were to be divulged:
Karl Wiligut was the last descendant of a long line of German sages, the Uiligotis of the Asa-Uana-Sippe, dating back to prehistoric times. As a result he was able to recall the history of his tribe over thousands of years by virtue of his ancestral-clairvoyant memory.
According to Wiligut Germany was originally settled in 228,000 B.C by survivors of Atlantis, and that his family originated in the magical city of Arual-Joruvallas (present day Goslar). He insisted that the events of the New Testament had taken place in Germany not Palestine, and that Jesus Christ, far from being the son of God was an avatar called Krist, founder of the Irminist religion in 12,500 B.C. The Wiligut family were Irminist sages, driven into the wildnerness by rival sorcerers in 1,200 B.C.
World War I interrupted the dreaming and Wilgut resumed his military career. Defeat saw him lost in bitterness, the feeling that Germany and Austria had been betrayed and that salvation lay in a new and stronger German empire. In 1924 he was committed to the Salzburg mental asylum where he was certified insane. He remained there until his release in 1927.
Five years later, secret voices told him to leave Austria for Germany and he settled in Munich. A disciple introduced the elderly sorcerer to Heinrich Himmler who fell under his spell.
In 1933 the sixty-seven year old Karl Wiligut joined the S.S and became intimate friends with Heinrich Himmler, spellbound by Wiligut’s tales of old Atlantis. Wilgut did more than tell tales. He designed the sinister SS Totenkopf ring, the hat badge, and a whole host of runic symbols used on black SS uniforms and flags. He was made an SS General and ordered to construct Wiligut’s tunnel.
This tribute to madness was a tunnel in Hungary, ten miles deep and designed to carry an elevator car that would lower Himmler and Wiligut to the ‘Inner World of Agharti’ – something akin to Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar. Age and ill health saw him resign from active duty in the SS in August 1939 (remarkably good timing) but work on tunnel continued, nevertheless. Millions were poured into it — until November 1944 when lack of supplies, and perhaps the advance of the Red Army forced the SS project to close.
Wiligut inspired Himmler to send out teams of explorers in search of Atlantean secrets, but the old man himself spent his declining years lost in runes and spells and ancient artefacts. The British briefly interrogated him after the war but released him. The old magician died in 1946, taking his ancestral secrets with him.
How to end this with a snap? Wiligut and Himmler, a relationship akin to Robert E Howard and Donald Trump. No, that is grossly unfair on both men and wreaks havoc with chronology. Aleister Crowley and Stanley Baldwin? No, that is even more unbelievable.