The idea that Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party secretly constructed flying saucers during the Second World War, either with extra-terrestrial aid or via their own innate Teutonic technological genius, is surprisingly popular. According to the proponents of this conspiracy theory, since Germany’s defeat in 1945, the existence of Nazi UFOs has been covered up by an all-powerful, global coalition of “malign forces”—a phrase they use as code for “capitalists, Communists and Jews.” Type Nazi UFOs into Google, however, and you will see just how poor a job this evil Judeo-capitalist-Commie alliance has done in concealing this verboten truth: there are hundreds of books, films, websites, videogames, TV shows and pamphlets on this theme.
Why do people persist in spreading such an outrageous falsehood? There is no single answer. Some are just gullible fantasists. Others are mentally ill. Many are no doubt out to make an easy buck. However, some possess a more sinister motive: they want to ensnare the terminally naive into the world of far-right politics.
The basic neo-Nazi recruitment logic runs like this: if the standard version of history fails to acknowledge that Hitler helped invent UFOs, what else might historians have got wrong about the Third Reich? Might the Nazis have been right all along, contrary to misleading Allied propaganda? Could Germany have only fought in justifiable self-defence? Were Britain, Poland and the Jews the true aggressors? Could the Holocaust itself have been a hoax? After all, if you can believe that Adolf Hitler built spaceships, then the idea that Auschwitz never existed seems fairly reasonable by comparison.
Saucers and Swastikas
The first flying saucer sighting took place on 24 June 1947, when American pilot Kenneth Arnold spotted several craft, reported (inaccurately) in national newspapers as being roughly saucer-shaped, skimming through the skies above Washington state (I’ve written in more detail about this in another recent Areo article). The saucers received wall-to-wall media coverage but, as a 14 August 1947 Gallup poll demonstrates, the American public did not initially believe that they were ET vessels. When asked what explained the phenomenon, many guessed that they were secret, man-made weapons:
No answer, don’t know: 33%
Imagination, optical illusion, mirage, etc: 29%
US secret weapon, part of atomic bomb, etc: 15%
Weather forecasting devices: 3%
Russian secret weapon: 1%
Other explanations: 9%
Among these “other explanations,” Gallup didn’t mention either Hitlerites or Martians—but this was soon to change.
So, people initially thought saucers (they did not acquire the label UFOs until several years later) were a military wonder weapon, a Wunderwaffe, as the Germans had once called them. The Nazis already had a track record of inventing real-life marvels of military aerospace, including the V-1 flying semi-robotic buzz bomb and the even more impressive V-2 rocket ballistic missile, the first man-made object to successfully penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere—which caused so much death and destruction in London during the Blitz.
Nazi rocket scientists like Wernher von Braun had been taken to both the United States and Soviet Russia after the collapse of the Third Reich, and their expertise and Wunderwaffen designs had formed the initial basis of space programmes at organisations like NASA. With these facts in mind, it was not long before some people began to draw the conclusion that, in addition to space rockets, the Nazis had been busy building flying saucers.
It’s not Rocket Science
After the war, many former Nazis spread the myth that the Germans, being the master race, were responsible for inventing the saucers, for who else could have been clever enough? Certainly not foreign Jews, capitalists or Communists. From the 1950s onwards, a number of revisionists and cranks began approaching the German-language press, which welcomed them with open arms. Most notably, on 30 March 1950, during a wave of European UFO sightings, the mass-circulation weekly Der Spiegel published a feature on Rudolf Schriever (1909–53), who, the publication claimed, was the true designer of these new-fangled flying discs.
Although he presented himself as a qualified aeronautical engineer and former Luftwaffe Flugkapitän, Schriever had actually been a test pilot for the Heinkel aircraft company in Eger, in what is now the Czech Republic, and lacked any specific technical background. While he could certainly fly a vehicle, he could no more have designed one than Neil Armstrong could have built his own moon rocket—as his totally unworkable sketches proved. (Schriever’s flying saucer design featured a cut-away cockpit within which a lone pilot stood upright pulling levers.)
Schriever was at that time a truck driver, delivering the Stars and Stripes military newspaper to US army bases in Bremerhaven (he later claimed to have actually been smuggling valuables in and out of the bases on behalf of a clandestine Nazi cell). Yet, he claimed that during the war he had designed a circular jet helicopter with vertical take-off capabilities. In his diagrams, the cockpit is placed at the centre of a large circular-bladed turbine—which is a bit like sticking a giant goldfish bowl in the middle of a massive electric fan. According to Schriever, this contraption was almost ready to be tested in Nazi-occupied Prague in April 1945, when he was forced to flee the Russian advance and his blueprints, and a scale model, were stolen a few years later. Schriever believed that his former assistants had been kidnapped and taken to Russia, where they had since developed the Kenneth Arnold-style saucers now buzzing around the globe, based on his original designs and stolen materials.
On 1 April 1950, appropriately, the International News Service interviewed “the forty-year-old graduate of the University of Prague,” who generously offered to build the US military a “workable prototype” of his flying fan “within six or nine months,” if given appropriate facilities. The discs currently invading western skies, Schriever said, were “certainly not pipe dreams or visitors from Mars”—and to prove it he provided a detailed description of how his “flying top” would work:
The control cabin, he said, would be in the upper section of the main gondola section. Beneath the lower gondola would be a rotating cartwheel-like affair forming a hub 14 yards in diameter with three-yard-long paddles in place of spokes. Three starting jets would be slung beneath this cartwheel to set off the rotation. The hot gases given off by the jets, Schriever added, would give the impression of “balls of fire” in flight. He estimated that each gondola of his flying top would weigh about three tonnes and would be nearly 12 feet wide and just under 11 feet in height. Schriever said that the ship would be able to ascend at a little better than 300 feet per second and that the paddles would revolve at a top speed of 2,600 miles an hour.
Schriever wrote letters promoting his work to women’s magazines like Heim und Welt (“Home and World”), in which flying saucers now jostled for space with the latest fashions in hats, make-up and soft furnishings.
In a 1952 interview, Schriever said that his craft had been conceived in 1941 as a vertical take-off (VTOL) solution to a wartime lack of runways, and that by June 1942 an unmanned working model had successfully been flown. In 1945, he claimed, he had built a full-sized prototype for which he was to have been the test pilot (details he had omitted back in 1950). In support of this, he provided a photo of himself in an aviator’s uniform. Furthermore, he now said that his plans and model had been stolen in 1945, not 1948. Maybe Schriever had realised that, since Arnold first saw his presumably back-engineered Commie saucers in 1947, the chronology of his yarn did not quite add up. Clearly, Rudolf Schriever was a liar. Yet many of his fellow Germans proved all too willing to believe him.
Plan “Nein!” from Outer Space
Schriever died in a car accident in 1953. But the Rudolf Schriever story was not over, for it was later refashioned by other writers to serve their own nefarious purposes. The most notable of these revisionists was the German-Canadian author, publisher and activist Ernst Zündel (1939–2017) whose pseudonymous 1975 underground hit UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapon? is dedicated to “the unsung and much-maligned heroes of the Second World War”—i.e., the members of the Nazi Party.
Zündel was one of the world’s most prominent Holocaust deniers. Taking advantage of the 1970s boom in New Age publishing, he promoted the idea that the wartime Germans were a master race, capable of inventing spaceships, and that they would one day rise again from their hideouts in secret saucer bases concealed beneath the South Pole and within Andean caves, to save humanity from a degenerate, Jew-ridden, post-war world.
Zündel was born in 1939. His mother had adulated Hitler and told the young Ernst that, had it not been for the Nazis’ generous child benefit policies, she would never have been able to afford to have had children. “I owe that man my life,” concluded Zündel, who thought the Führer had brought Germany “work, bread, peace, honour and a place in the sun.” There was little bread or honour in starving, bomb-ravaged, post-war Germany, but Zündel blamed his childhood poverty not on Nazi hubris, but on the victorious Allies.
Ironically for a man so fond of Corporal Hitler, Zündel avoided conscription into the West German army on the grounds that he was a pacifist. So, in 1958, at the age of nineteen, Zündel emigrated to Canada, where he first found work as a photographer and image-retoucher and then set up his own graphic arts business in Montreal. A talented painter, he was chosen to illustrate several of the front covers of Canada’s popular periodical Maclean’s.
During the 1970s, Zündel established the underground publishing house Samisdat, to publish his own bizarre neo-Nazi material. UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapon? enjoyed several reprints and helped establish the firm’s success.
Mainstream publications would not accept advertisements for Zündel’s Holocaust denial texts, which bore titles like The Auschwitz Lie, Did Six Million Really Die? and The Hitler We Knew and Loved. However, popular American and Canadian magazines, sci-fi pulps, newspapers and children’s comics were happy to carry paid advertisements for apparently harmless literature about UFOs. Zündel collated the addresses of the thousands of people who bought UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapon? and sent them follow-up catalogues offering Third Reich memorabilia, such as posters, toys and stickers, transcripts of Hitler’s speeches, tapes of SS marching songs and writings by other Hitler apologists, anti-Zionists and revisionist pseudo-historians. Hopefully, customers who came for the saucers would walk away more interested in the swastikas. If not, they could just buy more UFO tat, which would fund his other activities anyway.
Whilst his “rather frivolous line” of UFO books were mere “Mickey Mouse” products by his own admission, Zündel himself was not a stupid man. He just wanted to sell books to the gullible. He believed that the “real lunatic fringe” was not those who questioned the Holocaust, but those who believed in unidentified flying objects. In a 1994 interview with Frank Miele of US magazine The Skeptik, he explained that, while the original German-language version of UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapon? was more serious—it being harder to fool the master race—his English-language version was mere entertainment:
North Americans were not interested in being educated. They want to be entertained. The book was for fun. With a picture of the Führer on the cover and flying saucers coming out of Antarctica, it was a chance to get on radio and TV talk shows. For about fifteen minutes of an hour’s programme, I’d talk about all that esoteric stuff. Then I would talk about all those Jewish scientists in concentration camps, working on these secret weapons. And that was my chance to talk about what I wanted to talk about.
And what Zündel really wanted to talk about was the Holocaust “lie.” If Jewish scientists were kept safely fed and sheltered in concentration camps building spaceships, then they can’t all have been gassed in industrial ovens, could they? To prove this, Zündel proposed a little experiment. As gas chambers wouldn’t work anyway, why not build one according to the alleged Nazi designs of such things (“faked” by the Allies after the war), fill them with persons deemed expendable, drop Zyklon B through the roof and see whether they died? If the western authorities refused to perform such a trial that could easily be attributed to fear that this would not kill people—thus exposing the entire Holo-hoax industry as a gigantic fraud.
The Martian Master Race?
In 1978, Zündel pushed his luck even further, using his purportedly 29,000-strong US mailing list to give “the truly dedicated UFO researcher” the chance to visit a still living elderly Adolf Hitler at his secret saucer base located somewhere beneath the South Pole for the all-inclusive price of only $9,999. (According to Zündel, Hitler had managed to successfully flee Germany for Antarctica in his own personal Luftwaffe saucer.)
Zündel said he would charter an aircraft from South America in which he and “a very limited number of people” could soar southwards over Antarctica, keeping a close look-out for the almost 100-year-old Führer below. The expedition’s total cost would be around $2,000,000 and a $500,000 deposit was needed to make “modifications on the special aircraft required.” This was admittedly “a fantastic sum,” but one “certain to be worth every dollar in terms of the knowledge to be gained” from “the most daring scientific operation ever launched.”
However, by collectively contributing towards Samisdat in various small ways, customers could help bring ticket prices down, Zündel suggested. UFO fans could buy his products in bulk at wholesale prices, flog them on at a 100% mark-up at “UFO conventions, county fairs, psychic fairs and flea-markets” and send the profits back to his base in Toronto. Or if you were “rich and conscientious,” why not simply “underwrite the whole or part of the Expedition” personally and send Zündel some “cold, hard cash” up front?
Maybe one day Samisdat members would fly out to Antarctica in a saucer of their own. Amazingly, Zündel had successfully located “some of the original German flying saucer scientists who are still alive,” a race of elderly “space pioneers” whose Wunderwaffen genius was now being utilised by Samisdat’s own saucer-design teams located in “Canada, the USA, and in particular Germany, whose task it is to rediscover basic wingless flight” of the kind first achieved by Adolf Hitler. Already, Samisdat scientists had succeeded in mastering “propulsion systems unprecedented in today’s aerospace technology,” to be used in incredible spacecraft, which they hoped to make available “in kit-form for hobby-builders.”
Two miniature prototypes were already available for purchase. The SAMISDAT MODEL 1 was “a safe, exciting, entertaining and educational introduction to the world of flying saucers,” with “a beautiful take-off and landing any UFO pilot could be proud of!” The accompanying descriptions make it clear that this was a child’s toy, bought by Zündel and rebranded. It cost $6.95 plus $1.00 P&P. Zündel’s scientists had also devised an even cheaper budget saucer prototype, now available for only $3.70 P&P inclusive: a plastic frisbee with a swastika painted on it.
Zündel’s stated views on UFOs were not internally consistent. He tended to simply throw as many competing notions out there as possible, to see what would stick. He sometimes referred to the creators of the saucers as purely human Nordic Nazis and at other times as alien Nazis. Whichever lie the reader preferred to swallow was fine by Zündel, just so long as they also bought the idea that Adolf Hitler was lovely, and all Jews evil and vile. Zündel ends UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapon? by wondering whether the Germans may have originally been extra-terrestrial super-beings, which would explain their ability to build spaceships:
Is this perhaps the answer to the vexing question of why the Germans are “different”? … Are they leading the world in precision engineering and technology because they have dwelling amongst them a disproportionate number of [aliens]? … Was Hitler planted on this Planet Earth to pull back Western civilisation from the brink of degenerate self-extinction—peacefully, if at all possible, through war, if necessary? Should the above question be answered in the affirmative, then The Last Battalion, when the time is ripe, will spring into action. With racial strife and economic disaster looming, how far away can Der Tag [“the day”] actually be? … Members of The Last Battalion are already amongst us as soldiers, labourers, teachers, students, scientists—in fact, in all walks of life … So, look at your neighbours and your friends—how many of them do you think belong to The Last Battalion? Time will tell!
Der Tag never came, of course, and hopefully, never will. Yet this has not stopped thousands of people worldwide from believing that it could. Unlike Ernst Zündel’s pathetic, swastika-painted frisbees, the myth of Nazi UFOs was really able to fly.
Extracted and adapted for Areo Magazine with permission from Nazi UFOs: The Legends and Myths of Hitler’s Flying Saucers in WW2 (Frontline/Pen & Sword) and The Saucer and the Swastika: The Dark Myth of Nazi UFOs (Amberley) by S. D. Tucker. The first book unearths how the fake legend began; the second reveals how it became the basis of an ET-centred neo-Nazi pseudo-religion.