By A.M. GITTLITZ
Shortly after the National Socialist party consolidated their power, a writer named Peter Bender convinced some Nazi brass to attempt an experiment that, if successful, would send a rocket from Magdenburg to New Zealand. The intercontinental ballistic missile was still decades away from completion, but Bender believed he had figured out how to attack the other side of the Earth—by firing directly into the sky.
He had come under the influence of an American occult group that believed in a particularly bizarre variation on the Hollow Earth theory. While the concept of habitable layers beneath the Earth’s crust had been popular for centuries amongst occultists, Bender’s Hohlwelt-theorie argued that the Earth was a vault within an endless field of matter. The sun was somewhere in the middle of this vault, and the stars in the sky were the lights of cities from the other side.
“An infinite universe is a Jewish abstraction,” wrote Bender. “A finite, rounded universe is a thoroughly Aryan conception.” The anti-Semitic aspect of the theory attracted the attention of Herman Göring but was quickly dismissed in favor of Hanns Hörbiger’s slightly less fanciful World Ice Theory. The idea nonetheless remained compelling to some, and the German Navy attempted to locate British fleets using astronomical instruments.
Hollow Earth and World Ice theories were only two particularly laughable examples of a Nazi cultural regression that included radical alterations in the fields of mathematics, psychology, and physics. It is arguable that the rejection of Einstein’s theory of relativity in place of Deutsche Physiks prevented the Nazis from developing nuclear technology and many other weapons. Some historians similarly argue that the eugenic fervor of the Master Race ideology, which paved the way to the Final Solution, diverted resources to an extent that helped cost Hitler the war.
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