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"Fräulein Ravenwood, let me show you what I am used to..."
―Toht preparing to torture Marion Ravenwood with a flaming poker[src]

Sturmbannführer Arnold Ernst Toht was a sadistic and ruthless Nazi Gestapo agent and military officer who worked with René Belloq during the Nazi effort to locate the Ark of the Covenant in 1936.

Loyal to Adolf Hitler, Toht did everything he could to contribute to the search for the Ark. Although deep down he did not believe in the supernatural, it was the power of the Ark that would be his undoing.


Early life and career[]

Major Arnold Ernst Toht[4] had at least one sibling, a sister named Ilsa, a future agent of the Third Reich herself.[5]

Toht joined the Gestapo and, as with the rest of his Gestapo brethren, was trained in the art of combat, interrogation, torture, and espionage, and was well-versed in mysticism and the belief in Aryan society. Over time, Toht became a skilled torturer and interrogator, relishing the opportunity to inflict pain and suffering even for its own sake, and a firm believer in the Nazi doctrine,[2] leading him to dismiss any actions as absolutely necessary for the Nazis to destroy any threats to their supremacy. Over time, Toht would become known only for his last name.[6]

Search for the Ark[]

"I have the perfect man for this kind of work."
Herman Dietrich[src]

In 1936, Toht was sent to Nepal by the Third Reich Special Antiquities Collection[7] to acquire the headpiece to the Staff of Ra from Marion Ravenwood. Toht and his surbordinate Otto hired three henchmen off the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal known as the Ratty Nepalese, the Mean Mongolian and the Giant Sherpa,[1] paying them a handful of cash to ensure their loyalties.[6] They all followed the American archaeologist Indiana Jones to The Raven bar in Patan where Toht tried to take the piece by preparing to torture Marion with a hot iron, but Indiana Jones appeared and intervened, disarming Toht with his bullwhip.[1]

All the henchmen who went into the bar with Toht died during the ensuing fight with Jones and Ravenwood, during which Marion's bar was set ablaze. While Indy was grappling with a large thug, Toht dispassionately ordered both shot, but his henchman was quickly dropped by four bullets from his would-be victims and Toht cowardly scrambled for cover. Crouching next to a table, Toht noticed the headpiece lying on the ground during the skirmish and tried to grab it, but the bronze relic had been heated by the flames throughout the fight and began sizzling the moment he gripped it, searing its ancient design into his flesh. Screaming in agony, Toht sprinted across The Raven, leapt through the tavern's window and plunged his hand into the snow outside in an attempt to soothe it.[1]

Toht then met with Colonel Herman Dietrich, Major Gobler and René Emile Belloq in Egypt. From his headpiece-scarred palm, the Nazis were able to create a crude, one-sided reproduction of the headpiece; but the missing information from the other side would prove critical to finding the Ark's resting place, the Well of the Souls.[1]

Legendary hanger scene

Toht prepares to hang his coat.

Frustrated with Belloq's inability to extract useful information from the (now captive) Marion Ravenwood, Dietrich had Toht intercede. His own interrogation proved equally fruitless however. When the Nazis finally caught up with Jones at the Well of the Souls, Toht threw Ravenwood into the Well under Dietrich's orders, for they had no further use for her. Belloq's protest against the action caused Toht to giggle with glee.[1]

He later accompanied Belloq and his fellow Nazis in the effort to deliver the Ark to a safer location, since his duty was to oversee the delivery of the artifact Hitler desired. However, Jones succeeded in taking the Ark back from them. Toht and the others located his whereabouts later on and reclaimed the Ark along with Marion aboard the Bantu Wind, Simon Katanga's ship.[1] While onboard Oskar Schomburg's U-boat, Toht managed to make all of the crew feel uneasy at his appearance, looking over Number One's shoulder all the time.[6]

Shortly thereafter, on a small island north of Crete, Toht disembarked from the Wurrfler along with the rest of the Nazis including Belloq and Ravenwood. While walking to the Tabernacle, where the ceremony was going to be performed, Jones resurfaced and threatened to blow up the Ark unless Ravenwood was released. Belloq, however, called his bluff. He attempted reasoning with Jones that the Ark's destruction would ruin it for everyone. As Belloq was talking, German soldiers flanked Jones and captured him, forcing him to march alongside Marion.[1]

That night, Toht stood with Belloq and Dietrich in the Tabernacle for the ceremonial opening of the Ark. Initially, the Ark seemed to bear only dust and sand, which was all that was left of the Ten Commandments. Between Belloq's failure and despair while Dietrich grabbed the sand, Toht burst into laughter, as he had never quite believed in the supernatural imperative of his assignment to begin with. His enjoyment was cut short, however, as a bizarre power surge destroyed all equipment in the vicinity of the Ark before apparitions began to emanate from within the gilded gold chest.[1]

Death by face melting

Toht's face melts.

The astonished Toht watched as one of the spirits approached them. Appearing as a youthful woman, the entity's visage gave way to a terrifying fanged countenance that snarled at the assembled Nazis. Toht's screams only increased as the Ark's full wrath was unleashed in the form of an intense fire that struck down the gathered soldiers.[1] For the Gestapo major, all his years of inflicting pain and torment on others to shape his masochistic tendences were finally, and literally, dissolving;[2] Toht's own face melted like tallow, before his remains were carried away by the following whirlwind.[1]


After Toht's death, his sister Ilsa tried to avenge him by killing Indiana Jones, the adventurer who had contributed to his death. Ilsa, a high-ranking official of the Third Reich in the same vein as her brother, became head of a plot by the Nazis involving the theft of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol and its use in manipulating the South American native peoples into sabotaging the American rubber interests and joining the Third Reich were war to break out. Deeming her as nasty as her brother, a battle of wits followed as Indiana Jones attempted to prevent Ilsa from enacting her revenge and succeeding in her mission. As a direct result of Jones' intervention, Ilsa perished in a violent plane crash.[5]

Personality and traits[]

"Heil Hitler."
―Arnold Ernst Toht[src]

A sadistic psychopath reputed for his resourcefulness, cunning[2] and ruthlessness,[8] Toht possessed an extensive knowledge of torture methods.[1] For Toht, all consisted in torture, interrogation and espionage.[8] Never veering from his established goals, Toht rarely broke from his spooky, gentle and disturbing manner, the most unnerving quality of his presence. He always counted with a shiny face due to his constant sweating glowing with an evil glimmer whatever the light and rarely shouted when giving orders, preferring to issue commands and interrogate with a subtle voice similar to a whisper punctuated by sinister laughs, managing to spook even fellow Nazis such as Oskar Schomburg and his crew.[6] Besides that he displayed a sardonic sense of humor as well, picking up something that uninformed observers could misinterpret as an instrument of torture, before revealing it as simply a hanger for his coat. Usually a quiet man, Toht favored black attire, wearing a fedora, leather coat and a full suit and tie regardless of the climate he was in. He had receding jet black hair and a pair of round spectacles spread across his broad face.[1]

Toht was loyal to Adolf Hitler, seeing him as "Germany's Messiah" that would lead them to become a world power from their turmoil, despite his own skepticism of anything claimed to be supernatural, instead feeling that selling the Ark of the Covenant, whose powers he highly doubted, to a gullible collector that could pay enough money for Germany to build their military might.[6] However, his primary goal was to just please his Führer by carrying out his orders to the letter in order to ensure his place in the Gestapo hierarchy.[2] He had no time to think over superstitions and mysticism.[8] He enjoyed René Emile Belloq's disenchantment when the opening of the Ark appeared to contain nothing but sand.[9] He was flabbergasted when the Ark began to unleash spirits which swarmed amongst the soldiers, and quickly became terrified when they showed their true colors.[1]

With a faith in Aryan society like many within the Schutzstaffel and the higher levels of Germany's military government,[2] Toht believed that "pure" Germans were a race of superbeings and that their supposed racial and political purity gave the Nazis the right to destroy any threat to their supremacy.[6] He was sure that one day, the Nazis were going to conquer the world and lead their country out of the depression and despair supposedly caused by World War I, Communism and the Jew people.[2]

Behind the scenes[]

Toht was portrayed by the late Ronald Lacey in Raiders of the Lost Ark who is never referred to by name beyond the credits and only has a total of sixteen lines in the film.[1] The film's novel establishes Toht's first name as "Arnold" but in Marvel Comics' The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, the character's sister Ilsa refers to him as "Ernst Toht".[7][10] The third issue of the UK Indiana Jones Comic reconciles both names, presenting Ernst as Toht's middle name.[11] Although Dennis Muren plays a similarly bespectacled, nameless trenchcoated spy who boards the plane in San Francisco with Indy, this is not Toht.[1] Campbell Black's novelization has Toht boarding with Indy in Shanghai,[7] which is where a sequence of the film was scripted to take place but was dropped before production (and recycled for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom).[12] Lacey later returned to the franchise in 1989 by appearing as Heinrich Himmler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.[13]

Before Lacey was cast in the role of Toht, famous actors like director Roman Polanski and the late Klaus Kinski were offered the part. However, they both declined the offer with the latter dismissing the script as being "moronically shitty".[14][15] The late Michael Sheard, who played the U-boat captain, subsequently named Oskar Schomburg, in the finished film[1] and went on to portray Adolf Hitler in Last Crusade,[13] was in contention for the role, but lost out to Lacey.[16]


Toht concept art by Ron Cobb.

The character, originally identified as "Belzig" in Lawrence Kasdan's screenplay, remains unnamed in the film dialogue and was listed as "Toht" in the closing credits of the film, reflecting script revisions. The production played around with the idea of Toht being a cyborg with a metal arm that could change into a machine gun and a flamethrower. Concept art was drawn up by the late Ron Cobb, some which also gave him a light in his right eye. However, George Lucas pushed against the development, telling director Steven Spielberg that he was mixing genres so it was dropped.[12] The idea of a character with a mechanical limb resurfaced in Chris Columbus' unmade Indiana Jones and the Monkey King script through the character of Werner von Mephisto[17] before becoming part of the Indiana Jones canon with Helmut von Mephisto in the late J. W. Rinzler's novel Indiana Jones and the Mystery of Mount Sinai,[18] as Rinzler inspired his character on Cobb's concepts while researching for The Complete Making of Indiana Jones.[19] The concept later greatly influenced the appearance of Star Wars antagonist Gable Karius in Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series.[20]

Drafts of the Raiders script indicate that Toht was originally intended to die alongside Gobler after flying off a cliff in their troop car during The Desert Chase.[21] Toht's survival was a late addition in the ongoing story development, as Spielberg opted to shoot the scene of the Nazi party carrying the Ark to the Tabernacle at the Rainbow Canyon, Tunisia with Ronald Lacey among the performers, so the character was spared until the opening of the Ark of the Covenant.[12] This change might explain why Lacey wasn't actually present at the conclusion of the chase outside Omar's Garage.[1] There, Toht was played by the late stuntman Peter Diamond, who also played the left rearview soldier during the sequence, slumped back-to-camera in the front seat of the staff car.[22] Cut from the film, the alternative fate for Toht was retained in Black's novelization.[7] That depiction was also included in the Marvel's comic book[10] and Les Martin's storybook adaptations.[23] Ryder Windham's junior novelization has a more screen accurate portrayal of Toht's death.[24]

Toht comic death

Toht's death as depicted in the comic book adaptation.

The gag in which Toht seems to pull out a torture device only for it to be revealed as a coat hanger was originally intended by director Steven Spielberg to be performed by Christopher Lee in his 1979 comedy film 1941, the last movie he had directed before taking on Raiders. The moment didn't work out so Spielberg cut it from the film but later reused it with Toht.[12] Lacey shaved the top of his head in order to play Toht. When he removes his hat to wipe the sweat off his head, stubble showing his hairline can be seen.[1]

During the early development of the fourth Indiana Jones film, Frank Darabont's first draft of his Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods script featured Nazis seeking revenge against Indiana Jones due his role in the deaths of Toht and other Nazis that he had fought before and during World War II. Spielberg disliked the idea, however, and it was dropped.[12] Although Toht doesn't appear in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,[25] he briefly appears in a trailer for the film as footage from the opening of the Ark scene from Raiders was included.[26]

In the video game Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures, Toht attacks The Raven alone and without his black fedora. He battles Indy from upper platforms jumping from one to another but when Indy defeats him, he escapes without burning his hand with the headpiece to the Staff of Ra, which remains with Marion Ravenwood during the whole stage. However, Toht is never seen with the Nazis afterwards and thus absent during the opening of the Ark, leaving his fate unclear.[27]

In LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, Toht burns his behind instead of his hand on the headpiece. His death during the opening of the Ark differs from the film, however, in that his head appears to shrink while his feet seem to melt, a fate shared with Herman Dietrich. The portable versions of the game don't explicitly show the fates of Dietrich, Belloq and Toht.[28] In the sequel, Toht appears in every Raiders level, but his demise differs greatly. A disco ball emerges from the Ark which makes Toht and the other Nazis dance until Belloq, transformed into a lightning monster, makes Toht explode with a ray beam.[29] Despite his presence in both games, Toht was never released as a physical minifigure.[30]

Kenner released an action figure of Toht as part of its The Adventures of Indiana Jones toyline in the 1980s, and Toht's figure had the distinction of being the most common figure of the series along with the Arab Swordsman. He also had the most cardback variations. In its second release, the character's name was misspelled on the cardback as "Thot", but this was corrected for the third release.[31] There were plans by Kenner for a playset of The Raven which would have included a new Toht action figure, but the set went unproduced when the whole The Adventures of Indiana Jones toyline was abruptly cancelled.[32] Hasbro also released an exclusive action figure of Toht from their unreleased fifth wave of Indiana Jones Action Figures at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con.



Notes and references[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 IndianaJones Arnold Ernst Toht on (backup link on
  3. Top Trumps: Indiana Jones
  4. Indiana Jones Comic 3 Villain Spotlight
  5. 5.0 5.1 FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "The Gold Goddess"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Raiders of the Lost Ark Sourcebook
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Raiders of the Lost Ark novel
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Top Trumps Specials: Indiana Jones
  9. Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide
  10. 10.0 10.1 Raiders of the Lost Ark comic
  11. Indiana Jones Comic 3
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 The Complete Making of Indiana Jones
  13. 13.0 13.1 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  14. Roman Polanski: Interviews
  15. Kinski Uncut
  16. Michael Sheard interview at
  17. Indiana Jones and the Monkey King
  18. Indiana Jones and the Mystery of Mount Sinai
  19. Annotation by J. W. Rinzler on his website (Web archive)
  20. PhilSzostak @PhilSzostak on Twitter "Admiral Karius in #VaderImmortal. Concepts I did for the character. Inspired by an early concept for the character Toht by the legendary Ron Cobb for #RaidersoftheLostArk." - @ILMVFX senior art director @AmcbToraidhe #StarWars
  21. Raiders of the Lost Ark script development
  22. @frazer_diamond Frazer Diamond on Twitter
  23. Raiders of the Lost Ark storybook
  24. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark junior novelization
  25. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  26. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull teaser trailer
  27. Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures
  28. LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
  29. LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
  30. LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History
  31. TOHT at Raiders of the Lost Toys (Web archive)