It seems that it was not only border fortifications and an alliance with France that were facing Adolf Hitler’s plan to crush Czechoslovakia during the 1938 Sudetenland Crisis. Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš was also approached by a group of occultists, who offered to kill the Fuhrer by magic.
The year is 1938 and a group of occultists have gathered somewhere in Czechoslovakia. As they chant, they form a circle within which a massive amount of energy is focused. Their aim is to channel this force into Adolf Hitler, physically harming him in the process and preventing a looming war between Czechoslovakia and the Third Reich over the disputed Sudetenland.
But the energy is too strong. One of the occultists gets scared and, as he flees, he breaks the circle channelling its energy into the initiator of the ritual, who would pay a terrible price for it.
According to legend, this is why the Czechoslovak occult movement’s attempt to kill Hitler failed.
Yet the story, bizarre enough as it is, gets even more peculiar, reaching to the highest echelons of power, the Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš himself, who was apparently aware of these attempts.
In order to understand how this could have come about, we need to explore the story of one of the country’s most important occultists at the time – Dr. Jan Kefer.
“Some historians believe there were four [rituals] in total. They began sometime in 1938 and Jan Kefer actually approached then President Edvard Beneš offering him these magical services, in other words an occult liquidation of the unwanted dictator.”
Dr. Kefer was born in 1906, during an era which often referred to by researchers as “The Golden Age of Czech Hermeticism”.
The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was a time when major advances in the natural sciences and technology were changing the world. As a consequence, traditional Christian beliefs were becoming undermined by increasing trust in scientific reason and progress.
This led to the emergence of a counter-force in some groups of society, who started turning to ancient Hermetic disciplines, such as alchemy, astrology and magic. Renewed interest in these arts mixed with spiritualism and forms of esoteric Christianity such as Martinism.
These practices spread to the Czech lands during the late 19th century and, according to Petr Kalač from the Documentation Centre of Czech Hermeticism, evolved further during Czechoslovakia’s First Republic era.
“If I were to describe how Hermeticism developed in the Czech lands, it is necessary to say that after the end of the First World War, the popularity of Martinism went down a little. However, with the growth of occultism, which blended hermetic and eastern knowledge, practitioners divided into two groups. One can be described as a more superficial tribe, which was focused on Spiritism. This fascination was the result of the fact that following the World War I many Czechs were looking to come into contact with their relatives who had fallen on the front.
“Then there was a group of so-called ‘initiates’, people, who went deeper into the philosophy. They started meeting in groups which studied Hermeticism. In 1920 the Free Association of Occult Workers was founded, which developed into ‘Universalia’ in 1930, a group that contained around 700 Hermeticism practitioners across the country during its heyday.”
As the chairman of Universalia, a Czech hermeticist society, he was seen as one of the so-called “Three K’s”, the most influential occultists in First Republic Czechoslovakia. He is said to have practised astrology, magic and alchemy, while also translating many important works on mysticism from authors such as the French occultist Éliphas Lévi.
Dr. Kefer also seemed to fit in well with high society. He was an accomplished pianist, who spoke many languages, including Latin, Arabic and Greek. His group, the Universalia, would often meet in Café Louvre, an establishment, which hosted many of the First Republic’s leading individuals including writer Karel Čapek and his PEN club.
However, it became increasingly apparent that the First Republic idyll was threatened after the Nazis ascent to power in Germany during the 1930s.
During the Sudetenland Crisis 1938, when war with Germany seemed imminent, Kefer and his associates decided that they had to save Czechoslovakia by using their magic powers to kill the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
This plot relied on complex rituals that Petr Kalač says took place during this time under Dr. Kefer’s leadership. It seems that they were very serious about this intent, because they approached the highest echelons of power to get conscent.
“Some historians believe there were four [rituals] in total. They began sometime in 1938 and Jan Kefer actually approached then President Edvard Beneš offering him these magical services, in other words an occult liquidation of the unwanted dictator. These operations took place and each one was conceived in a different way. It is likely the practitioners would always choose a slightly altered version based on their experiences from the previous ritual.”
The conspirators believed they needed a lot of resources for the plan to go ahead and this may have been a little too much for President Beneš, who was relying on the more conventional methods of border defences and alliances.
“The first operation that Dr. Kefer offered proposed to Beneš was very expensive and, of course, if anyone were to find out that Beneš was trying to allow such a thing he would have been discredited. However, it cannot be dismissed that the gentlemen, specifically Kefer and Kabelak, were not given a private blessing by the president. The republic back then was after all facing an existential threat and any option was handy.”
“The first operation that Dr. Kefer proposed to Beneš was very expensive and, of course, if anyone were to find out that Beneš was trying to allow such a thing he would have been discredited. However, it cannot be dismissed that the gentlemen, specifically Kefer and Kabelak, were not given a private blessing by the president. The republic back then was after all facing an existential threat and any option was handy.”
Apart from the legend described at the beginning of this story, no one really knows how these rituals played out.
However, while they did not succeed in preventing the German occupation of the Sudetenland and later of Bohemia and Moravia, Dr. Kefer’s group seems to have continued their magical assassination attempts into as late as the spring of 1941. According to another legend, it was during this last ritual that a strange being appeared to the occultists and addressed Dr. Kefer with the words that “the Czechoslovak nation will survive, but you will pay for it with your life”.
At first however, Dr. Kefer was approached by the metaphorical devil himself. Arrested by the Gestapo in June 1941, the Nazis apparently asked the Czech hermeticist to become Hitler's personal astrologer.
While this offer may seem extraordinary, there was a strong fascination with the occult among leading members of the Nazi hierarchy, especially in the person of Heinrich Himmler to whom the Gestapo was subordinated.
Nevertheless, the Czechoslovak patriot declined the offer. He would soon be faced with a very different attitude from the German secret police, which had now received information that Dr. Jan Kefer had led the magical assassination attempt against the Furher.
According to Petr Kalač, this information came from a man within Dr. Kefer’s occultist circle, Georg Arwed Smichowski.
“In one of Kefer’s testimonies, it is clearly stated that he saw Smichowski’s denounciation letter, which incriminated him. This letter could have led to Jan Kefer’s incarceration at Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he died.”
In total, it seems that almost two dozen people were executed as a result of the denunciations of Smichowski.
As for Kefer, he died in Flossenbürg on December 3, 1941 and a memorial plaque was erected on the house where he lived at the time of his arrest in 2012.
According to his son there is no official documentation stating that Dr. Kefer was ever held in the camp, despite the family having received a letter from him that claimed he was being held there. Some Czech occultists believe that an otherworldly creature which took him in the end.
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