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Herman Dietrich

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"Only our mission for the Führer matters."
Herman Dietrich[src]

Oberst Herman Dietrich was a high-ranking Wehrmacht officer in charge of the 1936 excavation by René Emile Belloq of the Ark of the Covenant in Cairo, Egypt.


In 1936, Oberst Herman Dietrich[1] was assigned the task of finding the Ark by SS officer and member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle, Eidel. Eidel explained the Führer's interest in the artifact and specifically needed Dietrich for his acquaintance with archaeologist Rene Belloq. Despite Dietrich's misgivings over how much the Frenchman could be trusted, Eidel informed the colonel that that would be something he'd have to deal with, as any other parties interested in finding the Ark would be.[2]

After meeting with Belloq in Marseilles, France, Dietrich and the archaeologist traveled to Berchtesgaden, Germany for a debriefing with Hitler at his mountain retreat before finally making their way to Cairo where the excavation was already in progress.[3]

Dietrich and his fellow Nazi commander Major Gobler were unaware that the excavation was being done in the wrong place, until Belloq noticed the a group of diggers a good distance away from the main digsite. They descended upon the diggers led by Sallah and claimed the Ark for themselves, sealing Marion Ravenwood and Indiana Jones inside. When Belloq protested Marion's imprisonment, as he wanted her for himself, Dietrich replied that the girl was of no concern to him; and that Belloq appears to have forgotten that only the mission to his Führer matters.

When Indiana and Marion escaped, destroying the plane that was to carry the Ark to Berlin in the process, Dietrich, Belloq and Gestapo agent Major Toht were in a car escorting the truck transporting the Ark to the nearest airport, and were caught up in a skirmish with Indiana Jones' successful effort to capture the truck. When the truck apparently vanished into thin air, Dietrich took a melon from one of the merchants surrounding the car and threw it down to vent his anger.

Eventually, the Nazis caught up with Indy and the Ark at sea, and transported it to a remote island between Crete and the mainland of Greece, aboard the U-boat Wurrfler. Being a Nazi, he asks Belloq if it really is necessary to hold a "Jewish ritual" to reveal the contents of the Ark, to which Belloq asks him if he would prefer the risk of opening an empty Ark in front of Hitler in Berlin. There was a tense moment when Indy threatened to blow up the Ark with a bazooka in a desperate attempt to rescue Marion Ravenwood, but the archaeologist was convinced by Belloq to surrender rather than destroy a monumental piece of history.

Death by face melting 2

Dietrich's head shrinks.

Dietrich and Toht watched on as Belloq performed his ritual at the Tabernacle, reaching into the Ark when it was opened and bringing out only dust; all that was left of the Ten Commandments, which he threw to the ground after looking daggers at Belloq. His frustration turned to surprise and wonder as ghostly apparitions began to emerge from the Ark. Dietrich was not sure what to make of the experience until an angelic spirit turned to face them, and suddenly transformed into a decaying, corpse like entity, baring its fangs and howling at them. Dietrich and the others became frozen to the spot with terror, as a fireball rose from the Ark and engulfed Belloq, using him as a conduit to shoot forth firebolts to strike down the assembled Nazis. As he trembled in fear, Dietrich was killed when the fires eminating from Belloq hollowed his skull. His collapsed remains were then swept up and incinerated by the following firestorm.

Personality and traitsEdit

Dietrich was a known member of the Wehrmacht, the combined German armed forces during the period of World War II. In-keeping with his Nazi allegiances, he regarded those not of German heritage as primitive and untrustworthy; he openly addressed the African captain Katanga as a "savage", was displeased with the use of a "Jewish ritual" to open the Ark and openly cited his distrust of the Frenchman René Belloq (though Belloq already had a reputation for being willing to shake a man's hand and stab him in the back at the same time).

Behind the scenesEdit

Herman Dietrich was portrayed by actor Wolf Kahler in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kahler also played another Nazi officer named Dietrich in the 1985 movie, The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, though the officer's rank is a General and the full name is Sepp Dietrich, named after the real life SS General. In English, Dietrich means skeleton key or ruler.[4]

During the development of Lawrence Kasdan's script for Raiders, Dietrich's name was Shliemann. He was to catch Marion in her tent along with Toht and Gobler, and his fate was not with the initial opening of the Ark of the Covenant. Instead, he and a few of his men survive and pursue Indy and Marion through tunnels in mine carts. During the mine car chase, Shliemann and his men are killed by a huge dragon of all-consuming fire (apparently released from the Ark by Indy and Marion). His death was later changed to being killed in the chase by explosives that were kept in the caverns. This was cut, and the mine chase idea was recycled for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.[5] In Campbell Black's novel, his death is never explicitly described.

There were plans by Hasbro for a 2009 action figure of Dietrich, but the toyline was cancelled before one could be made.[6] Dietrich's only other piece of tie-in merchandise is an unpainted metal miniature released in a set containing both characters from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom.

Dietrich doesn't appear in either LEGO game until The Desert Chase. His death in the first game is different than the movie, his and Toht's heads shrink in their bodies. In the second game it's possible that Dietrich survived because after Belloq is transformed into a lightning monster, he sends Dietrich flying away.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, Indy can bypass Helmut by mentioning that he is "Gestapo ... Dietrich's successor".


Non-canon appearancesEdit


Notes and referencesEdit

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