Louis de Wohl
|Louis de Wohl|
|Born||Ludwig von Wohl
24 January 1903
Berlin, German Empire
|Died||2 June 1961
Louis de Wohl, earlier Ludwig von Wohl, was a German-born Catholic author, and had served as an astrologer notable for his work with MI5 during World War II. Sixteen of his popular pre-war novels were the basis of movies. His later novels are literary hagiographies of notable Roman Catholic saints and of different periods of the Bible.
Wohl was born in Berlin to a poor Catholic family, with a Hungarian father and Austrian mother, both of Jewish descent. When he was only 17 years old, his mother pushed him into an apprenticeship to a banker, from which he was dismissed in 1924, at the age of 21. In 1935, he emigrated to England due to his objections to the Nazi regime. Some sources claim that he there had a wife named Alexandra, who fled to Santiago, Chile, where she claimed to be a Romanian princess and was known as "La Baronessa."
Wohl worked as an astrologer for the British intelligence agency MI5 during World War II. His MI5 file was released in early 2008. He was recruited initially by Sir Charles Hambro, then running the Special Operations Executive, to devise black propaganda for use against Germany, and allegedly as an informant because he was casting horoscopes for people of interest to MI5. In May 1941 he was sent to America to contribute to astrological magazines and newspapers which at the time were using articles by astrologers favourable to Nazi Germany. Having published many articles, lectured against Germany and given many interviews to the press, he returned to England in February 1942, claiming that he had been promised a commission in the British Army. Sefton Delmer, a notable purveyor of black propaganda, arranged a fake document certifying de Wohl as a Captain in the British Army, and he took to wearing the uniform (though refrained when he realized the position was untenable). His main value to Delmer was his contact with Karl Ernst Krafft, the German astrologer working in Berlin for Dr Goebbels. He assisted Delmer in forging copies of Krafft's magazine Zenit German and other astrologcal magazines dropped over Germany and 'foretelling' the destruction of U-boats. Delmer nevertheless continued to employ him until the end of the war, and considered his contribution valuable.
During the war, Wohl became increasingly religious, and he had a successful postwar career writing novels that treat of Roman Catholic Church history and the lives of the saints.
Wohl died in Switzerland in 1961, shortly after finishing his final work, Founded on a Rock.
He began writing as early as the age of 7. His teachers praised his ability. At the age of 8 he wrote the play "Jesus of Nazareth" because he didn't like how Jesus was portrayed by some books he read. Writing as Ludwig von Wohl, he became quite a successful novelist during his youth in Germany, where sixteen of his novels were turned into films. The best known of these was the 1934 comedy classic Die englische Heirat (The English Marriage).
In an audience with Pope Pius XII he was told to "write about the history and mission of the Church in the World." The Cardinal of Milan, Ildefonso Schuster, came to de Wohl after reading some of his writings telling him "Let your writings be good. For your writings you will one day be judged." From that time, he allegedly believed that he had to write for God, and felt that his earlier novels in the German language were of 'small significance compared to the novels he wrote for the glory of God'.
His novel The Spear brought him international acclaim. Even now Louis de Wohl's books are widely read. His non-fiction work, Founded on a Rock: A History of the Catholic Church is often required reading for RCIA students. He has written books on St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, and Constantine I among many others.
List of works
- I Follow my Stars, 1937
- Secret Service of the Sky, 1938
- Common-sense Astrology, 1940
- Strange Daughter, 1946
- The Living Wood (Emperor Constantine and St. Helena), 1947
- Throne of the World (Attila the Hun and Pope Leo I), 1949
- Imperial Renegade (Emperor Julian the Apostate and St. Athanasius), 1950
- The Restless Flame (St. Augustine of Hippo), 1951
- The Golden Thread (St. Ignatius Loyola), 1952
- The Stars of War & Peace, 1952
- Set All Afire (St. Francis Xavier), 1953
- The Second Conquest, 1954
- The Spear (St. Longinus), 1955
- Saint Joan: The Girl Soldier (St. Joan of Arc), 1957
- Citadel of God (St. Benedict of Nursia)
- David of Jerusalem (King David)
- Founded on a Rock: A History of the Catholic Church
- The Glorious Folly (St. Paul the Apostle)
- The Joyful Beggar (St. Francis of Assisi)
- The Last Crusader (Don Juan of Austria and The Battle of Lepanto)
- Lay Siege to Heaven (St. Catherine of Siena)
- Pope Pius XII: Shepherd to the World
- The Quiet Light (St. Thomas Aquinas)
- My Friend Harry (1928)
- The Criminal of the Century (1928)
- The President (1928)
- A Girl with Temperament (1928)
- Once You Give Away Your Heart (1929)
- The Last Company (1930)
- 1930: Die Jagd nach der Million
- 1930: Rosenmontag
- The Testament of Cornelius Gulden (1932)
- 1932: Abenteuer im Engadin
- Homecoming to Happiness (1933)
- The Oil Sharks (1933)
- Invisible Opponent (1933)
- The Legacy of Pretoria (1934)
- The English Marriage (1934)
- 1934: Lockvogel
- 1935: Le miroir aux alouettes
- 1935: Punks kommt aus Amerika
- 1936: Die Liebe des Maharadscha
- A Woman Between Two Worlds (1936)
- Crime over London (1936)
- Make-Up (1937)
- 1955: Dein Horoskop – Dein Schicksal? (documentary on astrology)
- Francis of Assisi (1961), based on the novel The Joyful Beggar.
- "my mother, herself a hereditary Baroness of Dreifus." Ludwig de Wohl, I Follow my Stars, An Autobiography, London, 1937, p. 18
- Brief autobiography by de Wohl
- "Britain Used Astrologer in Fight Against Hitler". Associated Press. 3 March 2008. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
- Milmo, Cahal (4 March 2008). "Revealed: How MI5 recruited an astrologer in plot to outwit Hitler". Independent. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
One memo said: "I have never liked Louis De Wohl; he strikes me as a charlatan and an impostor. He at one time exercised influence on highly placed British intelligence officers through his star-gazing profession." A more dyspeptic MI5 officer said most De Wohl forecasts had been "useless", adding: "The danger is that this sort of pseudo-science is most insidious and unless you have a complete sceptic or a very strong-minded man dealing with it quite the wrong point of view may be indulged in."line feed character in
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- Die englische Heirat on IMDb
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 134. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.
- Louis de Wohl and Nostradamus
- Emma Garman, The Inconvenient Astrologer Of MI5
- Dr. Felix Jay, The Louis de Wohl I knew
- Louis de Wohl on Internet Movie Database
- Article on de Wohl: "UK hired astrologer in WWII fight"
- Autobiographical writing – Catholicauthors.com
- "de Wohl's MI5 file released"
- The Guardian: "Star turn: astrologer who became SOE's secret weapon against Hitler"