A shadowy group of anonymous Dutch researchers claims that a building known as the Round House, since long demolished, was the centre of unholy rituals and even human sacrifice. This all occurred, so they claim, during the First World War, by a mysterious order called the Freya Brotherhood. With the help of these rituals they tried to stem the tide of the war in Germany’s favour. However, since not a single shred of evidence is offered and their claims are therefore hard to believe, I took the other way and researched in how far the existence of such a group during the First World War is likely.
The First World War was the first major conflict that saw all the civilised nations of the world at each other’s throats. It represented unimaginable horror in many different ways. A war that many thought would be over by Christmas dragged on for four grinding years. The millions of men, so eager and happy to march into the cauldron of death would lose their lives, lurking in the trenches filled with putrid water. Pummelled senseless by giant artillery attacks that lasted hours on end, mowed down by the newly perfected machineguns, set alight by flame throwers or ending up as twisted, broken corpses caught in the barbed wire obstacles littering the nightmare landscape that was the front. There were even rumours of bands of soldiers who either had lost their minds or had simply deserted, clung together in groups turned ferociously cannibal, on the prowl for warm flesh in the labyrinthine trenches of no-mans land.
There were strange occurrences too, growing into legends over time. There were the famous Angels of Mons, or encounters with a radiant white entity, always there in the hour of need, called the Comrade in White. There was the story of the terrible Hound of Mons, outfitted with a human brain by a mad German scientist. The First World War was so peppered with strange events that a number of books were solely devoted to these anomalies. Just one year after the war, in 1919, the book Légendes, prophéties et superstitions de la Grande Guerre (Legends, prophecies and superstitions of the Great War) by French linguist Albert Dauzat saw print. Amongst others, the book lists a sighting of an aerial object that we could classify as a UFO:
In the first days of November 1918, at the moment when President Wilson and the German government were holding preliminary discussions concerning a cease-fire, the tale ran across the American front that a ‘white dove of peace’ had, on a clear day, circled the lines for more than an hour. It was an aeroplane, according to the testimony of a colonel and two majors: they even recalled certain less truthful details, which proved that they too were the victims of a mild form of suggestion. It was, they said, a completely white aeroplane, of a type unknown on the western front, not carrying an insignia of any kind, and, flying very high, it passed over the American trenches, then circled the German lines.
It did so for over an hour, then turned north and disappeared.
Sometimes the stories of these events that travelled through the trenches as they were whispered from soldier to soldier were the source of brief comfort and solace. Since if not blinded or worse by poison gas, killed by snipers or gnawed upon by rats as large as little dogs, soldiers were routinely executed branded as cowards. Shell shock after all was still unrecognized as the true psycho-medical cause for the inertia in following up orders. Orders that many times were as senseless as the conflict that was, in fact, an ordinary family brawl between the royal houses; after all, the German Kaiser was a nephew of the British Queen, and both were family of the Russian Tsar.
But the ultimate tragedy was that technology had a much faster pace than the willingness and ability of the old generals to comprehend the effects and the need for change in their ancient strategies and battlefield tactics. This was a new type of war. The First World War saw the advent of the airplane and the tank as formidable weapons of war. But each day thousands of soldiers were hurtled against the devastating fire of the machinegun, the minefield and the flame thrower, dying totally unnecessary deaths often for but a few feet of gain in terrain that strategically meant nothing but undoubtedly helped some general from losing face. No wonder then, that, when the war became a stalemate, a war of attrition, some of Germany’s generals resorted to less conventional means to try and win the war or at least to gain some insight in the unfolding tragedy that ultimately left 60 million people dead. It would even be claimed after the war that the Angels of Mons were in fact a German psyop – but one so novel and unusual that it had backfired on its own troops.
One of these was German general Helmuth von Moltke. His spiritual needs gained Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Anthroposophical movement, a listening ear. Steiner corresponded with Moltke while he was alive, but also after Moltke died. Steiner, a recent study clarifies, embraced Moltke as a latent spiritualist and one of his followers, potentially an important Anthroposophist. Both Moltke and his wife, Eliza, studied Steiner’s works, which they found compelling. In a letter to his wife, Moltke wrote that Steiner’s teachings struck a chord in him: “No other philosophizing author has so far been more comprehensible to me than he.” Steiner returned von Moltke’s high regard, finding in him the reincarnated Pope Nicholas I. When Moltke was appointed chief of staff, the Chief of the Military Cabinet was ready to resign, stating that: “Above all, he (Moltke) was a religious dreamer, who believed in guardian angels, faith-healing and similar nonsense.” Moreover, Moltke was often accused of being a spiritualist.
Then there was German general Karl Haushofer who commanded a brigade on the western front. It was said that he had the uncanny gift of prediction, knowing exactly where and when the enemy would start an artillery barrage. It is claimed that he even knew the exact numbers of casualties and that his predictions always became true. In time Haushofer befriended Rudolf Hess and he would visit a World War I veteran turned aspiring politician by the name of Adolf Hitler in Landsberg prison.
General Erich Ludendorff, who after the war became an ally of Adolf Hitler, began to publish his tirades against secret societies – especially freemasonry and the Jesuits – after the war. This he did with his second wife, Mathilde Ludendorff, who founded with him the Bund fur Gotteserkenntnis (Society for the Knowledge of God), an obscure theist society that is still in existence.
Mathilde (see her portrait picture around 1924 below) was trained in psychiatry and relentlessly attacked the various strands of occultism of her day, arguing that it had led to the development of mental illness in a number of her patients. She also claimed that Moltke had lost the first battle of the Marne because he was under the influence of one Lisbeth Seidler, a devotee of Rudolf Steiner. Nevertheless, she cooperated with a number of leading figures of the post World War I Volkische scene, such as Rudolf John Gorsleben, Otto Siegfried Reuter and Karl Maria Willigut, who is named ‘Himmler’s Rasputin’ and who was amongst others responsible for the design of the infamous Totenkopf ring that only the members of the SS could wear.
In the light of the above, how probable is it then that on Dutch soil – and we must remember that The Netherlands was neutral in World War I – some offshoot of an also unidentified German order or group was involved in ritual human sacrifice? Even the shadowy group isn’t certain. So they throw in a brief overview of a mere two pages, mentioning the Golden Dawn, the Germanorden, the O.T.O and the Thule Gesellschaft. The short overview is riddled with errors (they describe for instance Erich Ludendorff as one who was ‘steeped deeply in the occult’ where actually he was against anything having to do with occultism). In doing so, all the important studies that have appeared over the years on these groups and characters have been bypassed. My guess is obviously, because these studies were not consulted.
They settle on an even more unlikely candidate: the group around Stefan Anton George (see his portrait picture above) entitled Die Kosmiker. George (1868-1933) though foresaw a sad end of the coming war in 1914, a viewpoint he also reflected in his pessimistic poem Der Krieg (The War) that he penned between then and 1916. Also, although National-Socialists expressed his influence (interestingly Albert Speer’s brother Hermann was a member of George’s inner circle), many of the leading members of the German resistance, such as the Stauffenberg brothers, were introduced to George. One of the brothers, Claus von Stauffenberg, would later become involved in the botched assassination attempt on Hitler on 20 July 1944.
If there actually is a context for this kind of dangerous alternative reality story telling, the 1930’s would have been much better situated as a backdrop for their wild claims. In 1931 for instance, a Dutch Ario-Germanic Society was founded that propagated the study of the works of Austrian Volkische author Guido von List. One of its founding members, a J.R. de Haan, proclaimed during a meeting in 1934: “Culture is the cultivation of nature and its architect is the Führer!” Another of its members, Dutch theosophist and later member of the SS Fokko van Till, even stood at the base of the nudism movement in the Netherlands. He had founded a nudist group modelled after the German Treubund für aufsteigendes Leben (Brotherhood or Loyalty Club for Ascending Life) of German Richard Ungewitter, a pioneer in nudism in Germany. In 1923 Ungewitter introduced the idea of ‘racial hygiene’, and in Van Till’s group only those were allowed to join if they were of ‘aryan descent’. The group published a short-lived magazine and had its own premises since 1929. Neighbours were not amused.
In 1941 a Dutch Celtic-German study circle named Yggdrasil was active, lecturing on topics as Atlantis and the spurious Oera-Linda book (see the image below featuring a page from the manuscript). The book also had enthralled Herman Wirth, a Dutchman who was appointed first director of Himmler’s Hogwarth, the Ahnenerbe Institut, much to the chagrin of Germany’s scientific circles. And indeed, in a pamphlet published in 1940 about the Oera Linda book and written by J.F. Overwijn, a member of Yggdrasil, he refers here and there to the ‘Fryas’, which he saw as a pre-Germanic tribe living in a time ‘in which there was no mention of Greek and Roman thoughts’.
But to return to the secrets of the Round House, I found no evidence of such a dark cult in existence in World War I Netherlands. It is just one of those tales extracted out of a muddy soup of supposition, hearsay and taking great liberty with verifiable history. Perhaps the little known historical details of the Dutch connections with ariosophy in the 1920’s and 30’s were garbled beyond recognition into the lurid accounts surrounding the Round House and its World War I killer cult.
There is a Dutch forum where opponents and proponents meet regularly in verbal sparring matches. The last development to date is the introduction of the Rennes-le-Château mystery to provide some extra flavour and, who knows, respectability. This is a development that I predicted some time ago, when I first became interested in the mystery of The Round House. And it also serves as a caveat: if there truly are historical grounds for a mystery to exist, over time the mystery becomes smaller in outline, as we travel to its epicenter. False mysteries, the so-called modern mythologies, on the contrary become larger, as more and more strands are pulled into the fray. We travel not inward, but are pushed outward to end up in a vexing maze where anything goes as in fact, at the core of this modern myth-mongering there is ultimately nothing of any significance to behold.