Report on the Otto Ohlendorf IRR File

Norman Goda, IWG Historian
Professor of History, Ohio University

Otto Ohlendorf, one of the most notorious SS officials in Nazi Germany, was captured and interrogated extensively after the war. Although much of the U.S. Army's investigative file on Ohlendorf was declassified in 1987, some documents were withheld and are being released under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. They primarily illuminate corrupt practices by Nazi officials and Heinrich Himmler's behavior at the very end of the war. The new material, which is of value to historians, was held back because it contained foreign government information. 1

I. Biographical

Born in Berlin in 1907, Ohlendorf joined the SA in 1925 and the SS in 1926. In 1936 he joined the SD as an economic adviser and from 1939 to 1945 he served as the chief of the Reich Security Main Office's Amt III, which studied the results of government measures on the German population. Ohlendorf is best known however, for his role as the Chief of Einsatzgruppe D, one of four mobile killing units that followed the German Army during the invasion of the USSR. Ohlendorf's unit was responsible for the southern Ukraine including the Crimea, and was responsible for the killing of 90,000 individuals from June 1941 to March 1942. 2

Ohlendorf surrendered to British authorities on 23 May 1945 and testified at the Trial of the Major War Criminals later that year. In 1947, he was the chief defendant in one of the twelve subsequent Nuremberg trials held by the U.S. Army (Case No. 9, The Einsatzgruppen Case). He was sentenced to death, and in 1951, despite the American revision of many sentences, Ohlendorf was executed by hanging. 3

II. Corruption in the Nazi State

One of the newly released documents is a seventeen-page British interrogation of Ohlendorf from August 1945 on corruption in the Nazi State. Ohlendorf, though a fanatic anti-Semite, considered himself an honest civil servant. Moreover, his educational background was in economics and from 1936 to 1945 he held economic and financial posts in the government alongside his other duties. Ohlendorf, the report begins, "is considered personally honest and he has always nursed a great dislike for corruption. The information… is therefore considered reliable." Ohlendorf's interrogators feared that if anything, he had held information back so that he could blackmail his fellow Nazis in the future.

Ohlendorf's extensive comments concern details of known practices, including Hitler's gifts of landed estates to his favorites, 4 the corrupt practices of Reich Labor leader Robert Ley, 5 and the obscene dishonesty of Hermann Göring. 6 The interrogation adds episodes on less well-known figures too. Ohlendorf claimed that Josef Spacil, the head of the RSHA Office in charge of administration, spent considerable efforts placing forged British banknotes into circulation for the purchase of black market items in southern Europe. Ohlendorf further explained that Germany's main auditing firm, the Deutsche Revisons - und Treuhandgesellschaft, which audited the largest German industrial concerns, was awash with corrupt practices. Instead of providing state authorities insight into the financial health of major firms, senior auditors, who were associated with other commercial firms, used inside information for personal profit. Ohlendorf mentioned that several Nazi party district leaders, particularly in annexed Poland, also helped themselves financially. Erich Koch, the Gauleiter of East Prussia, created a foundation in his own name of which he was sole member, manager, and director, and cemented his political position by showering senior officials such as Göring with lavish gifts. In May 1945, Koch fled to Flensburg aboard a ship "loaded with riches." Arthur Greiser, the Gauleiter of Posen, was associated "with shady dealings in gold articles which originated from the LODZ ghetto" and procured luxurious houses and a big country estate, according to Ohlendorf.

III. The Final Days of the Third Reich

Another significant document is a lengthy interrogation of Ohlendorf by a British intelligence officer of 7 July 1945, which concerns the final days of the war, particularly regarding Heinrich Himmler. 7 Ohlendorf was in a unique position to comment. Following Hitler's suicide, Ohlendorf was a senior economic official with the 23-day government of Karl Dönitz in Plön and then Flensburg. He spoke on the following during his interrogation:

  • Discussions held in Berlin in April 1945 between senior SS officials including Ohlendorf, SS-General Felix Steiner, and SS-General Richard Hildebrandt. These discussions aimed at the creation of a new government that could procure a separate peace with the Allies. Himmler, these men hoped, would lead this government and Hitler would be pushed aside if necessary. "Our aim," said Ohlendorf, "was not to put up any resistance, but to let the Allies advance as far as the Elbe, having first concluded a tacit agreement that they'd halt there and thus to cover our rear for the continuation of the struggle against the East. These men, who were sober enough in all other respects, still believed that we had a sporting chance against the East."
  • Reference to telephone orders by Himmler days before Hitler's suicide. Ohlendorf said that Gestapo Chief Heinrich Müller was "ordered to stay in Berlin as long as the Führer remained there, as he shared responsibility for the Führer's safety." Müller vanished after the war, and for years it was surmised that Müller offered himself to the U.S. or USSR for intelligence purposes. Ohlendorf's comment that Müller was ordered to remain adds weight to the probability that Müller died in Berlin.
  • There is some new detail concerning Himmler's state of mind on May 6, 1945 after Hitler's Last Testament appointed Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as the successor while expelling Himmler from the Nazi Party. Ohlendorf described the broad extent of Himmler's "degrading" and "unworthy" efforts to gain a post in the Dönitz government and Himmler's real anger on hearing that he was an "encumbrance" who would do the new government more harm than good. Also new is mention of Himmler's belief on May 6 that Field Marshall Ferdinand Schörner, the new Commander-in-Chief of the Army, might protect him, and his consideration of joining Schörner's army so that he could be killed in battle.

  • Ohlendorf mentions a personal letter, dated 9 May 1945, which Himmler wrote and sent to British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. Montgomery had accepted the surrender of German forces in the Northwest on the 4th. Ohlendorf obliquely mentioned this letter's existence at his trial in 1947 but this British interrogation provides more detail. Ohlendorf said that Himmler showed the letter to him and that he altered Himmler's text because "it had been unfortunately worded." Himmler then had an adjutant take the letter to Montgomery. Himmler, Ohlendorf said, was anxious about the answer. After leaving Flensburg on the 9th, he regularly sent a man to Ohlendorf to see if Montgomery had replied. Accounts of Himmler's final days do not mention the letter, so one can only surmise what it said. It was likely a final attempt to split the Anglo-Soviet alliance. Ohlendorf said that Himmler until the very end believed that an agreement could be struck and that he hoped to be the Allies' "confidence man in Europe." 8


1. The file, part of the Army Staff Investigative Records Repository collection, is in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 319, Box 165A,File XE 00 083 (hereafter IRR File Ohlendorf).

2. A biographical sketch is in Hanno Sowade, "Otto Ohlendorf," in The Nazi Elite, ed. Ronald Smelser and Rainer Zitelmann (New York: NYU Press, 1993), pp. 155- 64.

3. A summary of the Einsatzgruppen Case is in Robert Wolfe "Putative Threat to National Security as a Nuremberg Defense for Genocide," Annals, AAPSS (July 1980): 46-67. The 6,895 pages of court materials from Case No. 9 are located in National Archives Records Administration, Record Group 238, Entry 92.

4. Norman J.W. Goda, "Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of His Senior Military Officers during World War II," Journal of Modern History 2000, 72(2): 413-452.

5. See Ronald Smelser, Robert Ley: Hitler's Labor Front Leader (Oxford: Berg, 1988).

6. Richard Overy, Goering: "The Iron Man" (London: Routledge, 1984).

7.CSDIC (UK) GG Report, SRGG 1322 [C], 7 July 1945, IRR File Ohlendorf.

8. Ohlendorf testimony in Case 9 Transcripts, NARA, RG 238, Entry 92, Box 1, vol. 2, p. 510. After Himmler's capture by British forces on May 23rd, he still hoped for an interview with Montgomery. See Peter Padfield, Himmler: Reichsführer-SS (New York: Holt, 1991), p. 610.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001 • Telephone: 1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272



Otto Ohlendorf


Most people think knightly quests in search of the Holy Grail were a phenomenon of the Middle Ages. Yet one such quest took place right in the middle of World War II.

This Grail hunt ravaged the Crimea, but the story actually begins in the Pyrenees, in a small town called Ussat-les-Bains, a hundred years ago. Here two French occultists, Antonin Gadal and Rene Nelli, began researching Cathar legends and became convinced that the Cathars once had possession of the Holy Grail.

Gadal and Nelli formed a society called Les Amis de Montsegur et le Graal (French for The Friends of Montsegur and the Grail). A few years later, Gadal opened "a private Cathar museum at the small town of Ussat-les-Bains in the Pyrenees with an alleged Cathar connection. He also had an extensive library on the subject of the Cathars and the Grail...The society--as its name implies-- believed that a connection existed between the Cathar movement and the Grail Romances" of the medieval troubadours.

In 1906, French author Josephin Peladan wrote a best- selling book on the subject, Le Secret des Troubadours. Ussat-les-Bains became a kind of "Roswell of the Cathars." Among the occultists who made the pilgrimage there was a young German named Otto Rahn.

Rahn arrived in 1931 and made friends with Gadal. While working part-time at a local hotel, Rahn frequented Gadal's museum and took voluminous notes on the Holy Grail. But when the worldwide Depression worsened in 1932, Rahn lost his job and drifted back home to Germany.

During a fruitless search for work in the Fatherland, Rahn wrote a book of his own, Kreuzzug gegen den Graal (Crusade Against the Grail) It was as big a hit as the Peladan book a quarter-century earlier. Gadal's friend, Rene Nelli, translated Rahn's book into French, and Croisade contre le Graal soon found a global audience.

Unfortunately for Rahn, his book caught the eye of a fellow German with a pronounced interest in the occult. This was Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer-SS and Adolf Hitler's confidant and secret police chief. Himmler "personally invited the author (Rahn) to meet him at his Prinz Albrechtstrasse headquarters in Berlin. There he offered Rahn a commission in the SS and virtually unlimited resources for which Himmler expected Rahn to continue his research into the Grail legends, the Cathars and related subjects of Aryan interest."

Weeks later, a liberal friend was horrified when he saw Rahn in the black garb of an SS Sturmbannführer. "Otto! What are you doing in that uniform!?"

"My dear fellow," Rahn replied, a bit sheepish, "A man has to eat. Himmler himself offered me this job. What was I supposed to do--turn him down?"

So Rahn continued his Holy Grail research and in 1935 became one of the founders of the SS-Ahnenerbe.

The SS-Ahnenerbe turned up persistent rumors that the Holy Grail had been hidden by the Cathars after the fall of Montsegur. Trouble was, it was rumored to be in a number of different locations throughout Europe--including the Crimea.

One who took a keen interest in the Grail was a rising SS man named Otto Ohlendorf.

Ohlendorf was born February 4, 1907 in Hoheneggelsen bei Hildesheim, near Hannover. While a university student, he became an enthusiastic partisan of Theosophy and devoured many occult books, such as Der Stammbaum der Menschen by Annie Besant, Die Weltanschauung der Rosenkreuzer oder Mysteriches Christentum by Max Heindel and everything by the prolific Dr. Franz Hartmann, especially Was ist Theosophie? and Die weisse und schwarze Magie.

In 1925, while still a student, Ohlendorf joined the Nazionalsozialische Deutsche Arbeiterspartei (NSDAP, better known as the Nazi Party). He joined the SS in 1926 and, after obtaining his law degree, went to work at the Institute for World Economics in Kiel.

He rose rapidly in the SS during the 1930s, joining the SS-Sicherheitdienst  in May 1936 with the rank of Sturmbannführer. With the outbreak of war in September 1939, "he became chief of the SD-Inland section in the Reichssicherheitshauptamt with the rank of Standartenführer."

Although never a formal member of the SS-Ahnenerbe, and never that chummy with Himmler, Ohlendorf retained his interest in Theosophy. His SS comrades had a nickname for him--Der Graalritter (The Grail Knight.

When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Himmler named Ohlendorf the field commander of Einsatzgruppe D. "Since the German leadership expected the war in Russia to last only a few months, the Einsatzgruppen received orders to slaughter the Jews as quickly as possible. This would give the appearance that the war had produced the killings, not that the killers had perpetrated such a policy purposely."

At the briefing, Himmler gave Ohlendorf a mission with three objectives.

(1) Since Jews supposedly "formed the intellectual reservoir of Bolshevism in the East," Ohlendorf's Einsatzgruppe was to kill them on sight.

(2) Take the Crimea away from Stalin's Soviet Union and turn it into "the Riviera of the Reich."

(3) Capture the Holy Grail and remove it from its Cathar hideaway in the Crimea.

It is unclear exactly why Himmler wanted the Grail. It's possible that Himmler, a great believer in Hindu world-ages, intended to use the Grail in a grand magickal working at Wewelsburg that would have brought about the end of the Kali Yuga.

On December 13, 1941, Ohlendorf struck hard at Simferopol, the largest city in the Crimea. "In an Aktion that lasted three days, 14,300 Jews from Simferopol were murdered by the SS." [Simferopol was the site of an earlier massacre on October 18, 1905, carried out by the Soyuz Russkevo Narodnya, (Union of the Russian People) better known as the Black Hundreds, a home-grown Russian Nazi party that flourished during the early 1900s]

As German forces advanced through the peninsula, the SS raided synagogues like the Karaim Kenass and ancient sites like the Keremchik fortress and the Kebir Djami mosque in Simferopol, the palace of Princess Dzhanike- Hanym in Bakhchisarai and the caves of Chufut-Kaleh.

Next it was the turn of the Masonic lodges. "It was (Nazi visionary Alfred) Rosenberg who ordered that Freemason temples" in the Crimea "be looted by Einsatz commandos and their contents shipped back to him in Berlin, an order cheerfully carried out by Franz Six and Otto Ohlendorf."

No lodges were spared as Ohlendorf marched down the coast--Alushta, Gurzuf, Massandra, Yalta, Livadiya, Kurpaty, Gaspra--the SS sacked them all.

By the time the Crimean campaign ended in July 1942, Ohlendorf "had directed the murders of some 90,000 civilians." Of them, 50,000 were Karaite Jews, a community that had lived on the peninsula since 300 B.C.

But the Holy Grail was not found.

For his service in the Crimea, Hitler awarded Ohlendorf the Military Service Cross (a.k.a. the Iron Cross), Class 1 with swords. Ohlendorf was appointed to a high-ranking position in the SS and remained at Himmler's side until the war ended in 1945.

Tried for war crimes by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, Ohlendorf was found guilty and condemned to death. He spent the last few years of his life as one of the "red jackets" (Death Row prisoners) at the Landsberg am Lech prison.

Although the Grail had eluded him, Ohlendorf remained convinced that some day the priceless artifact would be found. On the eve of his execution, he told the Allied prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz: "The Grail will rise again. The Jews in America will suffer for what you have done to me."

On June 7, 1951, Ohlendorf and three other Einsatzgruppen leaders were hanged at Landsberg. The Holy Grail remains hidden.

See the books: Unholy Alliance by Peter Levenda; Hitler's Shadow War by Donald M. McKale; Masters of Death by Richard Rhodes: The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, volume 2 ; and Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, volume 2, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York, N.Y., 1990


Otto Rahn

Otto Wilhelm Rahn (1904 - 1939) is one of the most enigmatic figures of the 20th Century but, paradoxically, one of the least known.

Popular opinion has it that in the early 1930s, on the orders of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, Rahn was sent to the South of France to find and bring to his Nazi masters the fabled Treasures of the Temple of Solomon, which included the Grail Chalice and the Ark of the Covenant.

Convinced he had cracked a code in the pages of Wolfram von Eschenbach's classic novel "Parsifal" and identified the hiding place, the language scholar Rahn travelled to Languedoc.

Even today no one knows if Rahn ever did find the Grail. Otto Rahn took his secrets to the grave when in March 1939 he committed suicide...or did he?

Otto Rahn’s exploration objectives in the Pyrenees and their alleged outcomes have forged a legend which Steven Spielberg’s researchers readily conceded was their inspiration for the creation of one of Hollywood’s most exciting and notable screen characters: Indiana Jones.


The sacred site of Externsteine is located in the heartland of Germany. The rocks are 70 million year old sandstone spires with the remains of a temple still existing on the top. The temple has definite astronomical purposes as its rounded windows align with the moon and the sun during the summer solstice. Some researchers believe that the Persian god Mithras was worshipped here but others believe that the Germanic gods and goddesses were the objects of devotion. Up through the 8th century CE Pagan rituals were conducted here until Charles the Great cut down the site's 'Tree of Life' the religious symbol of the Pagan religion. There appear to be signs that these rituals are still practiced here. During the Nazi era hymns were sung here by the Nazi youth during the solstice and on Hitler's birthday. A decidedly Neo-Nazi element is still active. A series of hand-hewn caves are located in the base of the spires and, while their original purpose is unknown, Christian monks occupied them in the 12th century.

During the time of the Nazis, Otto Rahn investigated these ruins. Rahn must have discovered something that caused him to invent a very strange theory. He came to the conclusion that the fabled Emerald Cup was only one Holy Grail, while in fact there was another... The second Grail, which according to Rahn, was a Stone, or more specifically, a collection of stone tablets... on which was written the wisdom of the ages or the ultimate truth, but in a language that no one could decipher ...In ancient times, the word 'Gorr' meant 'Precious Stone,' and 'Al' meant 'a splinter' or 'stylus' with which to write. Hence came the contraction to Gorral or Graal, meaning Precious Engraved Stone."  Rahn believed that it was either one perfect emerald with 144 facets or 144 tablets of stone engraved in emerald.

This parallels another Ancient Sumerian myth that is written about in Egyptian Civilization. The earliest known specimen of historical Sumerian writing is the votive inscription on the trophy stone-bowl or 'Holy Grail' captured from the Serpent-Dragon worshippers by the first Sumerian King Zass (AKA Ukusi or Ot-Tur) think Ar-Thur and the Pendragon line. It was engraved by his great-grandson King Udu of Kisk about 3245 B.C. This itself also corresponds nicely with a man named Buechner's description of the first Grail, the Emerald Cup, as having been inscribed with Cuneiform (Sumerian writing) and handed down 'by God' to Melchizidek, who used it to serve wine to Abraham and who was undoubtedly one of the Priest-Kings (Fisher Kings) of Ancient Mesopotamia.

The treasures stolen by the Nazi's were reputed to be: Items from Solomon's temple (including gold plates and wooden fragments of the original Ark), 12 (or 144) stone tablets with indecipherable, pre-runic writing upon them, a silver cup with a jasper green base, and 3 gold plaques inscribed in cuneiform script. Most of the treasure is said to be deep under the walls of Heinrich Himmler's castle home  'Wewelsburg'. There are, however, many persistent rumors that part of the treasure is buried at Externsteine.