That, surely, is one of the strangest headlines I'll ever compose, which is saying something, because I live for "strange stuff" as most people know. So when Mr. T.M. kindly shared the following article with me, I knew I'd be launching this week's blogs with this story. There's lots of background here to fill in before I get to my high octane speculation of the day, so here's the article from the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph:
Now, before we get into why I find this story a little intriguing, a little history that is not covered in the article. The Teutonic Knights were, as one might have guessed, a military crusading order founded in the Middle Ages, in this case, in 1190 in the fortress city of Acre in what would be modern day Lebanon. Later, they were "adopted" by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who issued the Golden Bull of Rimini in 1226, effectively transforming the order into a personal imperial fief, and becoming more or less the "shock troops" to expand the Holy Roman Empire into Eastern Europe, principally into Prussia and Pomerania. According to one American, Paul Winkler, who published a book at the height of World War Two called The Thousand Year Conspiracy, the Order, while continuing under its own name, morphed into various Protestant secret societies, and became closely associated with the House of Hohenzollern, whose margraves (later Kings of Prussia, and later, of course, the German imperial family) became the de facto head of these societies as their Grand Masters. In other words, for Winkler, these offshoots became identified with powerful elements of the Prussian and Imperial German deep state. Indeed, Winkler argues - without providing any substantiation - that a German newspaper recorded the initiation of Adolf Hitler into one of these orders (and not, as is often argued, into the more well-known Thulegesellschaft of Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorff, which numbered Rudolf Hess, and members of the powerful and medieval banking family Von Thurn und Taxis - or if one prefers the Italian version of the family name, Della Toro i Tasso - as members.) Membership of powerful Prussian, Saxon, Bavarian, and Thuringian families in these orders became more or less a common feature of the history of the German "deep state" or "deep states" since the Enlightenment. Powerful German princes and dukes were discovered to be members of the notorious Bavarian Illuminati of Adam Weishaupt when the Kingdom of Bavaria suppressed that order; Frederick the Great himself was a high-ranking member of masonic lodges in Berlin, and so one. So it is not surprising to find von Thurn und Taxis members, or for that matter, Rudolf Hess, as members of the Thulegesellschaft, and even though Winkler provides no substantiation for his assertion that Hitler himself was inducted into an order (The Society of Lizards, to be precise) that was an offshoot of the Teutonic Knights, it does at least "fit the pattern." Similarly, prior to World War One, a number of very radicalized and racist secret societies sprang up in Vienna, associated with the names of Lanz von Liebenfels and Guido von List, which claimed lineage to the Teutonic Knights, founded "new" Templar orders and so on, and indeed some of these strange societies bought castles in Bohemia and eastern Germany in which they would hold their rituals. Some of these orders claimed the name Germanenorden, and so on. The picture, in other words, is somewhat complex and confusing, and beyond any easy attempt to summarize in a paragraph.
But with that in mind, now read the summary of this history as provided in the Daily Telegraph article:
The successors of the Teutonic Knights, the sword-wielding religious order that once controlled swathes of Central Europe, have gone to battle again to fight for the return of their former Czech castles.
The German Order, as the old Teutonic order is now known, is fighting a legal action in the Czech courts for the return of its property seized by the Czechoslovak state after the end of the Second World War including thousands of acres of land and Bouzov Castle, one of the Czech Republic's premier tourist attractions .
Established in the 12th Century, the knights of the Teutonic Order rose to prominence as the armed defenders of Christian Europe from the pagan East and the leaders of crusades into Central and Eastern Europe.
But much of their property in what is now the Czech Republic was expropriated under the so called Benes Decrees. Named after Edvard Benes, the then Czechoslovak president, the decrees allowed for the seizure of German-owned property in the years following 1945, and have also remained a bone of contention between the Czech Republic and the descendants of those who lost land ever since.
The new Order also points out that the old Teutonic Knights were wound up by Hitler when he declared their order illegal in 1939, and that the Nazis seized all their property before it was taken from them again by the Czechoslovak government.
Now, obviously, the Order in question here is a rather innocent one and probably not connected to the inter-war confusion and proliferation of orders in Bohemia, Austria, and central Germany. But it should be noted that von Liebenfels, mentioned above, was himself a cleric when he founded his much more radicalized orders, so there may be a connection, and there is Winkler's disturbing book hovering in the background that these orders provided a cover for the activity of the "Germanic deep states" from the Middle Ages onward. So in other words, given the heavy interlock of such orders in the interwar period, one cannot completely dismiss the possibility of some interlock out of hand.
These considerations lead me to today's (very) high octane speculation. Indeed, I'm not even standing on the end of the twig on this one, but like Wile E. Coyote, I'm standing in mid-air, with absolutely nothing but speculation beneath me, for I sense that there may be much more going on in the background here than what the bland reporting of the Daily Telegraph depicts. It takes only a moment's reflection on the legalities to see why, for if the Order is to reclaim its castles, it must provide proof that it is the legal successor to the Teutonic Knights to begin with, and that could get - as they say - very interesting, since it is possible that the Czech courts will hear evidence that would shed some light on that whole confusing inter-war period with its numerous interlocked secret societies, some of which, as noted, used various names and claimed a heritage dating back to the knights. In short, the case might possibly disclose a whole labyrinth of such relationships and the powerful people involved in them. Indeed, one can envision even the possibility that the Czech court's jurisdiction over such a matter might be contested, or that it itself might find that it has no jurisdiction, which would be an indicator that a higher jurisdiction would be needed. Indeed, it is even possible that the whole case may be being brought, not to recover property, but rather for more covert reasons, namely, to establish a succession to the Knights in a court of law.
Time, of course, will tell... if, that is, any interesting details are disclosed at all.
See you on the flip side...
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