Monday, December 19, 2011

The Testimony of Felix Kersten, masseur of Heinrich Himmler

For some time, I have hesitated to use this account, because Dr. Kersten apparently had a tendency to distort the facts in order to portray himself in a more heroic light. However, I have never heard of his testimony regarding Leopold III being challenged, although it has often been neglected. It has been taken seriously by respected scholars, such as Jean Vanwelkenhuyzen, an eminent Belgian authority on the Second World War. It is discussed by Michel Verwilghen in Le mythe d'Argenteuil (2006) and by Christian Laporte in an article dated March 1, 1996, and published in Le Soir, a testimony all the more surprising and compelling since it comes from a paper traditionally hostile to Leopold III. Kersten's description of Heinrich Himmler's venom against the King squares with the revelations of General Alexander von Falkenhausen, military governor of Belgium during the Nazi occupation, and with the memoirs of Paul Schmidt, Hitler's interpreter. Both men indicated that there was no love lost between the Nazi hierarchy and their royal captive, despite continuing claims that Leopold sympathized with their regime. The recent television documentary, Léopold III, mon père, mentions that highly placed Nazi leaders, towards the end of the war, were considering the deportation and even the execution of the King of the Belgians. As is well known, Leopold and his family would indeed be deported to Germany at the time of the Allied landings in Normandy, although they managed to survive their ordeal. In the light of all this, Kersten's testimony seems plausible.

Dr. Felix Kersten's story is a fascinating one. A talented Finnish masseur of Estonian origin, he was approached by the SS to soothe the stomach cramps of Heinrich Himmler. Although Kersten appears to have exaggerated his role at times, he was also genuinely heroic in using his privileged position to save the lives of many. Himmler seems to have spoken quite freely in Kersten's presence, fulminating against the King of the Belgians on several occasions. Kersten, in turn, secretly kept a diary of his patient's confidences. In 1995, four documents relating to Leopold III were discovered among Kersten's papers by Professor Léon Masset of the University of Amsterdam and published in an issue of La Révue générale dedicated to the Second World War, with a commentary by Jean Vanwelkenhuyzen. King Leopold's devoted widow, Princess Lilian, was intrigued and pleased by the discovery of the documents concerning her late husband, as well as stunned by the fact that it had taken fifty years for the materials to come to light. According to Kersten's testimony, far from viewing Leopold III as a friend, Himmler saw him as an obstinate, bitter foe, a puppet of the Jews and the Roman Catholic Church. He was outraged that the King, the son of a Coburg father and a Wittelsbach mother, should have resisted the German invasion. He was furious that Leopold had rebuffed Hitler's attempts to entice him into collaborating with the Third Reich. Himmler also hated Leopold's sister, Princess Marie-José, for her opposition to Hitler. Like her brother, he insisted, she had betrayed her German blood. With a great deal of patience and tact, however, taking advantage of the fact that Himmler needed his services, Felix Kersten managed to persuade him to treat Leopold in a humane and dignified manner. By March, 1945, however, Himmler had changed his mind, and decided to have him killed. Kersten had to intervene once again to save his life.

3 comments:

Christina said...

This is fascinating, Matterhorn and by 'coincidence' (if such a thing exists!) I was reading about Himmler last night and his very dark obsessions and belief in 'dark arts'. I read that he hoped to turn a particular castle (is it called Wewelsburg??) into his 'Vatican' from which he would reign as a kind of dark pope, instilling his Aryan 'religion'. He was a very, very dark man so it is small wonder he felt such hatred for the King.
I did not used to think a great deal about the powerful 'energetic level' of evil/good or dark/light that underpinned many of the events of the 20th century and the destruction of monarchies - particularly monarchies with a strong faith in good/God - but the more I learn - even if it sounds a bit off-the-wall - the clearer it is that very dark forces were at work. Himmler and other Nazis were very much involved in dark practices.

Matterhorn said...

Yes, and it goes to show how dangerous and courageous was Leopold's decision to remain in Belgium during the occupation.

Christina said...

Indeed it does - thank you :-)