Anybody familiar with Nazi Germany will be familiar with Himmler, Speer, Bormann and such but few have ever heard of Hans Kammler. Kammler was a General in the SS, rather an accomplishment any way you look at it. Kammler "was regarded by many in the Nazi hierarchy as the most powerful man in Germany outside the Cabinet." (Blunder! How the U.S. Gave Away Nazi Supersecrets to Russia, by Tom Agoston, Dodd, Mead & Co.)

Kammler, whose position of authority was directly under Himmler, was in charge of Hitler's most secret projects, specifically projects such as the world's first jet engines and rockets. He had over 14 million people working for him, mostly building UNDERGROUND factories. Agoston said his projects were equivalent to being in charge of building the Great Pyramids or the Coliseum in Rome. Speer said that he believed that Kammler was being considered to take his (Speer's) position.

Albert Speer, in his book Spandau, The Secret Diaries brags that it was he who ordered Werner Heisenberg to stop building an atomic bomb and concentrate on a "uranium motor" for aircraft. Towards the end of the war, Hitler even made Göring and Speer subordinate to Kammler. Eisenhower admits in Crusade In Europe that the Nazis were within 6 months of developing advanced weapons that would have changed the outcome of the war.

Hans Kammler

General Dr Hans Friedrich Karl Franz Kammler (August 26, 1901 – April 1945?) was an engineer and high-ranking officer of the SS. He oversaw SS construction projects, and towards the end of World War II was put in charge of the V-2 missile programme.

Kammler’s NSDAP ID photograph

Kammler was born in Stettin, Germany. In 1919, after volunteering for army service, he served in the Rossbach Freikorps . From 1919 to 1923 he studied civil engineering in Munich and Danzig. He joined the NSDAP in 1932 and held a variety of administrative positions when the Nazi government came to power, initially in the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM - Aviation Ministry). In 1940 he joined the SS, where from 1942 he worked at designing facilities for the extermination camps, including gas chambers and crematoria. Kammler eventually became Oswald Pohl's Deputy in the WVHA (Reich Administrative and Economic Main Office), which oversaw Amtsgruppe D (Amt D), the Administration of the concentration camp system, and was also Chief of Amt C, which designed and constructed all of the concentration and extermination camps. Following the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, Heinrich Himmler assigned him to overseeing the demolition of the ghetto in retaliation.

Kammler was also charged with constructing facilities for various secret weapons projects, including manufacturing plants and test stands for the Messerschmitt Me 262 and V-2. Following the Allied bombing raids on Peenemünde in "Operation Hydra" on August 17, 1943, Kammler was assigned to moving these production facilities underground, which resulted in the Mittelwerk facility and its attendant concentration camp complex, Mittelbau-Dora, which housed slave labour for constructing the factory and working on the production lines. He was also assigned to the construction of facilities at Jonastal and Riesengebirge for nuclear weapons research and at Ebensee to develop a V-2 derived ICBM.

In 1944, Himmler convinced Hitler to put the V-2 project directly under SS control, and on August 6 replaced Walter Dornberger with Kammler as its director. From January 1945, he was placed as head of all missile projects and just a month later was given charge of all German aerospace programs as these came under SS authority as well.


In April 1945, Kammler disappeared. Some reports suggest that he was assassinated by a member of his staff, acting on orders from Himmler not to allow personnel with detailed knowledge of the rocket programme to fall into Allied hands. Others indicate that he may have been killed in action or committed suicide somewhere around Prague. The fact that his exact fate is unknown and that his body was never recovered led to some speculation that he continued his work in the United States after the war, where it is alleged he worked on anti-gravity and other advanced devices.

Agostan's book details all FOUR of the supposed death scenarios of Hans Kammler. These may well have been simply misdirection.

A recent (2001) book by Nick Cook, The Hunt for Zero Point investigates the possibility that Kammler was brought to the United States along with many other German scientists as part of the program known as "Operation Paperclip" (Christopher Simpson, Blowback).

There are no known facts that support this theory. There have been no "Kammler sightings" since the end of the war, contrary to the cases of other Nazi war criminals such as Mengele. In addition, Kammler was not a physicist or rocket engineer. He was primarily an administrator and as such would have few skills of value to the Americans.

There is a trail of evidence that indicates in the closing days of the Reich that Kammler used a long-range multi-engined aircraft to ship a large body of research material and prototypes out of the Reich. The book documents much of this evidence. References to Kammler in the official literature relating to the Nuremberg trials have been deleted. In fact, despite the knowledge that Kammler was, in many ways, number three in the Nazi hierarchy in 1945, his name only comes up once, in an indirect reference by Dornberger, during the war crimes trials, including the trial of his subordinates in December 1957 in Arnsberg, Westphalia.

From Tom Agoston, Blunder! How the U.S. Gave Away Nazi Supersecrets to Russia

SS Obergruppenführer Dr. Ing. (Doctor of Engineering) Hans Kammler, now little known to popular history, architect of the infamous Auschwitz death camps, responsible for the demolition of the Warsaw ghetto, and by the end of the war, the Third Reich's plenipotentiary for all secret weapons research, responsible directly to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler and to Adolf Hitler himself…….

Kammler boasted almost the perfect "corporate resume" and a documentable record of "whole person management" as a "team player":

A modern day management consultant who was talent hunting for a "total professional with total involvement" would certainly have been fascinated by the bizarre curriculum vitae Kammler could have submitted. He could demonstrate a "track record" in "very senior appointments," with skill in putting across "aggressive growth plans."...

In the Third Reich, within a span of a few years, the number of positions he had held in turn was phenomenal.

Among these "senior appointments" Kammler once commanded were:

(1) Operational control of the V-l and V-2 terror bombardments of
London, Liege, Brussels, Antwerp and Paris;

(2) Operational control of all missile production and research, including the V-2 and the intercontinental ballistic missile. the A9/10;

(3) Design and construction oversight of the world's "first bombproof underground aircraft and missile factory sites," including sites for the production of jet engines and the Messerschmitt 262;

(4) command of the SS Building and Words Division, the department which handled all large construction projects for the Reich, including death camps, "Buna factories," and supply roads for invading German legions in Russia;

(5) Design and construction of the world's first underground testing and proving range for missiles;

(6) Command, control and coordination of all of the Third Reich's secret weapons research by the war's end.

This warped and twisted administrative genius first came to the attention of Himmler and Hitler "with a brilliant hand-colored design for the
Auschwitz concentration camp, which he subsequently built. Later he was called in to advice on the modalities for boosting the daily output of its gas chambers from 10,000 to 60,000."

All this is to say that not only was Kammler a butcher, but that by the war's end, Hitler had "concentrated more power in Kammler's hands than he had ever entrusted to a single person," bar none. If one were to compare Kammler's position to a similar hypothetical position in the former Soviet Union, such a position would mean that the general who (commanded) the SS-20 rockets in Europe and Asia (the Commander in Chief of Strategic Rocket Forces) would also head research, development, and production of missiles. In addition, he would be in charge of producing all modern aircraft for the Red Air Force and have overall command of the mammoth civil engineering projects or the production centers in
Siberia's sub-zero climate. Last, but very much not least, he would lead the national grid of gulags. To match Kammler's position in the SS, the Soviet general holding all these variegated commands would also be third in the KGB pecking order.

Indeed, one would have to add to Agoston's list, for such a Soviet general would also have had to be in charge of the coordination of all the most post-nuclear and super secret advanced scientific research and black projects in the entire
Soviet Union. It is thus in the person of SS Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler that all the lines meet: the Buna factory and slave labor of the camps, exploited for grizzly medical experimentation and labor in the secret underground laboratories and production facilities, the atom bomb project, and as will be seen in the subsequent parts of this book, even more horrendous and monstrous aircraft and weapons development. If there was a gold mine of information, then it was available in the blueprints and files that were locked in Kammler's vaults, or even more securely in his brain. It is this fact and Kammler's extraordinary dossier that make his post-war fate even more problematical.

The Four Deaths of SS Obergruppenführer Dr. Ing. Hans Kammler

General Kammler, in addition to his "accomplishments" in streamlining death camp efficiency, his methodical and efficient leveling of the ruined Warsaw Ghetto and meticulous accounting of every last brick and stone removed, his coordination of the most arcane, and perhaps the biggest, secret weapons black projects program in human history, has also another odd distinction to his credit. He of all the high-ranking Nazis indicted and tried at Nuremberg either posthumously or in absentia, was never formally indicted, much less brought to trial. He is altogether missing from the docket, and altogether just simply missing. Kammler has yet another distinction. He appears to have been not only a very accomplished messenger of death for others, but also appears to have achieved the astonishing feat of having died himself no less than four times, each under different circumstances. Agoston commented at length on the odd assortment of "facts" surrounding Kammler's fate: brainchild of none other than Martin Bormann. The purpose of this special command was to evacuate... something. Cook reports that one of these enormous Ju 390s simply went missing at the end of the war.


Analysis of the voluminous documentation as has accrued, shows crude discrepancies, the inconsistencies of which grow with almost every addition to the mosaic of information that enters the picture Basically three major facts stand out:

1. In almost four decades, official records show no positive confirmation of Kammler's death. No court of law, no media editor would accept the uncorroborated statement of "unknown comrades," still so referred to in official records as conclusive evidence of death especially if the death was alleged to have taken place in the chaos of collapsing Germany.

2. The record shows no subsequent sworn corroborative statement. Such a statement would automatically have been entered in the Red Cross and other dossiers on Kammler.
3. None of the persons reporting any of the four versions of the general's death had conformed with the prescribed duty of all servicemen to detach one-half of a dead man's soldier's paybook or officer's identity document, to the nearest unit, relevant records office, Red Cross, or holding power, if the surviving serviceman had become a prisoner of war, to help notification of next of kin. Germans are traditionally meticulous and, to say the least, most sentimental in such matters.


Thus, in spite of "the proliferation of unsubstantiated evidence that permeates all four versions of Kammler's death, the shell of the case contains sufficient facts to suggest a more than coincidental pattern of seemingly targeted and organized disinformation." [6] The origin of this disinformation, according to Agoston, was probably within the SS itself, a program necessitated by Kammler's disappearance and likely treason to one of the victorious Allied powers.

The "first death of General Hans Kammler" is recounted by Albert Speer himself, in his last book. In this most simple version, Kammler ordered his adjutant to shoot him. The "suicide" allegedly took place in Prague as Kammler realized the war was lost and, according to Speer, "acted in elitist SS loyalty." As Agoston quips, "even the most ardent worshipper of Teutonic creed could not possibly suggest that elitist SS loyalty can be demonstrated three times, in three locations, and all on the same day."

The second version of the story, related to Agoston by Kammler's "civilian" aide Dr. Wilhelm Voss, was that the general took cyanide somewhere "on the road between Pilsen and Prague on May 9."

The third version of Kammler's death was doled out by V-2 rocket expert, General Walter Dornberger, subsequently employed by the American firm of Bell Aerospace. According to Dornberger, Kammler's mental and emotional state had quickly deteriorated in the final days of the war, and the general overheard Kammler ordering his aide to shoot him if things became "hopeless." But this does not square with Dornberger's close associate, Dr. Wernher Von Braun's own recollection of a conversation he overheard between Kammler and his aide Starck fully two weeks later.

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According to von Braun, Kammler and Starck discussed the possibility of "going underground" before the Americans arrived, disguising themselves as monks in a nearby abbey.This report, if true, is perhaps the most interesting, since it indicates that Kammler had no intentions of surrendering himself to any of the Allied powers, but rather, intended to survive, perhaps independently continuing his oversight of secret weapons development.

Another version of Kammler's death has him giving a speech to his assembled aides in Prague in early May 1945, dismissing them from their duties and advising them to return home, and then walking into a woods where he then shot himself.

And lastly, there is a version of Kammler's death that has him dying a typical SS hero's death, fighting and going down in a blaze of "glory" in the face of rebelling and revolting Czechs.

What emerges from all this is that no one, no where can advance anything like a consistent account of the date, location, time, or even method of Kammler's death. Now it is suicide by poison, then suicide by gunshot, suicide by ordering an aide to shoot him, a fighting death, or disappearance into a Roman Catholic monastery. Now he is in Prague, now he isn't; now he's with people, now he isn't; now he's suffering mental and emotional collapse, now he isn't.

In all likelihood, therefore, Kammler did not die at all; he disappeared. The important question is, where?

Agoston had established what no other researcher has managed to before or since. The unique information Agoston had came directly from SS colonel Wilhelm Voss who had become "Kammler's alter ego in the administration of the special projects group." As Kammler was the guy in charge of all the secret weapons operations, Voss was certainly in position to know deep secrets known only to the Nazi elite in the highly compartmentalized military system.

Agoston, who worked as an air photo interpreter and foreign correspondent during wartime, "ran into Voss" when he was in Germany to cover the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Voss then took shelter in Agoston's house, where he would tell the reporter everything. From those interviews conducted in 1949, Agoston learned of the deep black projects, the secrecy of which was beyond any other secret military project. This was the "most advanced high-technology research and development center within the Third Reich":

While Kammler [in charge of Nazi secret weapons projects] carried out his job to the letter, churning out the rockets and jet aircraft that Hitler hoped would turn the tide against the Allies in the closing weeks of the war, he also set up, unbeknownst to anyone connected with those projects, a top secret research center tasked with the development of follow-on technology, a place where work on "second-generation" secret weapons was already well advanced. What Kammler had established was a "special projects office," a forerunner of the entity that had been run by the bright young colonels of the USAF's stealth program in the 1970s and 1980s; a place of vision, where imagination could run free, unfettered by the restraints of accountability. Exactly the kind of place, in fact, you'd expect to find antigravity technology, if such an impossible thing existed.

Voss described the activities of the scientists [in this secret operation] as beyond any technology that had appeared by the end of the war - working on weapon systems that made the V-1 and the V-2 look pedestrian.

During the final phase of the war, Kammler was reportedly scheming to make a deal with the Americans, using his advanced weapons and specialists as leverage. By April 18, 1945, Kammler had disappeared without trace. Did Kammler negotiate successfully with the U.S. to realize his escape from justice? The fact that the U.S. official documents had virtually nothing on this central figure in the technological world of the Reich certainly hinted conversely that Kammler was very important to the U.S. and that the latter had something to hide about him.

Adding to this suspicion was what Voss said about his interview with the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps. When Voss told the agents about Kammler's secret weapons program, he saw that the Americans were not surprised by it and therefore had to conclude that they somehow already had this information. Voss also noted that the agents were simply not interested in finding Kammler. Additionally, it was found that "there were dozens of high-ranking former SS or Party members that had never been called to account. They had simply disappeared. Many of them shared the distinction of having had access to highly advanced technology."

Kammler was a ruthless and powerful SS officer who had committed numerous war crimes. Even Operation Paperclip would have had great trouble importing him into the United States. It probably could have been done under extreme secrecy, but the operation would have been too risky and extensive to appear manageable to U.S. agents - unless, Kammler had something so spectacular that the Americans just had to have, perhaps some exotic technology developed in one of his top-secret projects.

Generalleutnant Dornberger stated to Generalleutnant Heim that [SS Gruppenführer Hans] Kammler had been ordered by the Führer not to let Braun, Dornberger and the 450 scientists and technicians at Peenemünde fall into Anglo-American hands but to liquidate them all beforehand. It was a huge risk to Kammler's own personal safety to evacuate all the Peenemünde staff in April 1945 to Oberammergau, Bavaria, contrary to Hitler's orders. Why else would Kammler do so unless it was a bargaining chip for negotiations with the OSS [Operation Sunrise]

Members of Kammler's staff claimed he was still alive at Jacin in Czechoslovakia late in April 1945.

Enter into the picture a Junkers Ju-290 A-5 aircraft with constructor's number 110178. This aircraft was withdrawn from Luftwaffe service and rebuilt at Tempelhof into a civil aircraft in September 1944. It was given Deutsche Luft Hansa markings and civil serial as D-AITR "Bayeren". Conversion was completed October 1944.

Flughauptman Paul Sluzalek flew this aircraft from Prag to exile in Barcelona on 26 April 1945. It had a number of SS personnel aboard whom the Spanish have always refused to identify. Was Kammler a passenger with blessings of the OSS?

Both SS Lt Gen Hans Kammler and Adolf Eichmann were close to Prag about this same time and both disappeared. Although Eichmann is supposed to have escaped overland to Genoa, there is a very clear possibility that Kammler could have flown out of Prague and just maybe Eichman was with him on that Ju-290.

Whilst everybody has speculated the fate of Martin Bormann, the real scandal must be OSS dealings with Kammler.


Extract from:
The Hunt For Zero Point: One Man's Journey To Discover The Biggest Secret Since The Invention Of The Atom Bomb
by Nick Cook

The key man was a German engineer and administrator, Hans Kammler, who began as a civil servant with the Reich Air Ministry but whose ambition led him to the SS, where he became head of the Building and Works divisions that masterminded the concentration camps.

The failed attempt to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944 caused a violent purge of the German Army officers, including the head of Army armaments Friedrich Fromm, who had the misfortune of being the commanding officer of Lt. Col. Klaus Von Stauffenberg, the man who left the briefcase bomb in the conference room. Himmler assumed the imprisoned Fromm's duties, and the leadership of the Rocket program soon passed from the best of Germany's Prussian military tradition, represented by Walter Dornberger, to its worst. Himmler soon appointed a favorite 'rising star' in the organization, SS Major Hans Kammler, to run the rocket program. Things really got ugly under his influence.

Kammler was an icily calculating man whose ambition was matched only by his cruelty. His grim career included the demolition of the ruins left by the bloody suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the overall architectural layout of the Auschwitz death camp, including the fabrication of the gas chambers and crematoria. His new project was the 'Mittelwerk' V-2 factory tunneled within the Harz Mountains. Kammler would gather a work force by the expedient method of mass arrests, boasting openly about the 'protective custody' his workers toiled under. Early in one morning he awakened officers by firing a machine gun, yelling that if he couldn't sleep no one else would! In the deteriorating conditions of the later months of the war he assembled a sizable slave empire, and desperate projects were undertaken with no regard to the human cost. A few of the Peenemünde group who were assigned to work with him were later to regret that association, most notably Arthur Rudolph, a brilliant engineer who, after his work on Apollo's leviathan Saturn V rocket a generation later, would be hounded by reports of his working at the 'Mittelwerk' plant.

While searching for specialists in various critical fields among those caught up in the SS roundups, von Braun once visited the Buchenwald concentration camp and transferred prisoners from there to Mittelwerk. As bad as the use of slave labor is, at least such prisoners were moved to a place where the idea was to manufacture machines faster than manufacturing corpses. Thousands nevertheless died at Mittlewerk under hellish conditions. Kammler and his underlings worked masses of people to death in dank noisy tunnels. Shafts being tunneled by prisoners using hand tools often collapsed, burying in one case hundreds. Explosions killed more, with subsequent manufacturing improvements geared towards efficiency rather than safety. Under Kammler's direction over 1300 rockets would strike England, 518 on London.

On February 28, 1945 Kammler placed a pilot inside a 'Natter', which was a small piloted missile. This man, Luftwaffe Lieutenant Lothar Siebert, became the first person to be launched vertically in a rocket. The honor was a brief one. After climbing 330 feet, the cockpit bubble tore loose, abruptly decapitating the pilot. At 1600 feet the Natter faltered and dived, ending this inglorious debut for manned vertical rocket flight.

In the end, Kammler plunged to the depths of depravity, shooting groups of prisoners himself just for the hell of it. Once over 200 inmates fell victim to one of his blood orgies. Finally he retreated to his special train, the 'Vengeance Express' and issued a flurry of orders fewer people each day could respond to. Probably realizing his diminishing career potential, he finally ordered an aide to shoot him before the approaching Russians could capture him. Another story has him meeting his end in Czechoslovakia in an April gunfight with partisans.

Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister for Armaments, noted that Kammler was 'blond, blue-eyed, long-headed, always neatly dressed and well bred ... capable of unexpected decisions at any minute.'

It was the SS, not the Luftwaffe, that controlled Hitler's secret weapons programme and Kammler, a qualified engineer, soon became deeply involved.

He was clever and cruel 20,000 slave workers died creating the vast galleried complex hacked out under the Harz Mountains in Germany, where Kammler oversaw production of V1 rockets. One day in March 1945, the guards hanged 52 people in Gallery 41, tying a dozen at a time to a beam, which was then pulled up by a crane. Those next in line were forced to watch. These were Kammler's hallmarks.

Kammler rose to the rank of SS General, in charge not only of all aircraft and missile programmes but also his own highpowered research and development thinktank. He set up his secret operation in the vast Skoda industrial complex in Czechoslovakia, a country that the SS regarded as its own private domain.

Scientists there were working on weapons systems so futuristic that they made Germany's V1 and V2 rocket bombs look pedestrian. Among these were nuclear power plants for rockets and aircraft, highly sophisticated guided weapons and antiaircraft lasers.

But there was more. A Polish source told me the extraordinary story of 'The Bell'. Experiments had been taking place in a mine close to the Czech border. They involved feeding large doses of electricity into an underground chamber where a bell-shaped device emitted a pale blue light. Five scientists exposed to the device had died of side-effects. Word had it that they were investigating some kind of anti-gravitational effect. The Bell, which was about the height of a man and glowed during testing, was made of hard, heavy metal, filled with a violet mercury-like substance. This metallic liquid was stored in a flask, encased in lead three centimeters thick.

Experiments always took place under a thick ceramic cover and involved the rapid spinning of two cylinders in opposite directions. The chamber in which the experiments took place was deep below ground. Only The Bell itself was preserved after a series of tests, each lasting about one minute. Even the room was destroyed and rebuilt.

Various plants, and animals such as frogs, mice and rats, were exposed to The Bell's sphere of influence. Rapid decay set in and people who helped conduct the experiments suffered from sleep problems, memory loss and muscle spasms. One of the terms used was 'vortex compression'. Another was 'magnetic fields separation'. Both were associated with antigravity.

These secrets were undoubtedly Kammler's ticket to safety once war had ended. By mid April of 1945 Kammler had dropped off the map. He was a leading Nazi, implicated in the Final Solution yet protracted searches in the US National Archives yielded not a single mention.

How could this monster, the most powerful individual outside Hitler's inner circle, be so easily forgotten?

It was only as I gazed at the single wartime picture that exists of Kammler in his General's uniform, striding for the camera, his cap with death's head badge enough to one side to betray more than a hint of vanity - that I began to understand. Kammler was fair. Take away the uniform, and he could have been any 40 year old European male. In the chaos of the collapsing Reich, Kammler could have gone anywhere, assumed any persona, and no one would have noticed.

Kammler, who had moved his HQ to Munich, told Albert Speer he would offer the Americans 'jet planes and rockets'. He also let slip he had 'other developments' up his sleeve.

He probably went east, back to his 'special projects group' in Czechoslovakia, rather than simply wait for the Americans to arrive in Munich. He had a twofold purpose in making his dangerous journey. First, to retrieve the mother lode of documentation and blueprints. And second, to hide it prior to setting up the deal, which would buy his freedom.

Although the Skoda Works were in, the Soviet zone of occupation, US forces had the run of the place for six days before the Red Army turned up.

Plenty of time to remove something you want if you know it is there. Or ignore it, if you have it already. The Americans appeared indifferent to any pointers towards Kammler. Had he already done a deal with the Americans? The answer must be yes.

The Bell was removed by a special SS evacuation team just before the Russians arrived. More than 60 Scientists working on the experiment were then ruthlessly killed to preserve the secrets of the mine. The Bell was shipped out but to where?

One possibility was using one of the northern Adriatic ports that remained in German hands. A U-boat commander could conceivably have run the gauntlet of the Allies to evacuate cargo and personnel by sea. Another possibility was a heavy transport plane used by a special German air force wing and flown under an enemy or neutral flag. Either way, Kammler had the means to move thousands of tons of documentation, equipment and personnel pretty much where he wanted.

At the end of the Second World War, via captured technology from Germany that has never seen the light of day, America acquired knowledge of the most dangerous kind.

Whatever the secrets, of The Bell and other technology, the German secret weapons programme had yielded the ability to design a radically different form of aircraft. A craft that was 'circular or elliptical', made no sound and could turn on a sixpence. And one involving a process, which could also be harnessed to create a weapon more destructive than the hydrogen bomb.

With the help of German-derived science, America's technological lead over the rest of the world accelerated after the war. Kammler's secrets from the Skoda Works had moved 4,000 miles to the west and Kammler had come with it.

The extensive US recruitment programme would have bent over backwards to accommodate Kammler, keeper of the Third Reich's most exotic military secrets.

There is evidence that the Americans did produce such technology. A memo in the archives of the Imperial War Museum, written by Lieutenant General Nathan Twining, head of US Army Air Forces' Air Material Command, a brigadier in USAAF intelligence in September 1947, stated that objects 'approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to be as large as a manmade aircraft, were neither 'visionary nor fictitious'.

Twining went on to write that it was possible 'within the present US knowledge provided extensive detailed development is undertaken to construct a piloted aircraft which has the general description of the object above which would be capable of an approximate range of 7,000 miles...'

His memo was written just three months after the supposed crash of a UFO at Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947; the period many people tout as the real start of the modern UFO sightings.

Not all attempts to produce disc technology were successful. It emerged, during the 1959 hearings of the Space Committee of the US Congress, that the US Department of Defense had been working with the Avro Canada company to develop a 'flying saucer'.

The Avrocar, as it was called, was the brainchild of gifted British engineer John Frost, who had moved to Canada after the war. News leaked as early as 1953, when a Canadian newspaper revealed plans for it to take off and land vertically, and fly at 1,500 mph.

It was easy to see why Avro played down reports of the Avrocar. One look at the prototype, underpowered and unstable, was enough to confirm it would never achieve supersonic flight. It became an aviation joke, which drifted into obscurity. Yet, that may have been the intention.

Recently declassified papers show that Avro was working on a range of flying saucers capable of eclipsing existing jet-fighters. And the US air force had bought Avro's disc-shaped designs for craft called Project Silverbug, capable of almost instant high-speed turns in any direction.

Were the Americans using the Canadians to perfect the aerodynamics of a flying saucer? Or had the disastrous Avro programme been hushed up to avoid embarrassment? Either way, it showed that man-made flying saucers existed.

There was no golden age, as 'The G-Engines Are Coming!' had predicted. At least, not in the open. But I discovered evidence of mysterious aircraft which chimed with reduced gravity systems.

Since the Eighties, there has been speculation about the existence of a mythical plane called Aurora that supposedly flew on the edges of space. In 1992, there was a detailed sighting of a massive triangular-shaped aircraft spotted flying in formation with US air force bombers above the North Sea.

In Belgium, in 1989 and again a year later, hundreds of people reported seeing silent triangular shaped craft all over the country. They were tracked by Belgian radar and pulled turns of about 20G40G enough to kill a human pilot. The Belgian air force confirmed their existence in a government report.

I also discovered evidence of the Pentagon's enormous 'black budgets', which finance deeply classified defence programmes.

Huge amounts of money have been spent, often in areas of the US where UFO reports are most common. What happened to Kammler's secrets, and was antigravity among them?

The Hunt for Zero Point
The Atlantic Monthly, September 5, 2002

Nick Cook, a respected military journalist, describes his foray into a hidden ''black world'' where powerful technologies of warfare are born.

To those who spend their time scanning reams of dry defense-spending documents, the black budget is a well-known bit of excitement. It is the discrepancy that's left when all the known weapons procurements, research programs, and technical developments are added up. It's also where groundbreaking technologies, such as stealth, are developed under code names like ''Black Light,'' ''Classic Wizard,'' and ''Link Plumeria.'' These technologies are kept secret during their gestation because to even hint at the ideas behind them would be to reveal too much. This year, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the U.S. military's black budget will rise to levels not seen since the 1980s, from $16.2 billion last year to $20.3 billion.

There is no way to know exactly what that money is being spent on, but Nick Cook has some ideas. For fifteen years Cook has been a defense and aerospace reporter for Jane's Defence Weekly, which some consider the bible of the international defense community. During his career Cook has often brushed up against the ''black world'' and has even delved into it, both in reporting for Jane's on advances like the B-2 bomber, and in working on a documentary, Billion Dollar Secret, that probed the U.S. military's classified (or black) weapons programs.

This last project was something of a prelude to Cook's new book, The Hunt for Zero Point: Inside the Classified World of Antigravity Technology, which documents his ten-year search for a mythical technology that all the brightest minds in aerospace were gushing about in the early 1950s. Strangely, just a few years later the aerospace world was suddenly silent on the subject. After about 1956, anyone who mentioned antigravity, or the once-imminent ''G-engines,'' was given a wide berth. It was an odd switch that left Cook with questions: Had there been anything to these rumors and reports? If not, why the hype? If so, what had happened? So he set out to look for answers, and what he found was surprising. Cook traced a long succession of both military and civilian scientists and engineers working to develop a branch of applied physics for which we still have no vocabulary, but which seems to involve manipulating the little-understood quantum-level ''zero-point field'' to achieve peculiar effects, like shielding objects from gravity. If this were developed and incorporated into flight vehicles, the implications could hardly be understated: antigravity would forever alter the world's economy, make global transport systems obsolete, and, of course, change the face of warfare. Some also felt that the zero-point field could be an enormous source of energy, if only people could learn how to tap it.

Against the advice of his colleagues and friends, and against his own better judgment and career interests, Cook felt he couldn't ignore the leads he uncovered, which drew him through the black labyrinth back to an unexpected place: Nazi territory around the end of World War II. That is where, Cook claims, some of these technologies were first developed and then acquired by American and Russian forces, who raced to pillage the underground facilities around Pilsen in the Czech Republic and around Breslau (now Wroclaw) in Poland. There an SS general named Hans Kammler operated the ''wonder weapons'' program, which the Nazis were convinced would propel them ahead of the Allies to win the war. At the war's end Kammler disappeared. Though he had been one of the main planners of the death camps, his name was never mentioned at the war-crimes trials in Nuremberg.

One conclusion Cook reaches in The Hunt for Zero Point is that some of the ''Foo Fighters'' that World War II pilots reported seeing over Axis territories may have been German prototypes of new flying machines that used antigravity technology. He also posits that somewhere in the black world, work has likely continued along these lines, and that much of the wackiness surrounding sightings of ''UFOs'' has been deliberately spun to ward off investigations of new technologies in development.

Since the book's publication in Britain, Cook has uncovered documents detailing Boeing's antigravity research program at the top-secret Phantom Works, where the company is striving to develop ''propellantless propulsion'' ahead of its competitors. Writing in Jane's Defence Weekly, Cook quoted the documents as saying that along with Boeing's own program, other ''classified activities in gravity modification may exist''—suggesting that antigravity may, in fact, have been more than a 1950's fantasy.

For his work at Jane's, Nick Cook has received the Royal Aeronautical Society's Aerospace Journalist of the Year Award four times, in the Defence, Business, Technology, and Propulsion categories. He also writes for The Financial Times, The London Times and often comments on defense and security for the BBC and CNN. I spoke to him at his home in London.

Frank Bures

QUESTION : Black projects? Nazi weapons programs? Antigravity? UFOs? A lot of people are going to read the dust jacket of your book and think you've fallen out of your tree. What's the reception been?

COOK : The response to the UK edition has been remarkably good. The really pleasing thing has been the reaction of people within the aerospace business. Everything in this book had to pass muster with me, through a set of criteria that I would apply to any Jane's story. I've read a lot of conspiracy-based books—UFO treatises and heaven knows what—none of which satisfied my professional curiosity. I realized that to go that extra mile, I was going to have to be rigorous in my research. And if what I found didn't match my own criteria, I wasn't going to put it down on the page. Consequently, there's reams of stuff I left out because it didn't match up to the professional standards that I, as a Jane's-trained journalist, had come to expect in other stories.

QUESTION : The subject has been kind of a poison pill in the past, hasn't it?

COOK : Yes, I guess so. People were begging me, urging me, not to get involved in this story. But in the end I couldn't ignore the evidence that I was uncovering and that was being presented to me. You can only stare at evidence so long before it starts to pull you in. I was really dragged reluctantly, kicking and screaming, into the story, as you can see from the book.

I found the evidence overwhelming that something—and I stress something—is going on. I don't reach any definitive, Holy Grail conclusions about antigravity beyond the fact that there are people out there who are regularly practicing it. People have asked me, ''Well, do you know that the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. military have this squirreled away somewhere and are developing hardware?'' No, I don't. And I don't dress up The Hunt for Zero Point in that way. Where I do have evidence I present it. For example, I think the evidence of what the Germans were doing during the Second World War is overwhelming. But I don't make any bold claims for what the U.S. is doing, simply because I don't have the evidence for it. Also, I think my experience in covering aerospace programs has been beneficial, in that I'm able to extrapolate a little. And where I do extrapolate in the book, I make it clear that it is my own extrapolation.

For instance, based on what we know of black program activity in the States, based on what we know the black budget is worth, and based on what I know the U.S. Air Force is capable of in terms of turning vision into reality, I extrapolate that it is not unreasonable to think that they have taken antigravity technology, which has been around for fifty years, and put it to some use.

QUESTION : Throughout the book, one of the themes seems to be how your world gradually splits into a white world, where everything is open and aboveboard and accessible—the one you report on for Jane's—and a black one that you can just make out the shape of, and that swallows billions of dollars developing experimental technologies, but that slips away whenever you get close. What can you tell us about this black world?

COOK : You're right in that most of my reporting for Jane's is on the white world. That's the visible and accessible side of the U.S. aerospace and defense industry. On the other hand, I have made extensive investigations into the black world as well—that world in which America develops systems it doesn't want anyone else to know about. What really got me into it was one of the most significant aerospace and defense technologies to come out of the black world in living memory—and that's stealth. Stealth is a technology that I was forced to investigate, along with many of my colleagues, because it became the most dominant military aerospace technology of the past two decades. And in investigating stealth I and, I stress, my colleagues became exposed to other black-world technologies, some of which are detailed in the book.

A very small proportion of the reporting was deep throat, cloak-and-dagger activity. Much of it was simply going to people who had worked on stealth programs and were now free to talk about them. Through that kind of exposure, you do get a very good idea of what goes on inside the black world and of its worth. It has a vast and sprawling architecture funded by tens of billions of classified dollars every year. The height of its powers was probably in the Reagan era. But it has not stopped since then. In fact, under the Bush Administration it is having something of a resurgence. So the black world is real, it's there.

QUESTION : In The Hunt for Zero Point you wrote that, ''Like an unsinkable ship, the black world had been built up around multiple, layered compartments, each securely sealed. Some of these compartments, it is now clear, had been designed never to be opened again. Ever. '' Why ever?

COOK : There are some technologies, I think, that are so significant merely in the ideas behind them that to allow those ideas to percolate into the wider world would give other people those same ideas about developing real hardware. And part of the trick behind really advanced technology is sometimes to not even let your enemies know you've got the idea in the first place. Stealth technology is a primary example of that. But if you go back even further and think about the atomic bomb, that was another one.

During the Second World War, when it became clear that an atomic bomb was feasible, the U.S. scientific community voluntarily purged official documentation of all references to the potential of fission. Sometimes, born of radical science, you can get radical weapons systems that most people haven't even thought of.

QUESTION : In your experience, just how black are these programs? Don't they have to be reported to certain U.S. Congress members?

COOK : Well, the black world has opened up. There are reporting mechanisms designed to keep Congress, or certain very highly cleared members of Congress, aware of what is happening in the black world. However, having said that, there are degrees of black, and at the blackest, there are undoubtedly programs that are not cleared by Congress, again for the very reasons that I have just discussed.

For the TV program Billion Dollar Secret I interviewed a congressman called Dana Rohrabacher, who was the chair of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and of the House Science Committee. Now, he was convinced that the U.S. military had developed an aircraft like the one referred to in the book as Aurora, which is a hypersonic, very fast spy-plane prototype. But he said that his efforts to get any information on that program, if indeed it exists, were constantly frustrated. And he's an influential member of the science panel in Congress.

QUESTION : You went from thinking the existence of antigravity technology was ''sheer fantasy'' to saying there is ''clear evidence'' of it. What changed your mind?

COOK : Well, it was a gradual transition. But it was a combination of things, really. The whole black world that we've discussed was the place where those sorts of technologies could come together, for a start. Secondly, the documented progress that was being made on certain physics problems in the antigravity field. In the book I go into the Podkletnov case, this Russian scientist who is able to generate a reduction in the weight of objects that he puts above rapidly rotating superconductors. Now, Podkletnov is undeniably generating a weight reduction. And he's doing it on a shoestring. So that was another nail in the coffin for me. And thirdly, by going back in history to a period where research was unfettered—seeing what the Nazis were doing in the science field when they had absolutely no restraints on them. The SS in particular had a pretty much unrestrained budget. They documented what they did, and uncovering that documentation allowed me to see that this research into antigravity technology was not a recent phenomenon, but had been going on for quite some time.

So it was a combination of those things. The history—the fact that it had been going on a long time ago—mirrored in a real sense by what people are doing on a shoestring today. Couple that with what is potentially achievable in the black world, and you start to see that the potential payoff for this research is enormous. For payoff, you go to people like Hal Puthoff, a very respected scientist in the field, and say, ''All right Hal, gaze into your crystal ball and tell me what you think might be achievable.'' And the guy says, ''There's enough energy in your coffee cup to evaporate the world's oceans many times over.'' Now, I'm a hard-bitten defense reporter, but that gets my attention.

QUESTION : So the other side of the antigravity coin seems to be ''zero-point energy,'' this energy that exists in the quantum vacuum—a kind of subatomic froth that may even give electrons their charge. Some scientists say the amount of energy we're talking about here is a lot. Some say it's a little. Where do you come down on that?

COOK : Puthoff's theories lead him to the belief that the zero-point field is not simply a vast sea of untapped energy, but that it is also responsible for some of the underpinnings of physics—things like gravity and inertia, for example. Certainly that seems to be borne out by more and more experimentation—and more and more people are coming round to that point of view.

QUESTION : Anybody recently who's come around to that?

COOK : NASA's breakthrough propulsion physics program is interesting, in that here is a mainstream body—you can't get much more mainstream or respectable than NASA—which is funding experiments into breakthrough propulsion physics, one of which is Podkletnov's claim that you can get an object to lose some of its weight by suspending it above rotating superconductors.

Going back to the weapons that are too dangerous to be let out, do you think that zero-point energy could possibly be one of those technologies? What kind of explosive could result from it? I'm just thinking of the Canadian researcher John Hutchison and the things he was doing.

Hutchison is interesting, He's not a trained scientist. He's not an academic. He's just one of these guys who has an intuitive feel for electricity in particular, and other aspects of physics. He puts bits of machinery together. He tunes them. He adapts them. And from those pieces of machinery he's able to transmute metals—steel into lead, or lead into steel. But he doesn't understand how he's doing it. He feels intuitively that he's pulling these effects from the zero-point field. Now, normally to transmute a metal, you need about the same amount of energy as you get out of a low-yield nuclear weapon. And Hutchison's doing that from his wall socket.

Those transmutations were documented by a Pentagon team. Now, I tend to sit up and listen when Pentagon evaluation experts are themselves paying attention to things like that. If somebody like Hutchison can do transmutations on a shoestring, that clearly is of concern—particularly as he doesn't fully understand how he's producing these very curious results. And I don't think anyone else does either. People are beginning to postulate that from the zero-point field—if we can call it a field—you could eventually get truly awesome weapons. People were saying similar kinds of things about fission in the late 1930s, and look where that got us.

QUESTION : One of the most gripping parts of your book is the description of ''Operation Paperclip''—the dismantling and retrieval of all known German technology, science, and related expertise at the end of World War II. You write that this ''state within a state had been transported four thousand miles to the west''—to the United States. When learning about today's black world, why is it important to go back and study Operation Paperclip?

COOK : Two things. First of all, we know the size and scope of Operation Paperclip, which was huge. And we know that the U.S. operates a very deeply secret defense architecture for secret-weapons programs that we know as the black world. It is a highly compartmentalized system and one of the things that's intrigued me over the years is, How did they develop that? What model did they base it on?

It is remarkably similar to the system that was operated by the Germans—specifically the SS—for their top-secret weapons programs during the Second World War. Now, did someone, Hans Kammler or anyone else, provide that model lock, stock, and barrel to the U.S. government at the end of the war? I don't know the answer to that, but given the massive recruitment that went on under Paperclip, and given what we see in the black world, it might not be unreasonable to ask those questions.

QUESTION : You also write that the black world in America is a ''low-grade reflection'' of the system Kammler built to protect Nazi weapons research.

COOK : I'm not for a second saying that there is direct linkage there. What I do mean is that if you follow the trail of Nazi scientists and engineers who were recruited by America at the end of the Second World War, the unfortunate corollary is that by taking on the science, you take on—unwittingly—some of the ideology. The science comes over tainted with something else. And that something else you have to be very careful of. It carries unpleasant side effects with it, in that if you're not careful, you lose sight of what it is you're protecting. What you're ultimately trying to protect is U.S. national interest and U.S. security. But not at any cost. I think that's the point that many people make who've brushed up against the black world and found their human rights violated by it. Not many have, but certainly some have. Those people question whether that unswerving loyalty to protecting high technology was worth it. What do you lose along the way? You lose some democracy, perhaps.

QUESTION : For those who haven't read the book, can you say briefly who Hans Kammler is?

COOK : He was an SS general who, by the end of the Second World War, was in charge of all of the Nazis' secret-weapons programs. He was an extremely powerful man. He was up to his neck in the Holocaust as well, and amongst his earlier responsibilities he had been one of the main architects of the death camps. Now, at the end of the Second World War, he disappeared. And from what little documentary history he left behind, we know that he was thinking of trading his war crimes for technology, which he wanted to give to the Americans in order to buy himself immunity. But his crimes were so heinous that immunity for someone like Kammler wouldn't be enough. He'd actually have to buy disappearance. So Kammler disappeared, and no one knows where he went.

What is remarkable about Kammler is that so few people know his name. And yet at the end of the Second World War, he was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany. He should have been tried in absentia at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials. But his name didn't even surface there, even though others who couldn't be found were tried in absentia.

So it's very strange, but his hold over the high-technology weapons—the wonder weapons, the Germans called them, these weapons that they thought would win them the war right at the last minute—his hold over those weapons at the end of the war was absolute. And in the book, we glimpse some of those weapons. Who knows what else was in his Pandora's box of technologies?

When I started the book I thought all this stuff about the Germans was mythology peddled by cranks and weirdoes and conspiracy nuts. But one of the most satisfying aspects of the research for me was going into modern day Germany, Austria, and the former Czechoslovakia and finding that, contrary to all my expectations, there actually is real, tangible evidence that what the Germans were doing in this field was true. That's not to say it's all true. But in some cases there is real documented evidence, evidence that I was able to look at: diaries I was able to touch and see, plans I was able to look at—original plans—for these devices.

QUESTION : What devices?

COOK : Ones that A) generated an antigravity effect, and that B) were tapping into the zero-point field to produce energy. Even if you don't want to believe that that's what they were doing—generating an antigravity effect or a zero point energy effect—it's clear that the Germans themselves believed this stuff. And that they threw real money at these programs to get them to work.

That was the thing that really made me sit up and take note. The Germans, who aren't known as slouches in the engineering field, truly believed that by throwing money at these programs, they could get them to work. As an old skeptic, what I do is follow the money trail. And I followed the money trail in Nazi Germany just as I followed the money trail in the black world. At the end of that trail, you often come across a real program, a real piece of technology that, when you throw a brick at it, it goes clang. It's real.

QUESTION : The archivist at Modern Military Records in Maryland told you that Hans Kammler had been ''redlined.'' Can you explain what that means?

COOK : I made a lot of inquiries through her, and she found it extraordinary, given what I told her about Kammler—I had to tell her about Kammler—that there was absolutely nothing on him in the National Archive, given that just about everything he was doing should have been documented in the files somewhere. The fact that there was nothing on him was therefore highly suspicious, and in her view tended to support the theory that he'd been redlined. In other words, somebody had gone in and cleared out any meaningful documents on him.

QUESTION : You also write that the black world in America is a ''low-grade reflection'' of the system Kammler built to protect Nazi weapons research.

I'm not for a second saying that there is direct linkage there. What I do mean is that if you follow the trail of Nazi scientists and engineers who were recruited by America at the end of the Second World War, the unfortunate corollary is that by taking on the science, you take on—unwittingly—some of the ideology. The science comes over tainted with something else. And that something else you have to be very careful of. It carries unpleasant side effects with it, in that if you're not careful, you lose sight of what it is you're protecting. What you're ultimately trying to protect is U.S. national interest and U.S. security. But not at any cost. I think that's the point that many people make who've brushed up against the black world and found their human rights violated by it. Not many have, but certainly some have. Those people question whether that unswerving loyalty to protecting high technology was worth it. What do you lose along the way? You lose some democracy, perhaps.

QUESTION : Another thing I found interesting was your point that the Nazis had developed an entirely different approach to science, because they thought Einsteinian physics was ''Jewish science.'' What was different about the Nazi scientific culture?

COOK : I think a lot of things, but in simple terms, it was an extraordinary time. Basically, these people came to power in 1933 and by 1945 they were defeated. So there was this small window of time—twelve years—in which things were really turned on their heads in Germany. And during that period, science along with many other things developed in a kind of vacuum. They were certainly aware of things that were going on outside Germany. But inside Germany they often developed very different approaches to things. Certainly the approaches that they were using to develop the bomb were dissimilar to the techniques being used by the Americans. Whereas most of the rest of the world was absorbed by Einstein's views of relativity and a big-picture view of the universe, the Germans were very interested in quantum science, in quantum mechanics, and what was happening on a micro scale—on a subatomic scale. So you had two markedly different scientific cultures developing at the same time.

QUESTION : In the book you touch a bit on the sticky issue of UFOs. Do you think the UFOs people saw during and after the war are experimental military craft?

COOK : I'd hoped at the beginning of the book that I might be able to shed some light on what the UFO phenomenon is all about. But at the end of the book I say, Look, I don't have enough evidence to reach any firm conclusions on that subject. But all I can say is that, given that we know that the Germans—at least I know to my satisfaction, based on what I uncovered—were looking at disc-shaped aircraft during the Second World War and that there were various other programs looking into similar such fields, you can probably say that there are disk-shaped vehicles out there that have been developed in a prototype kind of sense, which may explain some sightings.

If the body of sightings is any kind of yardstick of whether UFOs are real, then some of those sightings, I think, could be explained by experimental military vehicles. But not all of them. At that point the trained skeptic in me says, enough, I'm not going to postulate on that. It's a swamp. It's a bottomless swamp, and I didn't want to get involved in it.

QUESTION : One of your conclusions was that the UFO obsession serves as kind of a cheap security measure to keep serious investigators from looking into black technologies. Is that right?

COOK : Yes, I think that's unquestionably true. Whether that's intentional or a neat bit of happenstance for the U.S. military, I don't know. There is certainly evidence that they have manipulated the phenomenon from time to time to obscure their very real developments. The CIA recently admitted that it had given UFO stories a spin from time to time in the fifties and sixties to hide what they were up to in the spy-plane field during that same time period.

QUESTION : Now, as a defense program, how do you think antigravity technology would change the face of warfare?

COOK : Well, in a number of basic ways. First of all, you don't need a propellant. It's a reactionless motor, so that would be immensely beneficial simply in terms of fuel consumption. But that's a very menial advantage, in a sense. I think the real potential is that if what you are doing is manipulating the forces of nature, you may get untold effects from that manipulation, effects that we can probably only guess at right now, but which would lead to ultra-fast flight, extraordinary maneuverability, and stealth—the ultimate stealth vehicle, if you like.

All the things that the military is really striving for may be possible through this technology, or though this field. And it is born of pure physics, which the military always loves. Pure physics gave rise to the bomb. Pure physics also gave rise to stealth. If you can crack the physics, a whole new world opens up to you. That is a very powerful and seductive idea. And the military loves those powerful and seductive ideas. But it's afraid of them as well, because if it can get a hold of them, other people can too.

QUESTION : In the epilogue you say there's been a change in the climate around issues like antigravity and zero-point energy. What has that change been?

COOK : I detect it in a lot of literature—newspapers, that sort of thing. But it's difficult to hang my hat on, really. I guess my experience that's come out of the writing of the book would bear this out as well, which is that at the beginning of this story, I go into it incredibly concerned about my reputation, worried that I, who am interested in solid aerospace and defense programs, should be drawn into this field, much against my will. But by the end of the story—and now—I can hardly believe I had all those concerns. It seems that in the ten years I've been researching the book, we have become much more willing to accept non-mainstream ideas, or ideas that a few years ago were considered taboo. People are asking the questions. That's the good thing. And as long as they keep asking the questions in this field, which is really what I'm trying to do, I think that's a positive development.

I think what is less than helpful is when people just dismiss these ideas out of hand, and by the same token accept them out of hand. At the moment, I'm trying to stick to a middle ground and ask the questions, because I think they deserve to be asked.


--Michael Thad Allen. The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor, and the Concentration Camps. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. xii ISBN 0-8078-2677-4.
Reviewed by: L. M. Stallbaumer-Beishline , Department of History, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

The Ideology of SS Bureaucrats

The major question driving Michael Thad Allen's The Business of Genocide is what motivated mid-level SS bureaucrats in their pursuits of industry, slave labor, and murder. Allen rejects Hannah Arendt's theory of the banality of evil, as well as the explanation that SS bureaucrats were simply cogs in a machine that operated beyond their control. Instead, he argues that mid-level SS managers in the WVHA (Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt, or Business Administration Main Office) were driven primarily by a "plexus of ideologies." In doing so, he challenges the supposition of many studies, that Nazi bureaucrats were repulsed by their actions. Rather, he argues they were committed to the leadership principle of "productivism," modernization, racial supremacy, and the goal of creating an SS "New Order" throughout Europe. SS ideals shaped the bureaucracy and provided it with enough ideological consistency. Allen believes that rather than factional disputes, far more cooperation within the SS leadership was possible than other historians have portrayed.

Allen's study focuses on activities of the WVHA, which was formed out of a desire by Himmler to introduce modern, managerial practices to the financial administration and economic enterprises of the SS. Himmler's interests in the economy reflected his goal to bring the SS worldview into private industry and to create a new economic order founded on productivism and German racial supremacy. The earliest companies acquired included a publishing company, Nordland Verlag; a photographic studio, FF Bauer; the Allach Porcelain Manufacture, which made "kitschy statuettes"; and the Anton Loibl GmbH, which claimed to conduct "high-tech research and development but produced bicycle lights". The choice of these early enterprises (as well as those acquired during the war years) hardly suggests that the SS was seeking to create an empire, but that Himmler was trying to provide a cultural service to promote a German national community. For example, the SS established the German Earth and Stone Works (Deutsche Erde- und Steinwerke, DESt), to contribute to Hitler's favorite architectural projects.

As the financial activities of the SS expanded in 1937-1938, Himmler made Oswald Pohl responsible for modernizing the economic administration. Pohl's efforts would lead to the formal establishment of the WVHA in 1942. Pohl was dedicated to Himmler's New Order, and he tried to recruit men who shared these views. Therefore, the ideological commitment of the SS managers was of foremost importance to their appointments. If they were also talented, modern managers, they were highly effective. But this was apparently rare, and with one exception all of the SS commercial enterprises were poorly managed.

Against the backdrop of how the WVHA emerged and functioned, Allen examines the careers of several men in the commercial and engineering sectors of the SS economic administration. He convincingly illustrates that the SS mid-level managers were driven by a "plexus of ideologies." They were neither cogs in a machine, nor trapped in a bureaucratic "iron cage," nor banal technocrats. Allen finds that the commercial pursuits of the SS were far less successful than the construction engineers. He explains the differences in outcome may be due to the engineers' ability to combine technical knowledge with ideological commitment. This becomes obvious when we compare Allen's study of DESt, TexLed (Textil- und Lederverwertung GmbH, Textile and Leather Utilitzation Ltd), and Hans Kammler's SS construction corps.

Allen demonstrates that the SS was interested in modernization and technology, but according to his analysis they did not pursue technology rationally (this makes them no less modern in Allen's definition). The SS managers of the commercial operations showed an affinity for "sweet machines," the newest technology. This is what motivated Arthur Ahrens, the first manager of DESt, to adopt the dry brick making process offered by Spengler Maschinenbau, a process that depended upon adequate clay supplies and skilled laborers that were unsuited for DESt. The company was so poorly managed that an investigation led to Ahrens' replacement by Erduin Schondorff, the first "outsider" whom Pohl recruited. Appointing an outsider with technical expertise proves to Allen that Pohl and Himmler were committed to modernizing the economic administration of the SS enterprises. Schondorff was attracted to the SS because it encouraged technological innovations; he was less interested in other aspects of SS ideology. Schondorff introduced modern, managerial practices such as statistical surveillance of labor and imposed an impersonal hierarchy at the operations. However, DESt continued to blunder forward because Schondorff was never able to integrate effectively the use of modern machines with the exploitation of unskilled concentration camp laborers. The failure of DESt stands in sharp contrast to the success of TexLed.

TexLed's success can be explained by several factors, including the simple fact that textile manufacturing is a labor intensive job which proved perfectly suited to the use of concentration camp laborers. Yet sound management also contributed to TexLed's ability to meet supply demands and run at a profit. TexLed was managed by Fritz Lechler and Felix Krug, who fully identified with the SS plexus of ideologies, and they possessed modern, technological management skills. Like Ahrens, they purchased the most modern sewing machines that could increase output, but did not require skilled laborers. Therefore, their operations fully exploited concentration camp labor through modern managerial techniques, controlled labor costs, and profit-oriented operations. At both German commercial operations, forced laborers were exploited and treated cruelly (a topic that is discussed only briefly), but TexLed demonstrated to Allen that "ideological extremism" and business sense could be integrated coherently. TexLed and DESt are just two of the case studies of SS commercial operations examined by Allen. In all of his examples, it appears that TexLed's success was mere happen chance despite Pohl's efforts. He was rarely able to recruit competent modern managers, who were fully dedicated to SS ideology.

Hans Kammler, who led the SS construction corps, appears to be the exception. He embodied the ideal, modern SS bureaucrat, was dedicated to the SS cause, and held a degree in engineering. The SS construction corps earned great notoriety for building underground manufacturing sites, as well as the concentration camps. Indeed, Allen maintains:

Only Hans Kammler and his SS Building Inspectors were capable of providing essential service to the war economy by forging a mutual sense of purpose with competent industrial managers and by providing the knowledge and skills to bend the complex world of production to the Third Reich's needs/

In 1941-1942, Kammler introduced a hierarchy in the Construction Corps that encouraged creativity, accountability, and interchangeability. He recruited young engineers, largely from the air force, who possessed the "old Staffel spirit". Kammler was an interventionist manager, who showed great skill at exploiting and moving forced laborers from one construction site to another. This is particularly evident in the construction of underground factories. Kammler's construction corps achieved their goal efficiently and promptly because they were willing to exploit their laborers to the point of working them to death. Ideology gave Kammler's engineers common identity which improved their output while treating the slave laborers under their command brutally.

In Allen's discussion of the concentration camps, we realize that not all the SS branches were committed to modernization. One branch of the WVHA was never fully modernized: the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps (IKL) which provided the labor for SS projects and private enterprises. The concentration camp system began in the Third Reich with the primary goal of policing inmates. Only when labor shortages began to develop in Germany by 1936-1937, was the use of concentration camp inmates as laborers conceived. While the commercial operations of the WVHA needed productive workers, the IKL, administered by the Death's Head Units, placed a "primacy on policing" and encouraged brutal treatment of inmates. The WVHA consistently struggled with the IKL over which of these goals was more important, but they never morally questioned the abuse of slave laborers. Pohl's first attempt to impose modern management on the IKL came with the creation of a new Office I/5 whose "sole duty was to smooth out the IKL's labor allocations to the German Commercial Operations" . Wilhelm Burböck was appointed leader and given the title of Deputy for the Labor Action (Beauftragter für den Arbeitseinsatz). Burboeck and his men never acquired the cooperation of the IKL. In fact, Office I/5 was essentially taken over by the IKL. In early 1942, as the demand for labor increased, Pohl made another institutional attempt to gain the IKL's cooperation in productivist ideology and appointed Gerhard Maurer to lead Office Group D2-Labor Action. The most lasting change that Burböck and Maurer made was to introduce and then improve upon the statistical surveillance of the concentration camp populations. Burböck created a category for inmates "unfit to labor;" Maurer provided a more detailed description of this category including numerical codes and standardized forms, and compelled the IKL to cooperate. Unfortunately, as Allen points out, these statistics facilitated the IKL's identification of concentration camp inmates, who were then killed because they were deemed "unfit to work" (Operation 14 f 13).

Allen's study not only challenges scholars to rethink the motivations of SS bureaucrats, but also boldly challenges conventional interpretations about the problem of modernity and the issue of polycracy in the Third Reich. On the subject of modernity, Allen warns us not "to conflate 'modernity' with 'rationality' and 'pure' technocratic instrumentalism, or insist that modernization necessarily leads to a democratic polity, or the full-flowering of the Enlightenment". He is quite right, yet, his own definition of what is "modern" appears inconsistent. For example, when Allen assesses the administrative practices of Burböck, he describes his efforts as a "sham" and a conscious pretense at modern management" . Allen implies that because Burböck's aspirations did not lead to expected outcomes, his innovations were somehow less modern. Yet, it was Burböck's statistical surveillance which Maurer improved upon that leads Allen to describe the latter as a "capable, inspiring, and interventionist [i.e. modern] manager" (p. 183). One suspects that the difference between the two men has less to do with modernization theories than the fact that Maurer was more competent, a workaholic, and had the advantage of studying Burböck's "system," which had no precedence. Would Maurer have been so successful if he did not have Burböck's failed efforts as an example? If modern simply means "a new culture of technology and science," then were not Burböck and Maurer equally modern, applying the science of business management to their tasks, but that the former was just less competent than the latter? In short, the criteria of what makes an SS bureaucrat modern is problematic, apparently relative, and open to debate.

For those who study the Third Reich, Allen raises another important issue: is polycratic rule unique to National Socialism? This is an interesting question, although not entirely relevant and difficult to prove. The more pertinent question seems to be whether or not the concept of polycracy has lost its usefulness. Allen's discussion of this concept would have been more convincing had he offered a more in-depth explanation of the term. Instead, he reduces polycracy to mean nothing more than a simple "divvying up [of] tasks" common to all bureaucracies. This is, however, far from the original meaning outlined by Peter Hüttenberger, Martin Broszat, and others. Polycratic interpretations are based on the belief that the Nazis relied heavily on personal rule, an idea embodied in the leadership principle. Subsequently, studying power struggles (that is the patronage networks), rivalries and feuds is of paramount importance. Polycratic interpretations do not deny that cooperation was possible, indeed, it was imperative. Where Allen differs from the more standard works is a matter of emphasis. Allen acknowledges that polycratic infighting occurred, but he prefers to emphasize the points of cooperation, not conflict. Allen writes, "When [polycracy] degenerates into a focus on mere 'power struggles,' we are instead led to believe that Nazis pursued naked, internecine strife as if for its own sake". Worse yet, Germany's genocidal policies are then explained in terms of a "'self-acting' bureaucratic machine," as Hans Mommsen would have it. Allen's concerns about the amoral or immoral direction in which polycratic interpretations can lead are valid, and a reminder that historians should not avoid making moral judgments. Ironically, even Allen points out that infighting facilitated "a new method of murder." How? When Burböck and Maurer could not obtain the cooperation of the IKL to limit its brutality in order to improve productivity, they adapted and modernized their bookkeeping procedures by creating, and then more clearly defining, the category "unfit to labor." Unintentionally, Burböck and Maurer facilitated the IKL's identification of concentration camp inmates who were killed when they could no longer toil. Allen correctly asserts that Burböck and Maurer were morally responsible even if unintentionally so. They approved of the racial policies that legitimized the brutality; they simply wanted a guaranteed supply of slave laborers. Therefore, even though Allen's criticism of polycratic interpretations is not wholly convincing, his emphasis on cooperation reminds us that ideology was important.

It is usually unfair to point out topics omitted from historical monographs, but these seem relevant to Allen's study. He is weak in exploring the nexus between the SS and the private business sector. He tells us that one of Himmler's goals was to become a role model for private enterprises corrupted by the disintegrating influences of capital. Yet, not once is Himmler's Circle of Friends (Freundeskreis Himmler) discussed, even though Oswald Pohl was a member. While scholars tend to dismiss this elite voluntary association as unimportant, given Allen's thesis that ideology, especially the goal of cultural reconstruction, drove the SS-WVHA, he should have provided his expert opinion on this subject and examined the relationship between the SS bureaucrats and private businessmen more fully. Moreover, Allen suggests on several occasions that private enterprises took the initiative to acquire concentration camp labor from the SS. However, the only concrete examples he cites were Porsche, Farben, and Steyr-Daimler-Puch, while his footnote citations are fairly limited on the subject of private enterprises in the Third Reich. Again, given Himmler's cultural agenda, Allen might have explored in more depth how private industry utilized concentration camp labor. If private industry sought out the SS-WVHA, does this prove that Himmler or the SS bureaucrats were succeeding in creating their New Order? Finally, with respect to the SS bureaucrats, Allen makes reference to a prosopographical study and an analysis of "collective biographies" of the WVHA; these obviously informed his narrative. Yet, it would have been useful to incorporate these findings more systematically even if only in an appendix. These omissions do not undermine the effectiveness of Allen's thesis, but might have strengthened it.

Allen's monograph is a significant contribution to the study of the SS. He has utilized numerous archival sources including contemporary evidence and trial records. He puts a more human face on SS bureaucrats in the WVHA, and he proves that they were driven by ideology; they were not mindless, amoral technocrats. Allen fully accomplishes his major goal while reminding scholars that modernization can be irrational and adopted by any type of political system. He also raises questions about the use of polycratic interpretations of the Third Reich that scholars will find interesting.

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By 1944 the SS became the head of a huge economic empire. Not only did it run a gigantic "labor-lending service" with concentration camp prisoners and forced laborers, all the while enriching itself with the seized assets of persecuted Jews; but the SS empire also had enormous financial and industrial assets at its disposal. This included extensive intersecting stock holdings with private financial and economic interests. Leading bankers and economic managers constituted a veritable "advisory council" for the SS economic empire, in the guise of advisory boards, "circles of friends," and through membership in the Allgemeine SS. This latter practice meant that bankers, economic managers, academics, aristocrats, and other members of Germany's "elite," could hold high-ranking positions in the SS, while still continuing their business activities.

The SS was therefore much more than a police-state institution par excellence. It was not only a monstrous apparatus for oppression and a mass-murder machine; but at the same time, it was a huge corporation. And as such, as far as the Synarchist financial circles in the United States and Great Britain were concerned, it was an altogether acceptable partner which one could "do business" with.

Hjalmar Schacht had close ties with Baron Kurt von Schröder, head of the Cologne banking firm J.H. Stein. In December 1932, and again in January 1933, Schacht and von Schröeder played what was probably the decisive role in toppling the von Schleicher government and paving the way for Hitler's coup. Already in 1932, both men were members of the Keppler-Kreis, a group of economic leaders and bankers which had been formed by IG Farben manager Wilhelm Keppler, and which had dedicated its full financial and political resources to backing Hitler.

Von Schröder's Stein bank in Cologne was the German subsidiary of the Schroeder banking group in New York (L. Henry Schroeder Banking Corp.) and in London (J. Henry Schroeder & Co.). John Foster Dulles's law firm Sullivan & Cromwell represented the New York Schroeer bank, and his brother Allen was on the bank's advisory board. Moreover, during the 1930s, Sullivan & Cromwell had two German subsidiaries which the Dulles brothers visited regularly. And during those years, John Foster Dulles did not stint in his public praise of Germany's regained "dynamism" under Nazi rule.

After 1933, the Keppler-Kreis transformed itself into the "Freundeskreis Reichsführer-SS" ("SS Friends of the Führer"), led by Keppler's nephew Fritz Kranefuss, Himmler's personal adjutant. Reichsbank president (until 1939) and Economy Minister (until 1937) Schacht was no longer himself a member, but his close friends definitely were: the already-mentioned Schröder; Emil Helfferich and Karl Lindemann from Deutsch-Amerikanische Petroleum AG (DAPAG); and Karl Blessing from the Reichsbank, who later went on to become chairman of postwar Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, from 1958 to 1969.

The connection to Standard Oil, which was part of the Rockefeller family empire, was also an important banking connection, since the Rockefellers also owned the New York-based Chase National Bank, headed by Joseph Larkin. Larkin played a particularly important role in Nazi-occupied western Europe, because of the fact that Chase National's Paris branch was allowed to operate unhindered from 1940 all the way through 1944. This bank's special concern was the preservation of Anglo-American financial and physical assets in occupied western Europe. And it should come as no surprise that Otto Abetz, the heavily synarchist-leaning Nazi ambassador to occupied France, maintained a personal bank account at Chase National Bank's Paris branch.

Schacht had an additional tie with the Anglo-American financial world through the Basel, Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Along with the Reichsbank, its members included the Bank of England (which, through 1944, was headed by Schacht's personal mentor, Montagu Norman), and the First National Bank in New York. After 1939, Schacht had yet another connection with the BIS, through his confidant Emil Puhl, a top official at the Reichsbank.

So, now it is perhaps a bit more comprehensible how Heinrich Himmler, through Schacht and the "Freundeskreis Reichsführer-SS," enjoyed excellent connections with Anglo-American circles throughout the war years. [Himmler also had Anglo-American ties via neutral Sweden, and via his influential "personal physician" Dr. Felix Kersten.]

Yet another connection with the SS leadership ran through the internationally operating U.S. telephone corporation ITT, headed by Sosthenes Behn. Von Schröder was ITT's representative in Germany, where it owned the firms Lorenz AG and Mix & Geneste AG. There are indications that Walter Schellenberg's meteoric rise within the SS leadership, had been originally launched and backed by von Schroeder, since Schellenberg owned a sizeable chunk of ITT's stock. In early 1942, Schellenberg, von Schröder, and Karl Lindemann organized a meeting in Madrid between their plenipotentiary Gerhardt Westrick, and ITT chief Behn. Another member of the top echelons of ITT's German subsidiaries, was Emil H. Meyer, likewise a member of the Freundeskreis Reichsführer-SS.