Saturday, July 28, 2007

the German Star Trek, 1925

The history of early German space flight and rocket development is complex, puzzling and riddled with unexpected esoteric influences. Then there is the strong yearning to return to a mythical fatherland, that between the two world wars not always translated itself in earthly geographical coordinates. One fitting example of this is found in a German film that was thought lost forever. Only recently a copy of this film, entitled Wunder Der Schöpfung (The Miracle Of Creation), has been found.

In the film a German scientific team travels through the universe in a spacecraft that serves as the symbol of progress and an age of new technologies, explaining all that is to be seen. Wunder Der Schöpfung was not meant as lighthearted science fiction. Instead, the film that was meant as an educational device begun in 1923. It was released two years later under huge acclaim. In contrast, the same year Hitler's apocalyptic Mein kampf saw print in a first edition of only 500 copies. The book was a difficult seller and not a success. In Wunder Der Schöpfung the end of the world is discussed in optimistic terms, with detailed descriptions of the end of mankind. Four Professors cooperated with the film team, to ensure that everything was based on the scientific knowledge of the day.

Wunder Der Schöpfung was to be, in the words of one critic, UFA's greatest achievment. UFA put itself more and more in the mindframe necessary for its most ambitious project yet: Fritz Lang's Metropolis, that was relased in 1927, two years after Wunder Der Schöpfung. Contrary to Metropolis that obtained only a lukewarm reception, Wunder Der Schöpfung was a tremendous hit. It still is a remarkable film with for that time highly ingenious and elaborate special effects.

There is also a general feeling amongst connoisseurs that certain scenes might have served as a template for Stanley Kubrick's 2001.

More stills can be found here, and the trailer here.

At the dark heart of Lemuria, 1917

In 1917, a book with strange and uncanny tales that bore the remarkable title Lemuria was published in Germany. The horrible blackness and the almost pathological nature of its haunting illustrations closely connected to the spirit of the German nation, as the fatherland was desperately struggling to survive the onslaught that was the First World War. Lemuria struck a chord in the German psyche and was reprinted well till after the Great War that should have ended all wars, but didn't.

The name Lemuria was introduced in the 19th century by geologists speculating on a lost continent in the Indian ocean. The term was quickly seized upon by occultists and theosophists in the wake of Blavatsky's unveilings. Blavatsky saw the Lemurians as reptilian in nature, being the Third Root Race, having followed the Hyboreans, The Second Root Race. However, the Lemurians used black magic and corrupted themselves by intermingling with other species, necessitating the gods of destroying Lemuria after which they created the Fourth Root Race, that of Atlantis. One notes the origin of much current speculation on the reptilians, but also the influence on Ariosophy. The nucleus of Blavatsky's theories on Lemuria are similar to those of Lanz von Liebenfels, founder of the Ordo Novi Templi, an order modelled partially on The Knights Templar. Liebenfels also edited the antisemitic periodical Ostara of which it is claimed that an impressionable Adolf Hitler read these during his years in Vienna.

In Lemuria we encounter one short story, entitled Der Bogomilenstein (The Stone of the Bogomil), that may betray some of Strobl's cultural predilections. The Bogomils were spiritual forerunners of the Cathars and, some say, the Knights Templar. German author Hanns Heinz Ewers wo would later write the National-Socialist anthem the Horst Wessel Lied published Lemuria in a series titled Gallerie der Phantasten (Gallery of the Fantasts) with publisher Georg Muller Verlag in Munich. The author of Lemuria was Austrian writer Karl Hanns Strobl (1877 - 1946), who during his life also was the editor of Der Orchideengarten, about which I posted earlier on this blog.

Strobl wrote many unusually dark, strange and gruesome fantastic tales, collected in, amongst others, Lemuria and, For instance, his book Od that was released in 1930. 'An adventure-romance of Baron von Reichenbach. A Zeileis-fate 50 years ago. The discovery of the magical man', it's blurb read.
During the First World War , Strobl was a messenger, a position not unlike that of his fellow Austrian Adolf Hitler. After the war, Strobl developed a strong sympathy for the Nationalsocialist cause. In 1938 Strobl worked in an important position in the Ostgau, leading a department of Goebbel's Reichsschrifttumskammer. This lead to his arrest by the Soviet troops in 1945. Strobl was forced to work at road construction for a while. He was released due to age and very poor health.

Impoverished, Strobl died a year later in a home for the elderly near Vienna. At the time of his death, the Allied forces had prohibited his works to be published. Once his more than hundred published book titles commanded multiple reprints and huge successes. Strobl formed, with Gustav Meyrink and Hanns Heinz Ewers the three dark princes of the German horror and supernatural.