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Britain Hired Astrologer to Fight Hitler

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Desperate for a glimpse into Adolf Hitler's unpredictable mind,  British spies hired an astrologer during World War II to write  horoscopes for him and other Nazi leaders, documents declassified  Tuesday show. They soon regretted it.
The file released to Britain's  National Archives catalogs the frustrations of MI5 handlers as they  tried to prevent the astrologer, Louis de Wohl, from publicly  embarrassing high-ranking intelligence and military officers.
    "I  have never liked Louis de Wohl — he strikes me as a charlatan and an  imposter," reads the first line in the astrologer's file. The letter is  typical and appeared to be signed by Dick White, who went on to become  the head of Britain's domestic spy agency, MI5, in the 1950s.
    That  view didn't keep de Wohl from winning a temporary rank as a British  army captain. He was sent by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who did  not believe in astrology, to the U.S. to persuade Americans that the  Nazis would lose within months if they entered the war.
    When de  Wohl's services were no longer needed, intelligence agents puzzled over  how to get rid of the man who called himself Britain's state seer, the  declassified documents show.
    De Wohl was born in Berlin in 1903  and fled to Britain in 1935 to avoid Nazi persecution for being part  Jewish. His wife, Alexandra, fled to Santiago, Chile, where she claimed  to be a Romanian princess and was known as "La Baronessa."
    In  London, de Wohl claimed variously to be a Hungarian nobleman, the  nephew of an Austrian conductor, the grandson of a British banking  magnate and a relative of the Lord Mayor of London. His break came, he  wrote in a later book, during a dinner at the Spanish Embassy, when a  Spanish duchess asked de Wohl to reveal Hitler's horoscope to Britain's  foreign secretary, Lord Halifax.
Sir Charles Hambro, the head of  Britain's Special Operations Executive, soon hired de Wohl as part of  his network of agents across Europe.
    The government rented the  astrologer a hotel apartment on London's exclusive Park Lane. There, de  Wohl wrote horoscopes for Allied and Nazi leaders on paper with the  letterhead "Psychological Research Bureau."
    But de Wohl's  predictions were often vague. His December 1942 prediction read: "The  German astrologers must pray that enemy action does not force the  Fueher into making important decisions within the first eight days of  the month (of July), as this would lead to great disaster."
    Agents  complained de Wohl's flamboyant demeanor was destroying their carefully  constructed cover story that his apartment was paid for by a wealthy  female patron and that his special operations liaison officer was a  mistress. Agents also complained of his boasting about connections to  the War Office and Naval Command.
    His task in the U.S. was to  counter a convention of pro-German astrologers that had predicted  Hitler would win the war. Billing himself as "The Modern Nostradamus,"  de Wohl proclaimed the stars showed the opposite — that Hitler would  lose.
    Ultimately it was Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec.  7, 1941, that brought the U.S. into the war — not de Wohl's assurances  that President Franklin Roosevelt had a stunning horoscope.
    His  services no longer needed, de Wohl was called back to London in  February 1942. He returned to find his hotel apartment stripped bare  and his "department" disbanded.
    According to the released MI5  correspondence, senior officers offered a number of proposals on how to  "dispose" of de Wohl, including interning him in a camp or moving him  to a remote corner of the country. Two other options are blanked out.
    Deciding  de Wohl was potentially damaging the reputation of his employers, MI5  decided to keep him happy and continue to employ him.
    But even Hambro had tired of the astrologer.
    "I  have no doubt if I checked up his successes, I would see that he had  more than an equal number of failures, but I have not the inclination  nor the time to do so," Hambro wrote.
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