Hitler's Holy Relics
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 5 Sep 2011
Full Title: Hitler's Holy Relics: A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire
The Nazi Party's fascination with the occult inspired Indiana Jones, the fictional character central in a series of Hollywood productions which I had enjoyed immensely over the years. As I wanted to again wander off of the beaten path in terms of my reading list, I picked up Sidney Kirkpatrick's Hitler's Holy Relics from the local library. What I had not realized, however, was that First Lieutenant Walter Horn, the main character of the book, was rather a real life Indiana Jones, with a dash of Sherlock Holmes thrown in.
The book centered on Horn's investigation of the five missing pieces of relics from the Holy Roman Empire's Imperial Regalia. The presentation of the investigation was fast-paced and intriguing, documenting his attempt to educate fellow American officers who did not appreciate art history, to work with German professors to learn why the artifacts were important to the Nazi Party to determine where the missing pieces might be, and to outwit former Nazi administrators who might be withholding important clues or perhaps even actively hiding the treasures. Throughout the book, the author sidetracked to fill the mythology surrounding the Holy Roman Empire treasures, Teutonic orders, and ancient runes that collectively formed the foundation of, as the author speculated, the core of Nazi philosophy. I must complain, however, that while interesting at first, Kirkpatrick had sidetracked a bit too much. For example, an entire chapter was dedicated the Christian mythology of Longinus, the man who was said to have pierced Jesus Christ's side with a lance, all because the Imperial Regalia included the "Holy Lance" or "Spear of Destiny" that was supposedly the very spear; might I add that while his spear was central to the Imperial Regalia, it was not one of the missing pieces of the collection, having been sitting safely in a reinforced bunker in NĂĽrnberg during the entire investigation. The author also made a few errors in terms of WW2 historical facts, but I forgave him on those while reading for that I realize he was writing a detective thriller targeting the general audience and not a comprehensive history for a niche market.
I had reviewed this book in its audio book format. The reader, Charles Stransky, was a storyteller, which was certainly appreciated in reading a dramatic book like Hitler's Holy Relics.
The book was a fun read, and it was certainly a departure from the typical titles of military or political history that usually made their way to my reading list. I would not use the word "recommended" when describing Hitler's Holy Relics to others, but should a friend ask for my recommendation for an easy read for the beach, I just might mention this adventure of Indy, or rather, Walter Horn.
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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945