I AM beginning this chapter seated at the A.R.P. telephone. I have just recorded our 500th 'alert.' A loaded Colt automatic is by my elbow, ready for 'fifth columnists' and local quislings. A stick of bombs straddled our village the other day (killing a local parson) and I had to take cover. From the window of this Report Centre I can see the remains of a shattered building. Two German airmen lie in our little churchyard. Income Tax is ten shillings in the pound. My library has already suffered £250 damage 'due to enemy action.' In other words, we are at war!
The reason why I mention the above all-too-common incidents is because the man responsible for all this murder and destruction once entertained me for a day - vicariously. Yes, I mean Adolf Hitler!(2)
In April, 1936, Dr. Hans Bender, of the Psychologisches Institut, University of Bonn, called upon me in London, in order to see our Laboratory, etc. At that period more than two years had elapsedsince Sir Edwin Deller informed me that the University of London found itself 'unable to accept' my offer and proposal to establish a Department of Psychical Research. During Dr. Bender's visit I related to him the history of my proposal, with its unsatisfactory sequel, and suggested to him that the authorities at Bonn might be interested in considering a similar offer by me, if it were made. Dr. Bender told me that Hitler was personally interested in psychical research. The reason why I mentioned the matter to Dr. Bender was because I knew that Professor Dr. E. Rothacker, the Director of the Bonn Psychologisches Institut, was personally interested in the subject. Dr. Bender was struck with the idea, and, on his return to Bonn, lost no time in communicating my suggestion to the relevant authorities. On April 17, 1936, he wrote for further particulars, which I sent him. The matter was then fully discussed by the Rector, Principal, and other officials at Bonn, together with the psychologists (who, as at London University, were the most concerned in the proposal) and it was decided that before any step could be taken, Herr Hitler and the Reich authorities would have to be consulted. In any proposed extension of academic activities in Germany, Hitler has the first - and the last - word.
1. The Rev. W. B. Masefield, Rector of Stopham. Killed October 4, 1940.
2 Baptised 'Adolf Schicklgruber.' 'Hitler' is his 'stage' name.
In June, 1936, details of my suggestion were sent to Herr Hitler and the German Board of Education, and I was told that they were very sympathetic. In August I was informed that the matter was being studied 'with considerable interest,' and that further steps were being taken by the German Foreign Office. In October, the Reich was still studying the Bonn report of my suggestion, and making various inquiries from other Government departments.
While the German Government was considering the establishing in Bonn of a Department of abnormal psychology and scientific psychical research, it was, apparently, suppressing the spiritualistic societies. In the London Press of this date I noticed that the Hamburg 'Psychische Gesellschaft' had been closed by the local authorities. At the same time I was informed that certain officials of the Ministry of Propaganda were taking the keenest interest in the proposed Department of Parapsychology at Bonn.
It was at this period (November, 1936) that London University appeared to take a renewed interest in my original offer and had agreed to house my library, etc. Thinking that something was about to be done concerning the proposed new Department, I wrote (November 7) to Dr. Bender, withdrawing my proposal concerning the transfer of my interest to Bonn University. In his reply (December 15) he told me that he would still continue negotiations with the various Government departments and had sent to the Board of Education the opinions of leading officials (e.g. Reichsgesundheitsamt, Vorsitzender der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psychologie, etc.) as to the establishment at Bonn of a research Department, 'which should by scientific methods support the Government's efforts towards social hygiene in occult matters and its campaign against superstition.'
At the end of February, 1937, one of Dr. Bender's colleagues, Fräulein Dr. J. Wichert, called on me with the agreeable news that the German Government, after the fullest inquiry, had recognised psychics as an official science and had given permission for a Department of Psychical Research to be established at Bonn University. She said that Herr Hitler was particularly interested in the proposal, and when the Government's final memorandum of the inquiry was placed before him for his approbation - or otherwise - he uttered an enthusiastic 'Ja!' In due course, the official ratification of this decision was sent to me, and I reproduce the letter - which was in English - in full, as I regard it as an historical document, being the first admission by the Government of any country that psychical research is worthy to rank as an official science:
On April 13, 1937, I visited Bonn as the guest of the German Reich and University in order to discuss with the officials there details of the proposed new Department. Mr. S.J. Worsley (then Acting Principal of the University of London) accompanied me, but not in any official capacity: he was merely taking a short holiday. For several hours I was in consultation with the various University officials, and Mr. Worlsey and I were entertained at luncheon by the authorities, which included Professor Dr. E. Rothacker, Professor Dr. S. Behn, Professor Dr. G. Hübener, Dr. Beuller, Fräulein Dr. J. Wichert, Dr. Hans Bender, and others. It was a most enjoyable function, and although Germany was even then undoubtedly short
of certain kinds of foodstuffs, there was no apparent lack of good things at this particular meal. And the Rhine wine was superb! After lunch, a large car called for us and we were taken for a long ride round the neighbouring country, including the Siebengebirge district, with a visit to the castle of Drachenfels, beloved of Byron :
The view from the Drachenfels commands one of the noblest prospects on the Rhine, and it gave us a good appetite. This had been anticipated, so we rejoined our car, and were taken by the electric ferry across the Rhine to Bad Godesberg, the famous watering place that Hitler so often visits. We found the town beflagged with swastikas, and learnt that the Führer was then staying at the very hotel at which tea had been arranged for us. This was the Rhein-Hotel Dreesen, with a fine garden restaurant overlooking the river. We stayed there for a couple of hours, listening to the concert, and then left for Bonn and Cologne. We did not see Hitler. We were told that he was out motoring.
Godesberg - and the Hotel Dreesen - was destined to make history during the autumn of the year following our visit. For it was here that Mr. Neville Chamberlain met Hitler, in the abortive attempt to preserve peace in Europe. Mr. Chamberlain stayed at the Hotel Dreesen.
Of course, I could come to no final decision during my visit to Bonn, because I was - and am - waiting for London University to make a move in taking more than an academic interest in psychical research - as has been done at Oxford and Cambridge.
When I was at Bonn I commented upon the strangeness of the German Government offering me the Red Cross Medal, 1st Class, in connection with anything I might do for the University in theway of psychical research. But I was told that the order was bestowed by the Third Reich only upon persons who had made some important medical discovery, or for services rendered to medical science. The connection between the Red Cross and psychical research, I was told, was that it was hoped the latter would 'cleanse the popular mind' of gross superstitions connected with the occult. The 'public health' of the nation would thus be improved - as the Government wished.
As for the University's 'honouring me in some other way,' as suggested in Dr. Bender's letter, a doctorate, honoris causa, was mentioned, and I was to have been made an 'Akademischer Ehrenbürger der Universität Bonn' - i.e. 'an academic honorary citizen' of
Bonn University - an honour that has been bestowed only about ten times since the foundation of the University in 1818.
The late Father Herbert Thurston, S.J., in a 16-page review of my Fifty Years of Psychical Research (the last article he ever wrote), published in The Month for November, 1939, mentions Bonn's efforts to secure my co-operation in founding the proposed new Department, and makes the suggestion that Hitler and the Third Reich merely wanted to get psychical research into their grip in order, eventually, to ridicule it and destroy it - at least in Germany. He points out that Bonn is a Roman Catholic University, and not likely to be in sympathy with parapsychology. But Father Thurston himself was a Roman Catholic, and he was entirely in sympathy with scientific psychical research. And I know other Catholics similarly interested. I am sure that Father Thurston was wrong in his interpretation of the interest evinced by Bonn. While I was there I took the opportunity of examining the University's Psychologisches Institut and the well-equipped laboratories attached to it. I have examined several psychological laboratories belonging to foreign universities, but those at Bonn are, I think the most suitable for experiments in psychical research. In fact, much work of this nature has been done there already by Dr. Bender, Dr. Rothacker and others.
In view of the present War, I often wonder what would have happened had I transferred my interest in psychical research to Bonn. I should have been cut off from my library and records, at least for some years. And perhaps my 'Rote-Kreuz-Medaille' would have been 'withdrawn.' Well, orders and medals are ten-a-penny in Germany, and I should have survived the blow. But the loss of my library would have concerned me very much.
There can be little doubt that Hitler's interest in psychical research is due to the fact that he was born in Braunau-am-Inn, the birthplace of the famous Schneider boys. His mother resided there until her death, and during my many visits to this delightful little town on the Inn (the frontier between Austria and Bavaria), I have, more than once, seen the placid old lady doing her shopping in the Höheweg. No one would dream that she had such a son! Hitler made occasional visits to Braunau, and undoubtedly must have been cognisant of - and interested in - what the Schneider boys were doing, and how they had become famous in scientific circles all over the world. We need look no further for the exciting cause of his interest in psychical research, and why he uttered such an emphatic 'Yes' to the proposal that the Third Reich should give its official blessing to the Bonn project.
Chapter Eleven Chapter Thirteen in Preparation
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