Otto Rahn

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Otto Rahn
Otto Rahn..jpg
Photograph of Otto Rahn
Otto Wilhelm Rahn

18 February 1904
Died13 March 1939(1939-03-13) (aged 35)

Otto Wilhelm Rahn (18 February 1904 – 13 March 1939) was a German writer, medievalist, Ariosophist, and an officer of the SS and researcher into the Grail myths. He was born in Michelstadt, Germany, and died in Söll (Kufstein, Tyrol) in Austria. Speculation still surrounds Otto Rahn and his research.[citation needed]

Early life and work[edit]

From an early age, Rahn became interested in the legends of Parzival, the Holy Grail, Lohengrin and the Nibelungenlied. While attending the University of Giessen, he was inspired by his professor, Baron von Gall, to study the Albigensian (Catharism) movement and the massacre that occurred at Montségur.

In 1931, he travelled to the Pyrenees region of southern France where he conducted most of his research. Aided by the French mystic and historian Antonin Gadal, Rahn argued that there was a direct link between Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and the Cathar Grail mystery. He believed that the Cathars held the answer to this sacred mystery and that the keys to their secrets lay somewhere beneath the mountain peak where the fortress of Montségur remains, the last Cathar fortress to fall during the Albigensian Crusade.

SS service and death[edit]

Rahn wrote two books linking Montségur and Cathars with the Holy Grail: Kreuzzug gegen den Gral (Crusade Against the Grail) in 1933 and Luzifers Hofgesind (Lucifer's Court) in 1937. After the publication of his first book, Rahn's work came to the attention of Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, who was fascinated by the occult and had already initiated research in the south of France. Rahn joined his staff as a junior non-commissioned officer and became a full member of the SS in 1936, achieving the rank of Obersturmführer.

It was an uneasy partnership for Otto Rahn; later, he explained his SS membership to friends in the following way: "A man has to eat. What was I supposed to do? Turn Himmler down?"[1] Journeys for his second book led Rahn to places in Germany, France, Italy and Iceland. Openly homosexual, frequenting anti-Nazi circles, and having fallen out of favour with the Nazi leadership, Rahn was assigned guard duty at the Dachau concentration camp in 1937 as punishment for a drunken homosexual scrape.[1] He resigned from the SS in 1939.[1]

But the SS would not allow anyone to resign without consequences.[1] Soon, Rahn found out the Gestapo was after him, and he was even offered the option of committing suicide.[1] He vanished. On 13 March 1939, nearly on the anniversary of the fall of Montségur, Rahn was found frozen to death on a mountainside near Söll (Kufstein, Tyrol) in Austria. His death was officially ruled a suicide.[1]

Rahn in popular culture[edit]

Rahn has been the object of many rumours and strange stories, including that his death had been faked, although all such speculation has failed to be substantiated.[1] Richard Stanley made a documentary about Rahn and his fixation on the Holy Grail called The Secret Glory in 2001.

  • He features as a character in the 2008 novel The Judas Apocalypse by Dan McNeil. In the novel, Rahn helps a fellow German archaeologist search for the lost treasure of the Cathars.
  • Sorcerer's Feud (2014) by Katharine Kerr is another novel that has Rahn as a character.
  • The Pale Criminal (1990), part II of Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy, has Rahn as a secondary character.
  • In the Italian comic book Martin Mystère, Rahn fakes his death and joins the United States Secret Service "Elsewhere".[2]
  • Rahn appears as a minor character in Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray and The FitzOsbornes in Exile.
  • The 2013 Snog album Babes in Consumerland features the song "Otto Rahn".[3]


  • Kreuzzug gegen den Gral. Die Geschichte der Albigenser (Broschiert) (in German), 1934, ISBN 3-934291-27-9; ISBN 978-3-934291-27-0.
  • Croisade contre le Graal: Grandeur et Chute des Albigeois (Broché) (French translation), 1934, ISBN 2-86714-184-2; ISBN 978-2-86714-184-3.
  • Crusade Against the Grail: The Struggle between the Cathars, the Templars, and the Church of Rome (First English Translation by Christopher Jones), 1934/2006, ISBN 1-59477-135-9; ISBN 978-1-59477-135-4.
  • Luzifers Hofgesind, eine Reise zu den guten Geistern Europas (Rahn's book on Luciferism), 1937, ISBN 3-934291-19-8; ISBN 978-3-934291-19-5.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g John Preston, The original Indiana Jones: Otto Rahn and the temple of doom, The Telegraph, 22 May 2008.
  2. ^ "Martin Mystère – Il segreto di San Nicola". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  3. ^ "Snog - Babes in Consumerland at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 13 September 2015.


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