When the flying saucers began appearing in newspapers in the United States in late June 1947, suggesting the presence of advanced aircraft flying undetected in the American skies, they became the by-product of the combination of different elements. They included the media’s bias on population, occult themes promoted by enthusiasts and groups, the wishful thinking about an inhabited planet Mars and scientifically advanced Martians, the fears for Russian intruders, the overwhelming development of science and technology triggered by the Second World War, and, last but not least, the widespread belief that the technology as a whole and the evil Nazis, in particular, had achieved almost magical science breakthroughs. The latter element had been continuously fed by the press in the United States (and in many other countries, too), mixing highly redacted scrappy news from the military with rumors, often of the wild type.
Especially since 1944, press readers began to be contaminated for years by the idea of Nazi super technologies going beyond the imagination of the ordinary man. The eviler the origin of the weapons, the greater the fascination they elicited in people. Moreover, due to the shock of learning about the atomic bomb in August 1945, people were ready to accept and believe every other wonder besides beginning to doubt what the government told them about any controversial topics. Although rumors had circulated for a few years, most people only learned about the bomb after its launch, realizing that the government had kept the entire development process under wraps. In the same way, it could be possible it was saying nothing about even more advanced breakthrough weaponry.
The press-created mythology of secret weapons and the decades-long recognition of German brilliance in science and technology led to the acceptance in the collective imagination of any possible wonder weapon or scientific achievement associated with the Nazis. Because Allied developments and projects were kept secret, this gave the public the impression that Germany possessed a vast technical advantage, reinforcing the belief that the country maintained a vast and untapped potential for weapons development. In recent decades, several German authors publishing books about alleged fantastic and still-unknown achievements of Nazi technology, including the controversy surrounding the claimed testing of one or more atomic bombs in Germany shortly before the end of the Second World War, successfully exploited this image.
The foo-fighters reported in 1945 and the ghost rockets over Scandinavia (and Europe) in 1946 gave the public a further impression of secret and advanced German weapons technology despite receiving minor and shorter press coverage and having a relatively less significant impact on the people. The media fed the populace a steady stream of news about German war science supremacy, mixing tales of prototypes or extremely optimistic paper designs with rumors of imaginative wonder weapons. Nothing new. In all wars and their aftermaths, rumors of super-secret weapons have circulated to increase fear, demonstrate the power of the winner (or even the loser), justify the need to fund the development of equal weaponry or explain the recruitment of scientists and technicians behind them. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was frequently credited for developing futuristic-looking weapons.
Anyway, the German achievements were not wholly overrated. The considerable influence of German scientists, engineers, and technicians working for their former enemies in the first post-war decade was 14
documented above all in American and Soviet aircraft and rocket development, which led to similar or even nearly-cloned products.
Flying saucers were popularly perceived as a new technological wonder since day one of their introduction to the American public and – soon after – to people nearly everywhere in the world. Aside from the idea of a new domestic weapon able to pair with the US-made atomic bomb, Russia was the main culprit for the unusual flying contraptions. At first, the military didn’t understand the magnitude and origin of so many sightings. There had been a tremendous discovery of German plans, drawings, and early prototypes, and it was well-known that these were much above the capabilities of the United States. Such a sentiment led even the military to think the Russian development of captured German projects was one of the possible causes
of the flying saucers. The primary candidate was the Horten flying wing designs, which delivered shapes similar to that described by Kenneth Arnold, who ignited the flying saucer craze.
The notion of Hitler’s survival and escape to remote, secret strongholds had become a popular argument in the press, particularly in tabloid-like evening publications. It was fueled by the lack of information and resulting doubts about Hitler’s death, as well as by some unusual events, such as the surrender of two German U-boats in Argentina several months after the end of World War II. The concept of Hitler or evil, yet ingenious, Nazi scientists developing superweapons for a future return was present in popular culture and had been utilized in fiction. In addition, the German and Austrian press and public probably enjoyed the notion of their technological and scientific superiority despite their dramatic defeat. The dissemination of more stories was aided by information about top-secret weapons and ludicrous claims of amazing wonder weapons that fueled their revanchist ideas. When they appeared, the flying saucers were the ideal high-tech covert weapon, and they attempted to acquire them. The saucers were a mysterious technological wonder at the top of the scientific imagination of the time. Many Germans and Austrians were happy to merge them with the existing popular fantasies of the (often overrated) Nazi super-science produced by the German genius. They kept promoting the idea that German abilities were always far better than those of other countries. The flying saucers, definitely a German invention (as frequently claimed in the titles of many articles of the 1950s), were clear proof of that, whether they were the result of technology stolen by the war winners or machines built by new Nazis hidden in some remote bases.
These elements created a possible convergence between the new mysterious flying saucers and the earlier, equally-mysterious stories about Nazi super-advanced technology. For such a reason, in 1947, when the flying saucers arrived in the American press, the newspapers were quickly prone to consider the “foo- fighter” stories related to an article published a couple of years before (Chamberlin, 1945) and the memories of some USAAF veterans. Journalists were so confused and puzzled by the saucer sightings that they reported a broad range of other bizarre “explanations,” including the Japanese Foo-Go balloons used during the Second World War. There were people even contacting American authorities in Germany to introduce themselves as the genial inventors of those flying contraptions, suggesting they could help reproduce them and counterbalance the likely Soviet supremacy.
In the Summer of 1947, the overwhelming impact of the birth and development of the UFO phenomenon on popular culture led reporters, commentators, and experts in different scientific disciplines to argue a possible explanation. Many claims were even more improbable than the stories told by a few early enthusiasts of the Martian origin of the saucers or by fewer esotericists introducing even more bizarre stories. Thinking of the flying saucers as man-made aircraft was a rational and acceptable explanation. The American military and the Soviet Union were the leading candidates for building the new aerial marvel.
Something similar happened less than one year earlier in Scandinavia (and in some other European countries) when a massive wave of “ghost
rocket” sightings hit the press. Fear of the recently started Cold War and the possible use of German-designed missiles or rockets by the Soviets was likely a remarkable amplifier and producer of reports of seemingly anomalous sky phenomena mainly due to meteors and similar events.
Yet, the idea that the saucers could be a product of the same Nazi super-science that purportedly sent the foo-fighters to buzz the Allied bombers during the Second World War was definitely more attractive. Considering all the past tales about German secret and wonder weapons, that idea was a real possibility. It suggested that the Americans or the Soviets could have further developed the German breakthroughs on their own because of what they found in Germany when searching for scientific achievements and secrets. In both cases, it was a good point for the US press. If Americans, the saucers would have been significant patriotic pride and a strong optimism injection about the country’s power. If the saucers had been Soviet weapons developed after Nazi secret technologies, America was in danger, and more defense spending was utterly necessary.
After the end of the Second World War to the early 1950s and beyond, many newspapers in Western countries frequently published frightening rumors about improbable Russian super-weapons. Renegade German scientists formerly serving the Nazis were described as being on the Soviet’s payroll, although usually against their will. The usual storytelling was about fantasy weaponry seemingly taken straight away from the arsenal of Buck Rogers or other superheroes of the Sunday comic strips. A newspaper published a paradigmatic article in Venice, Italy . According to a correspondence from New York, in Tiflis (Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia), the Soviets had huge laboratories where many German physicists and a supervisor named Dr. Thelimann (maybe a mistype of Theilmann) were developing a “cosmic ray” weapon. The story had been published two months earlier in Germany , quoting the London newspaper Daily Mail. The scientist was Dr. Wilhelm Tellmann, who was taken prisoner in 1943 by the Soviets and worked six years for them before escaping and then working for the Argentine government. For some odd reason, during the war, the physicists had been building V-2 missiles in the “war industries” of Peenemünde. Tellmann would have told the reporter to have seen, in the Caucasus, the test of a particular type of explosive capable of producing appalling artificial storms, destroying everybody and everything. The Soviet Air Force had also dropped special bombs into Lake Aral, creating an extremely intense cold, freezing everything in several square kilometers. The German source, instead, reported that the bombs produced an icy fog too and that it took days before the ice, as thick as 50 centimeters in some points, began to thaw and the fog lifted. About twenty of those bombs lowered the temperature from +20° C to –30° C for several hours. A similar freezing bomb had already been associated with a Nazi development just after the war’s end and even in January Tellmann, telling about his experience in the Soviet Union and the presence there of several “wonder weapons,” including those mentioned in the February article. It was a sort of fictional detailed story that was quite common in the European press of those post-war years.
In the early 1950s, the classic “secret weapon from them or us” hypothesis for explaining the UFOs got weaker and weaker due to the impetuous emergence of the outer-space connection, ultimately becoming completely predominant around 1952. The idea of advanced aircraft built after the late Second World War German designs looked like a sound alternative and a sort of bastion against the overwhelming craze of the Martian spaceships visiting Earth. In such a perspective, the flying saucers were the breakthrough of one of the winners of the war, and just very rare personages came up claiming hardcore Nazis piloted them from some remote hideouts.
The German flying saucer legends were among the few enduring alternative explanations for advanced spacecraft visiting Earth. Throughout the succeeding decades, both radically transformed their original contents. The German saucers evolved into a formidable Nazi weapon that exemplified the Third Reich’s power and, consequently, its ideology. Such a weapon evolved into interplanetary or even interstellar spaceships and merged with some extremely esoteric offshoots, such as antigravity and time travel. UFOs started to change earlier, going from “nuts and bolts” spaceships just a few steps beyond our technology, piloted by benevolent human-like pilots wearing space suits, to highly advanced vessels with near-magical capabilities, driven by a wide variety of beings who typically ditched their space suits and displayed not-so- nice attitudes towards humans.
For many reasons, the idea of evil Nazi science designing and producing advanced aircraft was powerfully attractive and captivating. Attraction easily brings speculation and exploitation. Several press articles (and books) published in Europe and elsewhere from 1954 onwards took for granted that the Germans had developed circular aircraft. All the stories from the would-be inventors were usually uncritically introduced as reliable, misleading the readers and fueling the Nazi UFO legends. However, their information quality and reliability were extremely poor or worse. New articles and books reported stories initially published in newspapers, sometimes likely invented, like in the case of Richard Miethe and others, often changing or adding fancy information. They created new narratives based on the distorted amplification of the few pieces of information published in the past by other not-so-rigorous press sources. Their alluring power was strong, and eccentric characters occasionally took advantage of them. For example, even the highly controversial Swiss UFO contactee Eduard Albert “Billy” Meier (b. 1937) touched the UFO Nazi stories, clearly demonstrating their solid presence within pop culture. In his 254th talk with a Pleiadian named Ptaah, on November 28, 1995, he learned that the Germans had developed some saucer projects during the Second World War, although no prototype ever flew. The war winners seized the designs (but they were also taken by some Nazis fleeing to South America), who then built operative aircraft. Ptaah, answering Meier’s question, said that the purported saucer inventors Schriever and Miethe received telepathic messages loaded with inspiration and information for creating their projects. The extraterrestrials did not trust the men, though: they did not know how that aircraft would have been used, so they delivered wrong information that made the disc unusable.
A significant number of authors, mostly in German-speaking nations, have been creating, promoting, and exploiting the development of the original German saucers into Nazi UFOS through a notable flow of books, pamphlets, and videos, in addition to the 1950s characters directly involved in the creation and development of mythology. Their number has grown tremendously due to the Internet’s extremely accessible news dissemination.
As a rule of thumb, nearly all authors dealing with the German and then Nazi UFO stories copied summarized information from other unreliable press sources and began to quote each other. Cross-quoting made unsubstantiated claims more believable, while the older press sources grew in reliability proportionally with their age. In the eyes of many, the older, the more reliable. These texts were mythologized and are now a reliable resource for credulous enthusiasts. Additionally, they were a “sure” part of the legends. It was much more straightforward for those enthusiasts to embrace them unquestioningly because they had no way of controlling them due to the passage of time and the deaths of all the characters. The same well-known method you find in advertising and political propaganda led to the realization of the same story after being repeated innumerable times.
The uncritical acceptance of the available information was not a component of the “wish to believe” of most readers and enthusiast buffs only. Authors shared the same attitude, even some pretty serious ones who wrote about the topic. Researching is always time-consuming, costly, and often dull. Copying and pasting without checking sources and evaluating them critically and in the proper context is definitely faster, cheaper, and more manageable.
Most authors who dealt with the Nazi UFO theme, other than a few recent and notable exceptions (Wiechmann, 2022) (Tucker, The saucer and the swastika, 2022) (Tucker, Nazi UFOs: The Legends and Myths of Hitlers Flying Saucers in WW2, 2022), always took for granted the very questionable claims of a bunch of controversial personages in the early 1950s and others in the later decades. They didn’t contextualize those claims, didn’t question them critically, and, worse, included many mistakes, often coming from the use of the poorest sources. Such an attitude occasionally involved even professional historians (Kurlander, 2017). Those stories often came side by side with equally wild stories about amazing wonder weapons allegedly built by the Germans during the Second World War and looking like a sort of science-fiction tale feeding the strong lure of the cursed Nazi science. For instance, the repeated assertions of a well-known German author suggesting that Nazi designs or even prototypes for atomic-powered missiles or airplanes may have existed are comparable to the humorous tales of Soviet atomic flying saucers that were widely reported in the American press during the 1947 wave of early UFO sightings and later. Although distant in time, the two contexts were quite similar.
The attitude of quoting others extensively to strengthen one’s own claims has worked well since the early 1950s and also involved directly some of the characters of the emerging mythology. For example, Giuseppe Belluzzo was extensively quoted and then encapsulated into the storytelling of other inventors or whistleblowers. The same happened with two other personages, Rudolf Schriever and the shadowy Richard Miethe. For other people, like Georg Klein (possibly Georg Sautier), playing with their names and placing them into the story on top of the others was easy. Two of those people were dead (Belluzzo and Schriever), while the other two (Miethe and the new entry Habermohl) were unavailable, likely because they just lived in the fantasy of a journalist and Klein himself.
Sometimes, wild quoting also included famous personages. The most notable was Wernher von Braun (1912-1977), the aerospace engineer leading the rocket development in Nazi Germany and then in the United States. He was somehow a sort of icon of German technology and science, so his name was highly evocative and valuable to enhance the “reliability” of unknown inventors. According to a Swedish tabloid published in late 1952, Von Braun was also directly associated with developing revolutionary saucer-like aircraft at the laboratories in Peenemünde, on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom, Germany. Possibly, he didn’t even know that article, probably like it happened many more times when his name was exploited for boosting stories. Von Braun was far in the United States, so his denial was pretty unlikely, and the story could survive. A very imaginative German author claimed that even Richard Miethe worked on the island (Jürgenson , 2003), where a saucer was tested in flight on April 17, 1944. Without supplying sources, the highly controversial German inventor Andreas Epp claimed that von Braun developed a 6-meter saucer powered by nuclear engines. Still, the aircraft was not ready for flying at war’s end.
There is no historical record, no source, and no news about advanced German-made circular aircraft dating before the flying saucers’ appearance in the American press in the early Summer of 1947. It looks unlikely that no scrap of hard evidence, not even enough reliable clues, can be found in the surviving records of German military, organizations, or companies and the Allied archives fed by the vast technology hunt at the end and after the Second World War. All the projects for new weapons, even the more obscure ones, left some traces, although just sketchy. Blueprints, drawings, reports, letters, or photographs are evidence, sometimes vague or tiny, for even crazy projects that never left the drawing board or the paper of their concept proposals. The circular high-performance aircraft described by the press in Germany, Italy, France, and Brazil involved new designs, technological solutions, advanced machinery, and precious high-tech materials unavailable in Germany during wartime or extremely rare. The notoriously careful Germans would have produced significant official documentation due to this unusually large-scale endeavor, which, if it actually occurred, would have required the participation of not-so-small groups of highly competent experts. There was also a chance that some of the numerous people involved would have leaked information. On the contrary, the inventors usually described themselves as “artisans” working with tiny teams, quickly solving substantial technical challenges with hard-to-find resources. It was definitely naive storytelling about the development of a breakthrough aircraft.
Once more, it is essential to emphasize that there is no documented evidence besides the 1950s (and earlier) press sources reporting hard-to-believe statements of purported inventors . Then, beginning in the late 1980s, there were crazy rumors of Nazi spaceships that entered the domain of pure science fiction: we have nothing to back them up, not even those shady press reports. The topic has become an exercise in “wishful thinking” for many people fascinated by the themes of wonder German science and typical “what if” or uchronic scenarios, as well as by a few people who have been using it for revanchist or political purposes.
Some authors tried to explain the lack of historical sources, reliable witnesses, and references in official documents: all the official records about the German saucers were destroyed by the Nazis or were seized by the Allies at the end of the Second World War, no exception. According to a German source, the Luftwaffe burned between 50 and 60 tons of documents (Eckert, 2014). Moreover, a massive quantity of documents related to a vast range of scientific and technical topics were confiscated in 1945 by the victorious powers of France, Great Britain, the USSR, and the USA and extensively evaluated, while existing machinery and prototypes, including aircraft and rockets, were also confiscated. Archives of seized documents began to be returned to West Germany by the USA and Great Britain in 1960, but the process took a long time to be over. An astounding quantity of technical and scientific documents was microfilmed, especially by the US BIOS/FIAT investigative teams and the British ones. A significant part of such wealth of information was never screened, classified, and organized, making its use extraordinarily challenging but impossible. The destruction of records, the lack for some decades of those captured by the Allies, the lack of those taken by the Soviets, and the handy possibility that the Second World War winners could have held the information about the most advanced technologies helped to consider the stories of the German flying saucers benevolently. The inventors had a significant advantage: what they said could not be exposed by direct control of the war archives, so they cunningly exploited the consequent doubt. Later, when those stories mutated into incredible Nazi UFOs, such as the Haunebu ships fabricated by authors Jürgen Ratthofer and Ralf Ettl in 1992 , those justifications were intensely exploited to counterbalance the reasonable critics of those heavily questioning the new Nazi-related techno-folklore. A similar justification process has been frequently found in other fringe topics, such as UFOs: available information is sketchy, controversial, and unreliable because the governments and the military keep the hard evidence secret. Conspiracy theories provide an analogous explanation: all about the German saucers has been suppressed and hidden to preserve a revolutionary technology able to make a difference in the balance between the superpowers after the war. What we know of Cold War and later times, though, don’t seem to match a world where one country gained far-edge supremacy with revolutionary aircraft developed after super-secret Nazi technology.
In 1988, the late German researcher Werner Walter contacted some offices of the German federal archives, asking for information about the development of a circular aircraft during the war and data about some of the inventors who appeared in the early 1950s. They answered, saying they knew nothing. The Militararchiv in Freiburg, Germany, wrote to him, “… unfortunately I have to tell you that the files of the former German Air Force stored here did not contain any indications of the development of a flying disc.”
Their science-fiction-like stories, with several occult connections, and their vast collection of likely fabricated UFO pictures had been around since
1988 when Ratthofer wrote a script to be published by Wilhelm Landig’s publishing house as Die V-7 Saga, but the project was aborted. Some of that information had already been published in the early 1980s by two German authors near neo-Nazi circles. The even more incredible stories about Nazi flights to the Moon and Mars had already been published by another author in an extreme right-wing magazine (Strube, 2013).
Some authors are keen to think of such a conspiracy preventing the availability of information and witnesses. For example, Rothkugel wrote that many people who knew something about the German projects and the families of those who could have some knowledge kept silent. When requesting information from aviation archives and institutions, he had the impression that specific questions were blocked, and they avoided making statements about certain things. He wrote that something seemed to be kept secret at all costs (Rothkugel, Das Geheimnis der deutschen Flugscheiben, 2002). People probably remained silent just because they had nothing to say, and public archives or institutions are typically sluggish and slow to respond to private researchers’ questions and provide them with information. The most straightforward and most likely reason for the complete lack of evidence is that press reports about the purportedly German- made saucers were founded on unsubstantiated rumors from people who were normally controversial. Simply put, implausible whistleblowers and self-proclaimed inventors are responsible for creating the German saucer stories.
The circular aircraft described by the inventors in the 1950s was a technological dream of that time but nothing really exotic or a quantum leap in current aviation science. They were supposed to use state-of-the- art jet engines and a radical shape necessary to match the prevalent idea about the form of the mysterious flying saucers. After all, those gadgets seen in the skies were round because they had been named “flying saucers,” but just a minority of lucky witnesses reported them as disc-shaped. Moreover, the inventors boasted performances much beyond the technology of the time because the flying saucers reported by the press featured extraordinary speed and maneuverability. Top performances could help sell their stories better and satisfy the readers’ appetite for exciting news and wishful thinking. Extreme cruising speeds and flight autonomy inspired awe in the general public and curiosity among military personnel.
After all, those circular aircraft were intriguing but not something “out-of-the-word.” If the Allies had found something like that at the war’s end, the military would have introduced it as a further substantial booty. It would have been an additional way to brag and increase trust in the American government. It could claim to own another weapon, strengthening its power and making taxpayers more confident in the country’s future.
If you suppose that those would-be inventors had been capable of building such revolutionary aircraft or even just designing them (and there is no evidence for that because it is very likely that those people invented their own stories only), you wonder why they didn’t show up just at the end of the war. It would have been a great chance to dramatically enhance their lives in a world of ruins and hunger. Let’s switch perspective for a moment: most more brilliant minds of the Third Reich were brought to the USA and the Soviet Union (and Great Britain and France, on a much smaller scale) after a massive hunt for brains able to help the subsequent military and scientific development. The top of the list of targets for the Allied research teams would have been creators of ultra-performance aircraft, such as Rudolf Schriever. On the contrary, Schriever and the others showed up years later when the flying saucers allowed them to create a charming story to be sold for a better life. Even Georg Klein, who, in 1953-1954, boasted of having been a sort of top supervisor of the German disc project and highly knowledgable about the involved people and their achievements, was never interviewed by the Allied teams, always thirsty for new technologies and aircraft prototypes.
A German author using a pen name (Mühlhäuser , Deutsche Flugscheibenkonstrukteure im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Phantome, Lügner, Versager oder erfolgreiche Luftfahrtpioniere?, 2020) for publishing a series of books about Nazi UFOs and the Hitler’s escape from Berlin offered a questionable reason why they didn’t show up:
[…] Understandably, they did not come out in 1945. It was too risky for them, as the winners could have abducted them. Over time, this threat either disappeared or the designers made themselves and their specialized knowledge available for sale.
The reason is likely much more straightforward. Most inventors appeared when the phenomenon of the flying saucers gave them a great chance to create and sell stories exploiting the new mystery and offering a relatively reasonable alternative to the growing widespread acceptance of their extraterrestrial origin. The saucers looked like advanced aircraft, so someone should have built them. Thanks to the vague yet persistent news about mysterious German wonder weapons (including terrific atomic bombs) and the powerful fascination with evil Nazi science (something resembling a sort of technological black sorcery), the idea of a German invention was reliable. For many, it was far better than thinking of Martians on board flying saucers. After all, the hypothesis of secret weapons made by Americans or Russians was one of the most debated ones since the outbreak of the saucer phenomenon during the summer of 1947. Many people in the United States believed the discs in the sky to be a postwar weapon, possibly the world’s fastest aircraft tested by the Army. Years of fantastic news about German “wunderwaffen,” their capture, and the capture of numerous scientists in Allied hands fuelled the idea that the United States (or Russia, since in the worst- case scenario, the saucers could be a product of the country behind the iron curtain) could have pulled off such a feat. Later, adding a Nazi touch to the saucers made them even more intriguing and able to compete with the emotional impact of the outer space connection.
Anyway, the fact that the inventors who emerged between 1950 and 1952 didn’t show up with their supposed disc project in the Summer of 1947, just after the early weird news about the flying saucer sightings, is another possible clue of their lies. It sounds strange they did not contact the press immediately, claiming paternity for the new fantastic aircraft flying undisturbed in the skies of all the major countries, with reported outstanding performances and puzzling the military. It would have been their second great chance to capitalize on their earlier disc designs. In 1947, a few personages in Germany anticipated them. They took advantage of merging the new flying saucers with the “old” Nazi secret weapons, but they didn’t reach the press and remained unknown. They contacted the American authorities directly to get a well-paid job.
Possibly for political reasons or a small amount of coverage of the flying saucer stories unrelated to the even more bizarre tales of Martian visitation, certain countries provided minimal coverage to the accounts of claimed German super-aircraft. Spain was one of them, and noted Spanish researcher Ignacio Cabria wrote:
Spain was at that time quite sympathetic to Germany, but at the same time, Franco wanted to distance himself from the nazi regime after the war to avoid further sanctions. This could be a reason for the little treatment of their inventions in the Spanish Press. It is just speculation.
After the outbreak of the German-made stories between 1950 and 1952, the later personages appropriated the claims of the predecessors, who were dead (Schriever and Belluzzo) or likely invented (Miethe and Habermohl), so no denial was possible. New characters, such as Georg Klein in 1953 (or Andreas Epp since 1958), made those stories their own. They easily confirmed them, including themselves in the storytelling. Their claims seemed to become more robust just because they exploited the naive cross-confirmation of what was told previously by others. The new stories looked more detailed, even more powerful, and fascinating, and, although having no objective evidence at all, they fed uncritical authors and gullible readers.
The press stories, especially those printed between 1952 and 1954, have been regularly quoted by the ever- growing number of UFO books and magazines published worldwide. They were good stories involving an alternative origin for the mind-catching flying saucers, nearly as intriguing as the idea of spaceships from outer space. Each quotation usually included mistakes and distortions on the original reports (mostly vague and mistaken), and any later quote produced even more massive distortions. The result was the conception of a messy, at times ridiculous framework that combined with the single characters of the German saucer stories, literally inventing completely false statements or situations. Since the second half of the 1950s (although Georg Klein, one of the key figures of the legend, was a precursor), a few enthusiasts began to combine the existing stories, creating new, longer ones. They even added news and details without a trace in the original press sources and without delivering verifiable information about their origin. They tried to create overall storytelling, much more structured and including all the earlier personages and claims, forcing them to match each other with undocumented or even false claims (for example, Giuseppe Belluzzo working in Germany, even as a subordinate of unlikely people with no evidence of technical background). The new fictionalized storytelling became a sort of easy-to-sell “movie” ready to be revamped and used again from time to time until nowadays. An article in one early issue of the Flying Saucer Review, based on a clipping from a Croatian newspaper quoting European press sources, was a good example (Creighton, 1955). Such distortions created a new narration, becoming the de-facto tale of the birth and development of the German saucers. You can easily find it in the most poorly researched UFO books and the vast majority of the WEB pages and sites dealing with the topic.
A side-effect of the new spin-off UFO mythology about the German-made saucers was the generation of some cold cases involving people reporting something well matching the key elements of the mythology itself. Suddenly, they remembered seeing domed discs operated by the Germans during the Second World War. Additionally, it appeared that the witness’s knowledge of modern flying saucers had influenced how the aircraft was described. It was like the regular emergence of UFO cold cases, which started even in the early days of the saucers, in the Summer of 1947: people behaved in a “me too” fashion and wanted to be part of the game, mixing false memories, wishful thinking, or even just pure inventions.
Most non-UFO authors, and even those with a mild skeptic attitude, usually have used the press articles of the 1950s as reliable sources, considering the stories of inventors or whistleblowers verbatim. They often showed no critical thinking and didn’t evaluate the unavoidable distortion inherent in the press reports. Despite being of utmost importance historically and socially, these sources’ dependability is typically far from adequate or even acceptable. The core of what was reported by the press was likely quite correct, but changes, cuts, and interpretations of what the characters of the Nazi UFO stories told the journalists were likely heavy and significant. It is hard to think those reporters proceeded with a real investigation: it was an exception when it happened. The topic was too borderline to be worth the involvement of an in-depth assessment. It was emotionally intense and a magnet for the interest of many readers: this helped to sell copies while knowing the mundane reality of things did not. When dealing with such a topic, reporters confined their action to looking for news and publishing it, usually avoiding deep involvement and having no overall or historical overview. Those authors, including quite noted ones, didn’t dig into the primary sources of the time. They have remained restricted to a few typical press articles that were frequently cited, and they repeatedly made the same egregious errors they discovered in the worst sources published after the early 1950s.
Subsequently the early 1990s, proponents of the incredibly intriguing Nazi UFO subject started inventing new tales without citing sources, taking at face value the assertions of some very dubious individuals, and twisting or even fabricating the content of the original press reports from the 1950s. They contributed to the development and propagation of new mythologies and narratives. They created an alternate history, which was then promoted by additional authors, elevating the stories to a new level. The new material proposed by those authors as genuine came out of the blue and was quickly taken for granted by scores of credulous people just greedily waiting for it. Such material stimulated other authors and personages, who promptly began producing similar stuff. The process generated an even broader range of unlikely stories entering the realm of science fiction. The new storytelling turned the original crude prototypes of saucer-shaped aircraft into interplanetary and even interstellar spaceships traveling to Mars and the Aldebaran star system, thanks to vaguely described anti-gravity propulsion systems. Later, the Internet became the perfect way to spread such science-fiction stories, supported by a broad flow of clearly faked photographs showing domed flying saucers of the Haunebu type and cigar-shaped mothership of the Andromeda type, all of them embellished by the Nazi German insignia. The spreading of such garbage was fueled by the fast-selling of everything related to the wildest stories involving evil Nazi scientists: the relative popularity of the B-movies of the Nazi zombie genre is a good example. Nazi Ufos are a sub-genre of its own, offering a large production of books, videos, and model kits, generating significant sales. The myth has been growing steadily, and it has been encapsulated in popular culture.
In 2008, the Polish artist Hubert Czerepok, who had already produced works related to conspiracy theories (the Moon landing hoax) and fringe topics (including a famous Polish close encounter), set up an exhibition about the Haunebu myth . He created a 160 cm large white-painted wood model of a “Haunebu,” which was, in reality, a classic flying saucer from the 1950s, closely resembling the much-exploited Adamski scout ship. Czerepok compiled a small collection of the typical faked images readily available online depicting German saucers (naively armed with artillery) and other UFO imagery. The exhibition was first prepared for the contemporary art gallery Zak | Branicka in Berlin. It remained for two months, getting a good flow of visitors and receiving reviews in newspapers, including the popular Bild. Then it moved to the Peenemünde Historical and Technical Museum and later to some private art galleries. Czerepok’s installation was an excellent example of the attraction power of the Nazi UFOs inside modern popular culture and another way to promote it without questioning the lack of any reasonable evidence. The organizer of the Berlin exhibition ended the introduction to the work and its artists like this:
[…] His aim is not to contradict anyone or prove anything. He bluffs, manipulates the viewer, and wants to generate uncertainty. Just as one is never sure if what is commonly believed has occurred, one must also question if what we think is absurd could only be fiction.
The guys faking the imagery of such Nazi UFOs had a pretty limited fantasy. They mostly used the well-known unmistakable “scout ship” by the famous American contactee George Adamski (1891-1965) as a model. Since the early 1950s, that seminal saucer became one (if not “the one”) of the main popular culture icons about flying saucers. Those guys added the German black
cross and a few highly naive weapons, such as large-caliber cannons, challenging common sense. The authors promoting the new Nazi UFO stories, supported by improbable crude pictures and documents, tried to explain the extreme similarity between the (faked) Adamski photos and their own. They made a funny acrobatic exercise of reverse history. Adamski had taken pictures of Nazi saucers and motherships from secret bases where German scientists had further developed the original Second World War designs. It looked like an admirable, entirely nonsense attempt to justify why they got inspiration from previously faked pictures.
The German Andreas Joseph Epp (1914-1997) exemplifies those personages exploiting the earlier news about German saucers and encapsulating themselves into the stories. Although he appeared in the press later than 1954, Epp was a paradigmatic figure for the weaknesses and contradictions of the tales about “German flying saucers” in the 1950s and 1960s. Since the late 1980s and after his death, Epp became the reference point of those enthusiasts in Germany and other countries promoting the Nazi UFO legends. They were excited by a living “witness” confirming their beliefs and providing much material. You can read a lengthy appendix with unpublished material about him at the end of this volume.
The idea behind the German saucer stories of the 1950s was pretty naive and romantic. The new revolutionary aircraft was basically the result of the genius of one man and the work of a limited group of technicians, usually throughout short or even very short periods. It was more or less the same situation described in many pre-science-fiction novels of the 1800s involving genial scientists. Those lonely inventors claimed to have gotten highly-scarce materials and equipment (for example, the much-needed jet engines and rare special alloys) like magic, without leaving any official request document in the detailed German procurement archives, found intact at the war’s end.
The self-claimed inventors of flying saucers designed or even built in Germany during the Second World War were not alone. People claiming fantastic inventions, usually based on top-notch technologies or technological dreams of the time, have frequently won easy popularity in local newspapers or, sometimes, nationwide press. For example, many years after the sudden appearance of the atomic bomb, plenty of inventors worldwide boasted home-made thermo-nuclear devices, devices able to detonate remotely the nuclear weapons stockpiled by enemy countries, rockets, spaceships, and a broad range of atomic-powered gadgets. Many more appeared before the Second World War, purporting to have invented breakthrough devices or weapons such as death rays, energy beams, transmitters to Mars, airships, and much more, using behavioral patterns very similar to those used by UFO or Nazi UFO inventors. For example, several naive inventors and scammers offered tales of wireless radio weaponry, car-stopping devices, and various death rays (Fanning, 2015). All those astounding inventions were decisive elements in the technological imagination of the time, able to excite the fantasy of the readers of the newspapers hosting those amusing stories. Each inventor appeared and was somehow used by the media whenever a new topic was wonderful enough to capture the public’s attention and imprecise enough to allow discussion without much risk of being refuted.
This relatively large subculture of “alternative inventions” is mostly still unexplored, but it is beyond the scope of this book. There were really borderline personages, such as the German Franza Philipp. In his rare book (Philipp, 1970), he claimed, among many other things, to have flown into space in the spaceship FRALI I that he had built with the help of his cousin. At the end of that year, along with aviation pilot Ernst Udet (1896-1941), Philipp landed on the Moon and visited it several times. He also set up a lunar station with the help of some friends, and then, in 1938, he built and launched a space station. This extremely bizarre personage didn’t use rockets, yet “natural, remote-controlled flight with solar engines.” Philipp said he found 1.5-meter-tall honey-loving beings on the Moon. By 1969, he had already flown through the entire solar system: for example, he got to Mars in 26.7 hours, and two Martians lived in Germany for a long time to study people. He also announced to be near to fly at light speed.
This book attempts to provide a social history of the birth and early development of the numerous stories claiming that Germans designed and constructed highly advanced circular aircraft during the Second World War. According to them, projects or even prototypes were then possibly seized and further developed by the Soviets (or the Americans or even the British), resulting in the worldwide sightings of flying saucers. It focuses solely on the original press sources and documents of the time, avoiding later memories of individuals who emerged after the original stories had been reprinted repeatedly, establishing a stable presence in popular culture. Most UFO books and magazine articles concerning Nazi UFOs have not been considered credible sources. They have no historical significance. Their authors typically took some press sources of the 1950s at face value, often manipulating the information to create implausible connections and groupings among the growing mythology’s key figures. They altered the original stories to fit their scopes and readers’ desires, generating new versions later copied by other authors, who evolved one step more into a realm of pure fantasy. As an alternative to the overwhelming concept of flying saucers from outer space, these tales were told repeatedly, eventually becoming part of popular lore and conventional storytelling. The scarcity of known press sources often helped those fantasized or fake claims.
The primary sources consulted for this project were press stories. The information’s accuracy is probably relatively poor, and the facts are probably different from what was reported in evening papers, tabloids, or weekly magazines trying to capitalize on issues like the diabolical Nazis and the enigmatic flying saucers. Our history is based on what journalists of the era wrote, which was frequently inaccurate or misrepresented compared to what the sources they interviewed said. Unfortunately, the media is pretty much our only source. Our essay can, therefore, be seen as a work about the social perception of those old stories after being made public by the press. Because we lack access to original records or conversations with the persons who made up such stories, it is not always the history of the actual facts. For instance, we know the discrepancies between information on a UFO sighting (or other off-the-wall subjects) published by a newspaper and information gleaned through an interview with the witness done by a sufficiently qualified UFO investigator. Situations and details frequently vary despite the fact that the primary data is typically somewhat the same. The early accounts of the German flying saucers most likely experienced the same thing.
The timeline of this two-volume work concludes around 1954 because it focuses on the very first phase of a mythology that evolved significantly over the succeeding decades, becoming increasingly science- fictional and frequently quite insane. Until 1954, these tales were roughly about “German saucers,” involving improbable inventors or small groups of technicians designing naive projects of jet-powered circular aircraft that mimicked the descriptions of flying saucers and typically exploited the advanced technology of the time. Later, they gradually morphed into increasingly fantastic tales and became more obviously a form of propaganda for German greatness and, at times, for the Third Reich. Between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, when they turned to pure science fiction and were utilized by a small minority to support also Nazi ideology, they became known as “Nazi UFOs.” Despite our belief that there is a difference between the two, both shall be referred to as “Nazi UFOs” in this book.
This work culminates an interest that began in 1982 and amassed unprecedented information and documents regarding the myths and legends surrounding “German flying saucers” and “Nazi UFOs.” It exemplifies how rigorous research, comparison, and critical analysis enable one to evaluate and comprehend a factual scenario instead of the mainstream information on this niche, fringe topic. This author is not a professional historian but rather an amateur in UFO history, and his work has been influenced by a lack of time, resources, and specialized knowledge. Consequently, it is not wholly comprehensive and likely contains faults and fallacies.
This work suggests, once again, how a strong desire to believe and the commercial or personal exploitation of highly captivating fringe topics generate a framework shared by those seeking confirmation of their ideas or beliefs or who become attracted to the topics’ appeal. Authors willing to try making some money quickly (or gain exposure) cleverly capitalize on such a fascination by producing easy-to-sell content, such as articles, books, documentaries, and fiction. As for other fringe topics, the availability of self-publishing tools to a growing number of people has increased the production of such content, typically of low or junk quality.
History depends on the knowledge of sources. The history of the Nazi UFO legends’ origin and early development depends on contemporary press sources. They were the true propagators of those tales. These are the only available sources: no document from the Second World War has been discovered. Our knowledge is likely still limited by the missed availability of all the press sources of the time.
Despite the collection efforts of some UFO scholars, such as Andrè Kramer, our knowledge of the German press between 1947 and the middle of the 1950s is still incomplete. Few older German newspapers are searchable online, seemingly due to strict copyright laws. The number of searchable online collections of European newspapers published between the 1940s and 1950s is still limited, and the situation is slowly improving. In addition, some collections have restrictions or, even worse, limited or ineffective search tools. The quality of the original papers, the type of scanning process, the OCR software used to convert scanned images into searchable text, and the query software are among the most crucial factors determining the quality of search results. In addition to the fact that the majority of old newspapers are still unavailable online, many valuable pieces of information have likely been overlooked by researchers examining online public libraries or private services offering access to historical newspaper archives. In 2016, this author gave a lecture in Italian on how to search for articles in historical online newspaper archives and manage press clippings, using his massive, multi-year effort to collect information about the American UFO wave of 1947 as an example .