From filmmaker Kirkpatrick (The Revenge of Thomas Eakins, 2006, etc.), a vivid true-crime narrative about a post–World War II investigation meant to prevent Nazis still at large from using several venerable medieval artifacts to reconstitute the Reich.
In early 1945, Lt. Walter Horn—an expatriate from the Fatherland with an academic background in art history—learned of a bunker underneath Nuremberg’s castle housing secret treasures, known to only a few, including Heinrich Himmler. Before long, Horn received orders to locate five crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire that had gone missing from the “Blacksmith’s Alley” bunker, part of a larger cache that Hitler had seized from Austria near the beginning of the war. Of particular interest was the “Holy Lance” of Longinus, reputed to have pierced Jesus’ side at the Crucifixion. Using military records, correspondence, diaries, interviews and archival materials, Kirkpatrick shows how scholar-soldier-sleuth Horn overcame a foot-dragging American captain whose own sloppy supervision had caused the relics’ loss, former Nazi functionaries reluctant to divulge all they knew and an Allied Occupation authority anxious to establish their competence before a starving, resentful population. In the process, he throws light on how Hitler’s obsession with “cherished symbols of the medieval concept of world government” probably influenced the dictator’s henchmen, who not only created a pseudo-scholarly think tank about the nation’s Aryan past but also Nuremberg’s Nazi parade grounds in the shape of the Holy Lance. Kirkpatrick also considers the possibilities that Himmler formed a Teutonic brotherhood of knights to protect the treasure and that Hitler’s deluded interpretation of the relics might have helped him justify the Holocaust.
Fast-moving and intriguing, in the vein of Raiders of the Lost Ark.