Nazis, Pseudoscience, and the "Affen Korps"
How Hitler's Esoteric Pursuits Intersected with Denham's Beast
As if the true facts of Denham’s “eighth wonder” were not bizarre enough, the beast and his island home were common fodder for an entire sub-genre of wildly speculative “mysteries of ancient civilization” literature that sprang up in the wake of a 1960 book entitled Le Matin des Magiciens (The Dawn of Magic in its 1963 British publication, Morning of the Magicians1 a year later in the United States).
Morning of the Magicians authors Louis Pauwels and physicist Jacques Bergier introduced to mainstream minds esoteric information and theories about, for instance:
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A group of huge drawings visible only from the sky on the plains between the towns of Nazca and Palpa, now popularly known as the Nazca Lines
Alleged ongoing mutations of the human species
Strange secret societies
The supposed occult roots of, and fringe science practiced by, the Nazi party prior to and during World War II
The Affen Korps
A jumping-off point for some of Pauwels’ and Bergier’s more fantastic theories were comments made by rocket scientist Willy Ley, who had escaped Germany in 1935 to become well known as one of America’s major exponents of rocket-powered flight and space exploration.
[This] group was literally founded upon a novel. That group which I think called itself Wahrheitsgesellschaft—“Society for Truth”—and which was more or less localized in Berlin, devoted its spare time looking for Vril. Yes, their convictions were founded upon [Edward] Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race. They knew that the book was fiction.
Though Pauwels and Bergier claimed to have interviewed Ley, they could evidently learn no more from him than what he’d written in the article. Nonetheless, they energetically described The Vril Society, or Luminous Lodge, a fictitious secret cult that esotericists claim included Goring, Himmler, and Hitler in its membership.
Pure hogwash, but capable of selling books and attracting TV viewers to this very day.
In the same section of Morning of the Magicians, entitled “A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere,” Pauwels and Bergier manage to extrapolate from sporadic mentions of Carl Denham and Skull Island in captured Nazi files (the existence of which was first discussed by Earl Monroe in 1962’s The Real King Kong) that Hitler himself was interested in locating the habitat of Denham’s giant beast with the aim of capturing other specimens and breeding them in great numbers.
Nazi scientists, we’re told in Morning of the Magicians, were instructed to spare no cost in perfecting a technology that would create an obedient Affen Korps (literally: “ape corps”) able to repel any attack and create havoc wherever dispatched. Part of that effort included capturing as much information as possible from the materials Carl Denham brought back from Pulau Batu Tengkorak — the “island of the skull.”
These efforts integrated with the Society for Research into the Spiritual Roots of Germany’s Ancestral Heritage—Ahnenerbe—and were therefore well funded, up to and including back-alley pay-offs.
Still, the vast majority of historians dismissed the Affen Korps as post-war sensationalism, even as certain Ahnenerbe documents mentioned operations explicitly designed to gather information on Denham’s excursion to “Skull Island” and the beast he brought back. It was more Morning of the Magicians hogwash, as far as the mainstream was concerned.
“Hogwash,” that is, until the 1999 discovery at Villa Maisonneuve in France…
And, yes, it’s also the name of a pretty good Flaming Lips song.