In 2012 the Finnish science-fiction comedy Iron Sky opened in movie theaters. The story postulates that just before the end of World War II, the Nazis managed to establish a secret base on the dark side of the moon. The movie tells of the lunar Nazis’ attempt to invade and take over the earth. Their secret base is called The Black Sun, which refers to the twelve-spoked sun wheel that appears in many places on the base; the design is drawn from the motif embedded in the floor of the Obergruppenführer Hall at Wewelsburg Castle.1 In 2014 a volunteer battalion of neo-Nazis supported the Ukrainian army in house-to-house combat against pro-Russian separatists in the city of Donetsk. The Azov volunteer unit’s insignia incorporated the Wewelsburg sun wheel along with a wolf hook and other symbols.2
Since the 1990s the Obergruppenführer Hall’s sun wheel ornament been used in widely differing circles under the name Black Sun. In pop culture it can stand for crackpot Nazi science, in right-wing extremist contexts for struggle and salvation. The Black Sun is just one recent variant of the numerous legends that have emerged since the 1950s and continue to flourish around Wewelsburg Castle in eastern Westphalia.
For many people Wewelsburg Castle is a mysterious place that is both eerie and romantic – the National Socialist SS’s Grail castle and scene of secret rituals – and for some it is a particularly energy-laden site. These notions have nothing to do with the reality of the “Wewelsburg SS School” under National Socialism. It was not a mystical place but rather part of the SS’s system of power relations, academic activities, and persecution apparatus. If the SS had succeeded in implementing their gargantuan construction plans using prisoners from a concentration camp specially built for that purpose, nothing would have remained of the Westphalian village of Wewelsburg.
In the late 1990s the Kreismuseum Wewelsburg began a multi-year research project funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Union to study the history of Wewelsburg Castle under National Socialism and the legends that have grown up around it since World War II. This edited volume examines the various strands of these myths and the Wewelsburg sun wheel ornament in their respective contexts. It encompasses several chapters by Daniela Siepe, who has conducted extensive research into the myths enshrouding Wewelsburg Castle, along with essays by Frank Huismann, Eva Kingsepp, and Thomas Pfeiffer, who analyze different aspects of the castle’s reception at the junction of esotericism, popular culture, science fiction, and right-wing ideology. This publication thus represents a historical and journalistic contribution to the reception of National Socialism after 1945 in an area of contemporary history on which very little research has been conducted, despite the topic’s significance. This book is therefore also intended to provide teachers and those engaged in political education with useful factual knowledge for their work.
Six years have passed since publication of the first German edition, during which time the myths and legends surrounding Wewelsburg Castle have not diminished but rather persisted in all contexts, even propagating in some areas. What is striking is their proliferation in the entertainment sector (music, comics, and television) and the violent far-right scene, which is a particularly alarming development. The Black Sun is increasingly becoming a globally known symbol of violent right-wing-extremist sentiment. The deadly incidents in Christchurch (New Zealand), in which the attacker entered two mosques and murdered fifty-one people in March 2019, and in Halle (Germany), in which the perpetrator attacked a synagogue and killed two people in October 2019, are linked via the Wewelsburg sun wheel symbol. Globalization and growing international connectivity through the social media, internet, and dark net have certainly accelerated this process. Right-wing conspiracy theories are increasingly gaining visibility and spreading in the population.
We therefore considered it advisable and necessary to update the individual essays for the first English-language edition of the edited volume and to provide information on current trends in the conclusion. A supplementary essay examines recent developments regarding adoption of the Black Sun within international right-wing extremism and places them in the sociopolitical context.
This volume is the result of several years of careful research. We extend our sincere thanks to the many colleagues, scholars, and friends who have accompanied us on this journey and supported us with their collegial advice and professional suggestions. We would especially like to mention our colleagues Markus Moors and Jörg Piron. Special appreciation is due Professor Michael Wildt for assisting us with his informed judgment.
We express our gratitude to all the authors who contributed to this volume. Thomas Pfeiffer and Eva Kingsepp kindly agreed to write scholarly essays for the project. Frank Huismann deserves our appreciation on several levels. In his role as author he not only agreed to prepare a scholarly text but also demonstrated particular commitment in taking on the time-consuming editorial work connected with the first edition of this publication. Very importantly, he always stood ready with advice and encouragement when the project threatened to falter.
We would like to thank Jörg Piron for the editorial work on the second edition and for supervising the English translation. Our acknowledgement goes as well to translators David Antal and James Bell for their sensitive translation of the multifaceted subject matter into English and for their meticulous work.
We are grateful to the district of Paderborn, represented by District Administrator Christoph Rüther, for its extensive financial support for the publication of the edited volume.
Finally, we wish to thank our editor Dr. Diethard Sawicki, from the publishing house of Ferdinand Schöningh, for his confidence and consistently constructive cooperation. He explicitly advocated the volume’s inclusion in the publisher’s program and paved the way for the English-language edition.
The 2019 sequel Iron Sky: The Coming Race took up conspiracy theories about reptilian creatures and the Vril Society. A third episode is planned.
See the article by Christian Esch about neo-Nazis in house-to-house combat in Donetsk (“Neo-Nazis im Häuserkampf”) in the Frankfurter Rundschau, 10 August 2014. The Black Sun symbol was removed from the emblem in mid-2015.