Jan.22, 1885 — Oct.25, 1962
Karl Germer, who was born in Elberfeld, Germany, was one of Aleister Crowley’s most dedicated disciples. When Crowley — who was in Germany with other disciples and two of his Scarlet Women in 1925 era vulgari — got into a disagreement with his host, Germer gave him hospitality and assisted him financially ever since. Although Israel Regardie, in his biography on Crowley entitled The Eye in the Triangle, theorized that Germer may have been the “rich man from the West” predicted in v.31 of ch.3 of The Book of the Law, Germer really only helped Crowley to barely get by in his later years, who would have been completely destitute without the help. His marriages to somewhat wealthy women such as Cora Eaton and Sascha Ernestine Andre enabled him to assist Crowley financially from time to time, to an extent. But the fact is that Crowley was hardly having showers of gold being poured over him by anyone, for if such were the case, he certainly would not have been dodging creditors to the last — nor would he have died in poverty, unable to publish his books or to travel abroad to visit his disciples in America. This is a prophecy that has gone unfulfilled.
On February 2nd, 1935 e.v., upon his return to Germany from New York, Karl was handcuffed by the Gestapo for his association with Crowley and hauled off after ten days in a police station to the Columbia House Concentration Camp in Berlin, where prisoners were routinely tortured, beaten by the guards in the showers, denied meals and forced to sleep without a bed. A copy of his arrest warrant appears below. The second paragraph lists the reason for his arrest as his support for Aleister Crowley, who was regarded by the Nazis as subversive, “by consistently keeping in contact; and by spreading his teachings you have tried to recruit disciples for him in Germany”.
Germer described his time at Columbia House as brutal. He wrote:
“Atrocious treatment. Methods. Solitary confinement. Life in cell. No reading permit for 4 1/2 months! S.S. guards and their mentality. Once for six weeks not let out into the open air.”
He wrote of murders and suicides; public beatings; insufficient food — one slice of bread in the morning and one in the evening, with a plate of soup at noon; and strict solitary confinement. Once he complained about the treatment he received from an S.S. guard, and received eight days on nothing but bread and water for it.
After his stay at Columbia House, Germer was transferred to Esterwegen Concentration Camp in the bogs near the Dutch frontier. He described it as “one of the worst camps in Nazi Germany”, a place of “Unbelievable terror”. He was forced to endure “Horrible slave work” and the “Cold inhumanity of S.S. guards as slave drivers and torturers”. He wrote of his work conditions:
“Men had to roll through the manure; case when Dr. Leber [one of the men on his work detail, a socialist member of the Reichstag] on such an occasion tried to lift his face during ‘rolling’ in order to prevent it being soiled, and S.S. guard dug pole into manure and smeared it over his face and through his mouth”.
He also described some of the instances of torture to which he was subject. Prisoners were painfully chained and forced to stand in a circle for up to 24 hours at a time. Several prisoners were provoked as cruel entertainment for the guards; and when they tried to escape they were shot.
Germer kept his sanity by reciting in his mind memorized passages from the Thelemic holy books, achieving thereby the “Knowledge and Conversation” — i.e. the Gnosis and Communion — of his Holy Supernal Will. He finally escaped from Germany in October, 1935 e.v., but was arrested again by the Belgians. In a letter to Jane Wolfe, dated April 14, 1941 e.v., he wrote:
“As for myself, I was arrested by the Belgians the day the Germans marched into Belgium, i.e., May 10th, 1940. As the latter advanced we were transferred to the French authorities on May 14th and held in French Concentration Camps ever since. I have been in the Camps of Le Vijean and just before the Germans advanced there, sent to the Camp of St.Cyprien on the Mediterranean near the Pyrenees of Spanish ill repute, and from there ultimately transferred to the worst Camp in France: Gurs, in the Pyrenees, where conditions were so primitive, so horrible that even very mild descriptions of the actual conditions in the American press shocked and bewildered people over here. And there are still 15,000 men, women and children held there in that Camp alone. I got out finally on February 1st, 1941, after a non-quota immigration visa had been anew procured by Cora as long ago as September last, but the French only gave me permission to go to Marseille to see the Consul four months after he had asked me to call urgently for the visa. It’s just their complete incapacity for doing anything, for making progress, for organization, that made it impossible to obtain the permit before, despite all kinds of urgent steps that were undertaken by Cora, others and myself with the various French authorities and the American ambassador and Consul. We in the Camps have come to understand thoroughly the basic reasons for the rapid break-up of French resistance both militarily and administratively. Most, 95% of the prisoners in the Camps were Jews, all violently hostile to the Nazis, violently friendly to the French, many offering spontaneously to fight on their sides actively, who have now more or less become hostile to the French, due to the unsanitary conditions in the Camps, the dirt, the ridiculously poor food, causing scurvy, various diseases, the unhealthy water, and their incapacity and unwillingness to improve conditions until at long last attacks in the American Press based on reports smuggled out by devious and dangerous means forced the French to pretend to do something. Believe me, I am glad to be out of that hell. Fortunately, my health and general conditions do not seem to have suffered very much, and that is really a miracle which the French did their best to defeat.
“If we had been prisoners of war, if we had been enemies of the French, if we had been young and vigorous, if we had been nothing but men, if we had shown the least sign of revolt on occasion –one could perhaps excuse the French. But most of us were over forty (up to 70), several thousands were women (of whom perhaps 35% over 65 and up to 95 years of age), 10%children and babies. And yet all those atrocities. There is no reasonable excuse or even explanation. No wonder that the death rate was horrible and that the blind sympathy for the French and their cause in those Camps has turned to the complete opposite”.
In 1938 e.v., Crowley recognized Germer’s attainment to the Grade of Magister Templi, or Master of the Temple — equivalent to the Fourth Thelemic Grade, or the Supernal Grade, in the HTC. And on July 18th, 1941 e.v. he designated Germer as his successor in the O.T.O., the first of the great religious bodies to officially accept the Law of Thelema. But Germer did not take particularly well to the system of the O.T.O., writing: “I feel lost in the grades, rituals, dignities, offices, rights and what not”.
Crowley, in a letter to Germer dated March 14, 1942 e.v., wrote: “I shall appoint you as my successor as O.H.O. [i.e. Outer Head of the Order of O.T.O.], but on special terms. It is quite clear to me that a complete change in the structure of the Order, and in its methods, is necessary”.
Such a change was never implemented. Germer later wrote of Crowley: “He suggested to me that I may either drop this form or system of working, or devise my entirely independent method”. He apparently chose the former option, as he ceased all initiations and dropped the work entirely, choosing to focus on publishing Crowley’s works alone. Germer is often criticized for this; but it was his prerogative.
It being the war years, Germer was investigated by the F.B.I. in 1942 e.v., and the U.S. government being as it was, i.e. suspicious and overly zealous in its treatment of certain foreigners, he failed to get glowing reviews. His F.B.I. files read:
“In a supplementary statement he indicated that he is a German refugee stating that when he was on a visit to Germany in 1935 he was arrested by the Gestapo and was in a Nazi Concentration Camp for seven months. He stated that he was forbidden to leave Germany after his release but escaped to Belgium in October, 1935 and resided there until the Nazi invasion on May 10, 1940 and from that time was in a French Concentration Camp until February 18, 1941.
“When the Nazis first came to power he was put into a concentration camp for translating into German the books of a notorious English author ALISTER CROWLER [sic]. He escaped to Belgium and later to France. Then through the efforts of his wife who is an American he was allowed into the United States.”
In spite of the fact that Germer had spent years under the cruel persecution of the Nazis for his devotion to Crowley, the blockheads at the F.B.I. insisted on profiling him as a Nazi-sympathizer on no good basis of logic whatsoever. Such is the typical American tendency even today, to profile an entire group of people in reaction to a segment of extremists who share no other attribute with them beyond the fact that they are of the same race. It seems that nothing ever changes. The report goes on to state:
“I have felt worried because his conversation is violent Nazi propaganda”. As if he would be one to promote the Nazis after being so mistreated by them for so many years — and might have died were it not for his eventual escape! It goes on: “At once on his arrival he got a powerful short wave radio set and a large motor car, both put in his wife’s name. It seems strange because they have no money and living in one roomed apartment, 1007 Lexington Avenue, N.Y.C. It has been so much in my mind that you might feel this case should be looked into”. So much for being the “rich man from the West”! The agent then goes on to assert that “His wife is a very loyal American but quite in the power of her husband”.
Declassified F.B.I. file 100-18329 states: “[agent]…has often heard of ALEISTER CROWLEY’s [sic] being consulted by HITLER concerning his “Black Magic” and he has often heard GERMER state that he, GERMER, is a believer of HITLER’s ideology…” More nonsense; but what else is to be expected of those who take the easy route of stereotyping people, throwing innocent American citizens into internment camps, and not taking the time to study thoroughly the works of authors before condemning them? And while it is true, by Crowley’s own admission, that Hitler was indeed the Dynasthai or “magical child” of Martha Kuntzel, Crowley’s disciple in Germany who was herself a Magister Templi and Thelemic saint — in subtle occult ways moreso than any direct way — it was equally true that he had failed, turned against the ones from whom he had derived his magical power and wound up persecuting not only his former masters but millions of others as well. An agency the F.B.I. may have been, but not one of very much intelligence. It hardly takes a genius to realize that a man as tortured as he had been would never side with the monsters that had abused him so.
After Crowley was cremated in 1947 e.v., Germer, who by this time had relocated to a rural property in or near Hampton, New Jersey, decided to bury the urn containing Crowley’s ashes beside a large tree on the property. For whatever reason, Germer told McMurtry in 1951 e.v. that his wife Sascha had smashed the urn upon the side of a tree, proclaiming it the Aleister Crowley tree. In his correspondence with Jane Wolfe, however, he stated that they had indeed buried the urn at the foot of the tree. He wrote:
“On April 8th Sascha and I gave A.C.’s ashes the final resting place. We have 5 very large Pines in the front of our house and Sascha suggested the foot of the finest (called Aleister) as the spot. I dug a pit under the pine and we had a small ceremony on April 8th. The ashes are in a small casket which in turn is in a strong box.”
Years later, when the Germers decided to move to California, Karl tried recovering the urn to take it with them. But someone had clearly beat him to it. Obviously what he had revealed to Jane Wolfe somehow got leaked to someone with no compunction against stealing from Germer. For when Karl went digging for Crowley’s remains, all that he could find were a few rusty nails that were once part of the strong box. The urn was gone. Where the ashes of Aleister Crowley are today remains a mystery.
Magister Templi notwithstanding, nobody is infallible. Karl Germer demonstrated that more than at any other time when, on July 20th, 1955 e.v., he expelled Kenneth Grant — a living Thelemic saint — from the O.T.O., merely because of the latter’s association with Eugen Grosche, a.k.a. Gregor A. Gregorius — yet another Thelemic saint — whom Germer personally disliked. This, after Germer had written a letter of praise to Grant, on January 18th, 1952 e.v., which reads: “If we want to get the O.T.O. properly going again, we need a competent leader, not only for England but for the whole world…I have often thought that you might be chosen for the job”. Germer clearly allowed his unwarranted personal animosity to interfere with his judgment.
In 1962 e.v. Karl Germer died as a consequence of botched surgery for prostrate cancer of the groin, and was, according to Sascha, the victim not only of medical malpractice but of abuse. Her diary reads:
“He started crying loud! ‘Help me! Help me!’ I came in and ask the nurses what happened, they say ‘Nothing’, they only clean him! I went out again”. She heard more screaming, so she returned: “his Face tortured in expression”. At the last moment she was with him: “slowly he calmed down, I had his left hand in both My Hands and suddenly the Heart stood still”.
Her diary goes on to say: “Why was the Tel[ephone] taken out of his Room, why was I not allowed to see him — why was he scared to Death whenever I wanted to talk to him”. More prejudicial treatment, it seems. She should have stood up to these vile racists and insisted on remaining by his side no matter what.
Karl Germer may have fallen short in certain small respects but his dedication to the legacy of Aleister Crowley remained strong to the end. He had come through the worst possible experiences, suffering the most atrocious persecution not just in Germany but in the United States as well, and emerged nothing short of a Supernal Genius, with untiring devotion to the work and legacy of the Prophet of the Thelemic Age. And he issued publications that were instrumental in spreading the Thelemic message for posterity. For these things we honor him today, in our small way, Karl Johannes Germer, Frater Saturnus, Thelemic saint.