WORLD

Not exactly the easiest movie to rate

PATRICIA TREBLE March 17 2008
WORLD

Not exactly the easiest movie to rate

PATRICIA TREBLE March 17 2008

MI5’s secret star wars with Hitler revealed

NANCY MACDONALD

To outwit Adolph Hitler, British spies even looked to the stars, according to top secret MI5 files recently released by Britain’s National Archives at Kew, in West London. Somehow, in the early 1940s, Louis de Wohl, astrologer, bogus noble and cross-dressing bon vivant, managed to dupe MI5, Britain’s eminent security service, into believing that he could predict the Führer’s confounding wartime strategy.

Née Ludwig von Wohl, the German-born writer, who billed himself as the “Modern Nostradamus,” caught Ml5’s attention in London. He claimed he could replicate the astrological forecasts of chief Nazi stargazer Karl Ernst Krafft, providing insights into German plans. Though sober spooks considered their “secret weapon” a “charlatan” and a “bumptious seeker” (with “all the German’s love of uniform and rank”), De Wohl was temporarily named a captain and provided with a rented hotel apartment on London’s exclusive Park Lane. The silkengown-loving mystic would later dub himself Britain’s “State Seer,” and claim to have fought Hitler (a Taurus, through and through) with “star warfare.”

His role, however, appears to have been restricted to propagandist. In the summer of 1941, Churchill sent Wohl on a U.S. lecture tour in hopes of luring then-neutral Wash. ington into entering the war. Armed with horoscopes and good humour, Wohl, then 37, was warmly received stateside and told attentive audiences that a “doomed” Hitler could be “done away with within a year.”

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour shortly after forced America’s hand, and MI5 grew tired of their rune reader, who, upon returning to London in 1942, found his apartment stripped bare. He wasn’t just shadowing the Reich’s read on the planets. One frustrated officer reported that none of De Wohl’s divinations had materialized, except his forecast of Italy’s entrance into the war—which was “quite patent to anybody with the slightest knowledge of international affairs.” M