(Image: German Federal Archives)
The Second World War touched almost every corner of the globe, left an estimated 70 million people dead and countless families shattered. The events of what is considered to be the deadliest conflict in human history have been well documented and, 70 years later, remain seared into the public consciousness. But it’s inevitable that a conflict of such scale and magnitude will have its share of unsolved mysteries, from operations yet to be declassified to bizarre practices in the darkest recesses of the Third Reich. Many genuine World War Two mysteries have become clouded by conspiracy theory over the decades, and many obscure events still lurk in the shadows. It’s no surprise that some of the most eerie wartime mysteries concern Nazi Germany, like those outlined here.
Who Were the 17 British Prisoners Recorded at Auschwitz?
(Image: Jochen Zimmermann)
When Polish historians were undertaking conservation work in an old bunker at Auschwitz in 2009, they came across something that was oddly out of place among the documents. It was a list of 17 names, seemingly all British, with no clear indication as to who they were or what they were doing at the notorious Nazi death camp.
Eight of the names were checked off with a tick mark. On the reverse side of the decades-old list, historians found scrawled writing depicting common German words and their English translations, including “now”, “never”, “since” and “then”. The names themselves included Gardiner, Lawrence and Osborne, according to the Telegraph.
Various theories have surfaced attempting to explain the reason for the mysterious list. Among those posited are suggestions that the names could be those of Jewish prisoners of war sent to their deaths, double agents and even British defectors to the Nazi cause.
But to this day, the list remain an unsolved World War Two mystery. No one is sure what the names mean, who the apparent prisoners were, and why these 17 people were significant out of the estimated 1.1 million killed at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945.
What Happened at the Mass Graves in Malbork, Poland?
(Image: Sławomir Milejski)
In 2009, construction workers in northern Poland unearthed a mass grave containing the remains of around 1,800 men, women and children. During World War Two, the town – then known as Marienburg – was part of Germany. At the end of the war, 1,840 residents were officially classified as missing until the discovery of the mass grave, which seemingly revealed the final fate of the German civilians who had lived there.
What happened at Marienburg, however, is still unclear. The town and its surrounding area was at the centre of fierce fighting between German forces and the Soviet Union, and various remains offer clues as to what might have happened. Some skeletons show signs of bullet holes, and about a tenth of them may have been executed.
It’s thought that some may have succumbed to the winter cold, but most were stripped of their clothes and valuables. The mass grave turned out to be a bomb crater, and further excavation suggested that the remains accounted for at least 2,000 people who weren’t evacuated from Marienburg before the Red Army arrived. Beyond that, their fate remains a chilling, unsolved World War Two mystery.
Was There Really Supposed to be a Movie in a Nazi Time Capsule?
(Image: via Wikipedia)
In 1934, the Nazis built a training centre in the Polish town of Zlocieniec, which was then situated in Germany and called Falkenburg. When it was excavated in 2016, archaeologists found what had been rumoured to exist for decades: a time capsule.
They’d had a good idea all along about what had been placed inside the copper cylinder. Among the items found in the time capsule were two copies of Mein Kampf, various newspapers, coins, and documents that told the story of the building’s conception.
What it didn’t contain, however, was a film; a documentary dating to 1933, the certain presence of which was the reason why the search was even undertaken. As a result, nobody is sure what became of the documentary and why it wasn’t included in the time capsule. Its fate remains a wartime mystery.
What Happened in the Two Months that U-530 was Missing?
(Image: via Wikipedia)
It’s no secret that a number of high-ranking Nazi Party officials not only fled Germany but disappeared before they could be put on trial for their crimes as the Second World War drew to a close. But the idea that both Hitler and Eva Braun were among those who survived and escaped is the stuff of Third Reich conspiracy theory. The actions of the German submarine U-530 during a 60 day period in 1945, however, remain an enduring World War Two mystery.
All German U-boats were ordered to surrender at the nearest port on May 8, 1945. All but one of them did. It wasn’t until two months later that U-530 showed up in a port in Argentina. Its commander, Lt. Otto Wermuth, had destroyed all the sub’s logs and dumped a good amount of equipment. He also explained that he had delayed his surrender in order to reach Argentina instead of the USA, as he hoped to receive better treatment at a South American port.
After U-530’s story became publicly known, reports began to surface that a German man and woman had also been dropped off. These claims are almost certainly nothing more than conspiracy theory, but the reason Wermuth destroyed his logs and jettisoned much of his equipment remains shrouded in mystery.
What Happened to Herschel Grynszpan?
(Image: German Federal Archives)
In the darkest hours of a November night in 1938, Nazi soldiers stormed through German territory, killing as they went. It was the Kristallnacht, and it had been kick-started by the actions of a teenager named Herschel Grynszpan.
Grynszpan had walked into an embassy in Paris on November 7th and shot the first Nazi official he saw. Retribution for his actions resulted in the acceleration of Nazi policy towards the Jews, and while we know what happened there, we don’t know what happened to Grynszpan himself.
Born in Hamburg in 1921, Grynszpan moved to France when he was 15-years-old. Angry at what was transpiring in his native land and outraged that he’d been forced to flee, he decided to assassinate a diplomat based at the German Embassy. He was arrested after the killing and taken into German custody, but his trial had been scheduled for January of 1942. Amidst the events of the war the trial was postponed, and further reports of Grynszpan’s fate are unconfirmed.
What Really Went on Inside Castle Wewelsburg?
It was Heinrich Himmler himself who ordered the expansion of the 17th century castle located in the German village of Wewelsburg. The castle was destined to become the centre of SS occult activities under Heinrich Himmler, and the new construction was built with labour sourced from Wewelsburg’s concentration camp.
Originally, the castle was established as the ‘SS School, House Wewelsburg’. It wasn’t long before rooms intended as classrooms were assigned to individuals for solitary research into anything the Nazi Party could use to bolster its claims of racial superiority. The research covered everything from pseudoscience to mysticism, rune worship, and ancestor cults. Rooms were assigned names out of the Grail legends and, not surprisingly, all manner of rumours began swirling around the activities at the castle.
The Renaissance castle now serves as a museum displaying a large amount of Third Reich paraphernalia, in a bid to document a history that should not be forgotten. The museum’s historians claim that it’s unlikely pagan rites and rituals were ever performed there, but the whole place remains shrouded in mystery.
What Was the Thule Society Really About?
(Image: Olaus Magnus)
Named after a mythical country from ancient Greek mythology, the Thule Society was a German-based group devoted to the study and exploration of the occult. Its ties to the Nazi regime started early. It was first connected to the German Workers’ Party, then to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But there’s a lot that we don’t know about it.
It’s been claimed that many of the highest-ranking members of the Thule Society included names like Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg, but no list of members has ever been officially confirmed (although it’s estimated that there were around 1,750 of them).
Much of what went on behind the closed doors of the Thule Society remains shrouded in mystery. How it grew from a study group looking at the origins of the Aryan race to become an order that influenced the politics of the day has long intrigued historians. Another question that has divided opinion over the years concerns whether or not Adolf Hitler was a member of the order, though it’s understood that he never attended a meeting.